It may be the holiday season, but both the Soldotna and Homer hockey teams were not in a giving mood Friday in Northstar Conference action at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The two squads, who had played three times previously this season with SoHi winning twice, played to a scoreless draw. The Stars enter the holiday break at 5-6-2 and 0-3-1 in the conference, while the Mariners are 7-5-1 and 1-3-1.
“We wanted to win, but we’re also happy not to lose,” Soldotna Coach Derek Urban said. “Defensively, we played well, but offensively I don’t think we got enough traffic in front of the net.”
Homer Coach John Carlin also said the game was a relatively positive way to enter the break.
“It was a defensive battle, but all of that wasn’t necessarily due to the defense,” Carlin said. “Both offenses didn’t do what they typically do.”
Markian Polushkin had 25 saves for Homer, while Billy Yoder had 19 saves to record the shutout for Soldotna.
Not much can be read into the fact that Soldotna outshot Homer. It was the type of game where just as one team would appear to be getting a clear advantage by attacking at one end, the other team would rush down the ice and do some attacking of its own.
While neither goaltending performance was epic, both were solid. Yoder saved a breakaway and a contested breakaway, both by Garrett Butcher, in the third period.
“Billy was Billy when Billy had to be Billy,” Urban said.
About one minute into the eight-minute overtime, SoHi had a two-on-one that even could have been called a three-on-one, but Polushkin stood strong.
“He’s a senior. It’s his time to shine,” Carlin said. “Hopefully, he’ll continue to play well.”
Both coaches said a big key for the goalies was controlling rebounds.
“There weren’t too many mad scrambles in front of the net,” Urban said.
Carlin recognized the “great goaltending” from both teams.
“It’s always a good game with Soldotna,” said Carlin. “Both teams did have chances and made for an incredibly exciting game.”
After a busy schedule, the holiday break will give the Mariners a chance to recharge.
“They have been at it almost daily since very early October,” said Carlin, who is seeing the team’s time together paying off. “It’s more noticeable in the locker room and we hope injury and illness are addressed over holiday break. We are figuring out our roles and gelling as a team.”
The second half of the season begins with Homer playing against strong Anchorage-area teams.
“(These are) great challenges for elevating our game to prepare for the incoming valley teams in mid-January. It will be a weekend you don’t want to miss,” said Carlin.”
Upcoming Mariner hockey games, both home and away, include:
Dec. 27: Vs. alumni at Homer, 7:30 p.m.;
Jan. 9: At Service High School;
Jan. 10: At Eagle River High School;
Jan. 15: Vs. Palmer at Homer;
Jan. 16: Vs. Colony at Homer;
Jan. 17: Vs. Wasilla at Homer;
Jan. 20: Vs. Soldotna at Homer/.
Jeff Helminiak is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. McKibben Jackinsky also contributed to this story and can be reached at email@example.com.