Homer hockey returned to action against Kenai on Friday. After a full year away from the ice, the Mariners had a difficult home test against the visiting Kardinals, losing 9-1.
“I think we did as expected. They had a really deep bench. We’ve only had a handful of practices, and Kenai’s already a tournament deep, had however many practices they’ve already had … so they were seasoned and ready,” head coach Steve Nevak said.
Homer managed to keep the score within 2-0 by the end of the first period, but Kenai did most of its damage in the second, scoring five goals to Homer’s one en route to a blowout by the beginning of the third. Kenai’s onslaught was led by forward Logan Mese, whom Homer had no answer for, as he piled up three goals and three assists for the Kardinals.
“He’s gonna be all-state … probably the best player in the state,” Nevak said.
Homer forward River Henry scored Homer’s only goal of the game in the second period (8:14 in), and goaltender Blaze Banks saved what he could, stopping 34 out of 43 total shots from Kenai. The pace, numbers, and experience of the Kardinals proved to be a tough ask for the young Homer team.
“They were able to roll four (full) lines if they wanted. We had three, with some brand new skaters to think about,” Nevak said. “I think seeing the game, going the game pace and actually having a game that the kids can learn from was huge.”
Nevak emphasized that in-game experience was possibly the biggest teacher for the Mariners. He pointed out some key coaching points that became evident as the game wore on.
“Our job as a coaching staff is to figure out where we need to improve, and we need to improve in the neutral zone, for sure. We had a lot of turnovers at the blue line, transitioning the puck from the defensive zone into the neutral zone … just some problems we’ll work on this week,” Nevak said.
Nevak also added that the support he felt for the Mariners returning to the ice was palpable, with the messages from the community on both social media and in public being an encouraging boost. The energy from the players and crowd during the game affirmed the support he felt during the week, with Nevak saying that everyone just seemed “happy” to be there.
“Yeah, it was a good learning experience for the kids, and a good learning experience for me, and (assistant coach) Matt (Stineff) … either way I’m proud of the guys,” Nevak said.