If this past weekend is any indication, this year’s Homer Mariner Co-Op Hockey team cannot be stopped.
What began as a historic first-ever win against Wasilla High School on Thursday at the Kevin Bell Arena ended with the Mariners sweeping all three Mat-Su Valley teams they faced and moving to first in the North Star Conference at 3-0. The players kept that momentum up, rolling over Soldotna High School on Tuesday with a 11-3 conference win, bringing them to 4-0 and to 11-2 overall. It was the team’s 10th straight win in a row.
The 4-1 win on Thursday against Wasilla was special in and of its own right, as the Mariners have never beaten a team from Wasilla High School in their program’s history, according to head coach Chance Rockett. In that game, Rockett said the Wasilla players tried to leverage their on-average larger size against the smaller Mariner players.
“I think they are a very big team, but as far as skill and speed, you know, we outmatched them,” he said. “So they … were trying to put a body on us, get us off our game, playing physically. … We didn’t let that get us down.”
Homer then went on to beat Colony High School 2-1 on Friday in a high-stakes, nerve-wracking game that went into overtime. Sophomore Ethan Pitzman scored the winning goal with only about 10 seconds left on the overtime clock.
Rockett said his goal for the team was a 4-1 record before the Christmas break.
“Colony was that one team where you just didn’t know. I mean, they’re that good,” he said. “They are — they were the bar, I should say. You know, we’re the bar now. And that’s what’s exciting, is we have been able to transform already from a mediocre to a good team, and then last night (Friday) a good to a great team. And that’s what great teams do — they find a way to beat teams they shouldn’t.”
Finally, on Saturday, Homer continued its streak and defeated Palmer High School 3-1. Rockett said he had expected a slightly better margin of a win from the team, but was still happy with the win.
“We knew they were going to play a hard 45 (minutes),” Rockett said, explaining that Palmer had already played tough games already over the weekend and that they are coached well.
In Soldotna on Tuesday, Homer rolled over the Stars 11-3, moving to 11-2 overall this season and 4-0 in conference play. Senior Dimitry Kuzmin, sophomore JJ Williamson, senior Tim Blakely, freshman Phin Weston, senior Spencer Warren and sophomore Isaiah Nevak all scored goals for Homer against SoHi.
Ahead of that game, on Saturday, Rockett emphasized the importance of not taking any conference game for granted, no matter the opponent.
“We’re definitely confident against SoHi, but it is a division game, you know, so we do not take any divisional opponent lightly,” he said. “… These kids know when they come out and give 100 percent, good things are going to happen. They’re going to have success.”
Rockett said he and assistant coach Steve Nevak empress upon the players the importance of playing for minor successes during games. When each player focuses on winning the one-on-one battles, the winning as a team will follow, he said.
The team is so successful this year in part because its solid base of sophomores and juniors mixed with five experienced seniors have allowed Rockett to set up four forward lines to utilize. Young players like Weston have also proved an immense boon to the team, having scored eight goals so far this season.
“We’re on cloud nine,” Rockett said.
For full stats from the four recent hockey games, see the weekly sports highlights.