The Homer High School Mariner Hockey co-op team is ramping up for its 2014-2015 season. Practice began Oct. 20, with Head Coach John Carlin and Assistant Coach Chris Brown.
The Mariners head north for a season-opening tournament, beginning with a game against Soldotna at the Soldotna Sports Center at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 6. The rest of the weekend, they’ll face Kenai and Eagle River. Homer and SoHi will be back on the ice for the Mariners’ first at-home game at the Kevin Bell Arena at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11.
Leading this year’s Mariner team are nine seniors, most of them having played hockey together for many years.
“We know how each other plays the game and can anticipate each other’s moves,” said Clem Tillion.
Teammate Misael Martushev, who recently returned to hockey, said, “I’m getting up to speed after a couple years off. We’ve got a good team and all the veterans have good skills.”
Giving a shout-out to his mom, Anton Kuzmin said, “The team is fresh and ready to go.”
“We have lots of people that are really good and lots of really good freshmen, and there are a lot of freshmen,” said Kiril Sanarov.
Carlin and Brown are working hard to get the team ready for the games ahead, an effort not unnoticed by the players.
“The coaches are making us do a lot of conditioning…we’ll be in good shape no matter how much we hate it now. I’m looking forward to scoring my first good goal of the season,” said Ulian Kumin.
Seniors Markian Polushkin and Riley Swanson return as goalies.
“Both of us goalies have matured since last year and Riley (Swanson) has been playing Midgets so he has had extra playing time. I like playing goalie for the feeling of being the last guy on defense – and to get the win for the team.”
The roster fills out at 26 athletes, the largest in many years.
In his second year of coaching the Mariners, Carlin has the benefit of knowing the athletes and how things work.
“We weren’t satisfied with our finish last year. We want to go to state,” he said of the team’s goal for the 2014-2015 season. “We need to play better at conference games to earn a better set up in the playoffs.”
Both coaches like the large numbers of athletes that have turned out for hockey and credit parents and coaches in building the youth programs.
“We have more of a balance of players. It is neat to see the athletes this rink is starting to produce. We have a good core group of seniors who are leaders,” said Carlin.
“Lots of the freshmen are pushing the upperclassmen to do more,” said Brown.
Community support also plays a part in the team’s success and their growing reputation. Carlin said local interest in the game has increased, as evidenced by attendance at home games and the amount earned at the gate.
“Other teams are taking notice of Homer, the Anchorage teams are interested in playing us,” coach Carlin observed.
Managers Tracey Tillion and Brad Roberts, along with student manager Kaela Jiron, handle the business end of the team. They arrange for everything from uniforms and water bottles to staffing home games and setting up accommodations on the road. A list of scheduled games and team highlights is available on the Homer High School Mariner Hockey Co-op team’s Facebook page.