The Homer Hockey Association and Kevin Bell Arena hosted the Alaska State Tournament for the Squirts 10UB (ages 9 and 10) league March 3-6.
There were 15 teams, 240 players and approximately 500 people who traveled to Homer in support of the youth athletics. The state tournament consisted of 29 games played over a four-day period.
The Homer Glacier Kings won their first three pre-scheduled tournament on games Friday and Saturday, defeating the Delta Huskies, Anchorage Hockey Association’s Team Dupree, and the Palmer Pioneers and advanced to the playoffs as a No. 1 seed in the national conference.
Homer’s winning streak continued on Sunday as the Glacier Kings defeated the Kenai Ice Hawks and the South Anchorage Drillers. This set the stage for the final show down between the Gomez Rams of Anchorage and the Homer Glacier Kings on Monday.
The championship game was incredibly exciting and a true crowd pleaser. Pre-game festivities included on-ice players introductions, followed by the national anthem performed by Homer’s 16 year-old guitar phenom, Silas Jones, a la Jimi Hendrix.
Homer’s Leo Velsko and Easton Owen opened the game with two goals scored in a 40-second flurry, giving the Glacier Kings a 2-0 lead at the conclusion of the first period.
However, the Rams battled back scoring the next two goals early on in the second period to tie the game. Homer’s Easton Owen scored again at the five-minute mark, giving Homer a one-point lead, but Rams quickly countered with an equalizer, tying the game 3-3 at the end of the second period.
Homer’s Leo Velsko scored his second goal of the game at the nine-minute mark, giving Homer a one-point advantage deep into the third period until the Rams countered, scoring a game-tying goal at 4-4, with two minutes remaining in the third period and ultimately carried the game into overtime.
The eight-minute sudden death overtime period was a total nail-biter. The Rams and Glacier Kings battled back and forth for the first three minutes. At the five-minute mark, Homer was assessed a two-minute penalty for slashing, giving the Rams a power play advantage.
However, the Glacier Kings would not accept defeat. With speedy penalty kill lineup on the ice, Homer defenseman, Leo Velsko, intercepted the puck, streaked down the ice, splitting two Rams defenders, and scored the game-winning goal with four minutes remaining in overtime.
Kevin Bell erupted in a roar as the fans cheered for their home team and hats hit the ice as Velsko’s decisive game winning goal culminated in a hattrick. The Glacier Kings swarmed onto the ice convening in pig pile, with players embracing.
The final score of the game was 5 to 4. A review of the official shore sheet revealed Glacier King’s goalie, Riley Scritchfield, successfully defended 16 of 20 shots on goal.
“These kids know how to play as a team and it really showed in this tournament,” explained coach Kayla Owen. The Glacier Kings went undefeated with a 6-0 record and clenched the 2023 10UB Alaska State Hockey Championship on home ice. A lifelong memory created.
The Homer Glacier Kings roster is: #1 Eden Fox, #3 Braylon Clarke, #4 Olivia Pitzman, #5 Riley Scritchfield, #6 Signe Jensen, #7 Leo Velsko, #11 Otto Spencer, #13 Micheal Merritt, #14 Savva Basargin, #15 Blake Hall, #19 Easton Owen, #25 Noah Brooke, #37 Jessie Landmesser, #43 Liam Sorley, and #99 Andrew Kita. Homer is coached by Scott & Kayla Owen and managed by Sheryl Neisner.
Matt Clarke is a Homer Hockey Association board member and tournament co-director.