Fresh off a Division II state hockey championship title — the first in Homer High School history — the Homer Mariners got to see some ice time last weekend in the 2020 ASAA First National Cup Division I Hockey State Championship at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center in Wasilla.
The Mariners went 0-2 before being eliminated on Friday. They lost 4-2 against South Anchorage on Thursday and 8-2 on Friday against Dimond.
After Friday’s game, head coach Steve Nevak said he thought the players were a bit intimidated at first by their large-school opponents this weekend.
“Once we settled in though, I think we did really, really well,” he said.
Dimond pulled out ahead early with two goals in the first period — one from Tyler Christensen and another from Henry Minich. The Mariners rallied in the second period to tie the game up 2-2. Ethan Pitzman with an assist from Tyler Gilliland and Isaiah Nevak, and Phinny Weston assisted by Gilliland and Kazden Stineff, both scored within a minute 30 seconds of each other.
The comeback was short lived, however, as Dimond stormed ahead with another six goals — two in the second period and another four in the third. For Dimond, goals were netted by Brenden Anaruk, Max Hickel, Landen Reed, Brennon Lubken, Teague Porter and Tanner Laudon.
Nevak pointed to two five-minute penalties that kept Dimond in a power play position over the Mariners as a major issue in the game.
“When you get into penalty trouble against a team like Dimond — two five-minute majors? No team — (Division) I, (Division) II — is going to come back from that,” he said. “You can’t put yourself in that position.”
Nevak spoke about the fact that the pressure was off for the Mariners entering the DI tournament, and pointed out that it possibly didn’t help their state of mind during the games.
“Honestly in that Division II state (championship) you saw a lot more passion … a lot more, pretty much everything out of the guys,” Nevak said. “And I think it kind of worked against us to be honest. It was almost like we were just happy to be here, and once the kids kind of felt that they could compete, that’s when you saw the moments that were like oh, there we are.”
Nevak said he’s proud of what the Mariners accomplished this season.
“No one can take it away from us that we were (Division) II state champs,” he said. “… That’s something to be proud about and that’s something we talked about in the locker room after (Friday’s) game. You know, hold their heads high because Homer’s proud of them, I know the peninsula teams are proud of them, we’re proud of them. And you know they did something … never accomplished before and so that’s our takeaway.”