A collection of young female hockey talent from the Kenai Peninsula earned the second place trophy from the Alaska Girls Hockey Championships in Anchorage last weekend.
The tournament, now in its fourth year, brings together girls from all over the state and was started as an effort to grow and support girls hockey in Alaska. Some of the teams play together all season long, while others are on co-ed teams for most of the year and only play together as a team for this tournament.
That was the case for the Kenai Ice Hawks — a team made up of players from Homer and the Kenai area who are used to facing each other as rivals the rest of the year.
The girls started to come together as a team after their first game and finished the preliminary round with 1 win, 1 loss and 1 tie. That’s a record that earned them a trip to the semi-final game.
A strong Fairbanks team got off to an early lead with a goal on a penalty shot. The two teams battled hard through the first two periods but no one could find the back of the net.
That changed early in the third period when Fiona Hatton wove her way up the ice and banged one in off the cross bar to tie it with a score of 1-1.
With seven minutes left in the last period, Homer’s Haylee Owen brought the fans to their feet when she powered around the Fairbanks defense and beat the goalie top shelf.
The girls battled hard for the rest of the game, shut down a Fairbanks power play in the final minute and advanced to the championship with a 2-1 win.
The Mat-Su Eagles jumped out to an early lead in the championship game with two quick goals. Homer’s Claire Bryant helped her team cut the lead in half with a beautiful goal at the end of the first period.
The Eagles scored early in the second to extend their lead to 3-1.
Rian Runyan scored in the third to bring the Hawks to within 1.
A spirited contingent of peninsula fans cheered the girls on as they battled to try and tie it up. The Hawks played hard for the remainder of the game and had lots of chances but the game ended with them down 3-2 — an impressive effort against a strong team.
According to team manager Sarah Haeg, the planning has already begun to bring the girls together again for next year’s tournament.