It would have been hard for Homer seniors on the hockey team to have a better last weekend of games played on their home ice.
The Mariners skated over Houston High School 10-1 last Thursday, which was also Senior Night, before going on to defeat Palmer 6-1 on Saturday. Both Railbelt Conference games started off a little slow before the Mariners kicked things into gear to pull off big wins.
In Thursday’s game, seniors Connor Roderick and Hunter Warren, both goalies, shared the goal on Senior Night and combined made 22 saves for Homer out of the 23 shots taken by Houston.
On Saturday, the first period came to an end without a goal from either Homer or Palmer. The second started off in Palmer’s favor with a goal from Alex Nelius less than two minutes in. Homer’s Ethan Pitzman was able to answer with only 16 seconds left in the second period to tie things up before heading into the third.
That’s when the tide turned. Homer came back with three goals within the first three minutes of the third period. Pitzman set the tone for the rest of the game by slamming Palmer with an unassisted goal six seconds after the period started. He followed it up with another goal at 1:45 with an assist from Tyler Gilliland.
Freshman Kazden Sinteff scored the third goal at 2:59, also with an assist from Gilliland, to bring the score to 4-1. Gilliland then notched his own goal with an assist from Isaiah Nevak before Pitzman scored another unassisted goal to bring the score to 6-1.
Warren stopped 31 out of 32 shots made by the Moose, while Palmer goalie Tiernan O’Rourke saved 29 out of 35 shots.
Coach Steve Nevak said that while the Mariners started off slow in Saturday’s game, the fact that it’s the last home game for several seniors sank in before the third period.
“It’s their last period — a lot of them — of their high school career. So, it’s done. It’s over,” he said. “And so, why leave anything?”
Nevak credited senior Tucker Weston as being one who seemed to be giving his all in the first two periods. He told the rest of the team to follow his lead, Nevak said.
“And then Ethan comes alive in the third, and that’s leadership,” he said. “That’s leadership from Tucker. That’s awesome.”
Weston was one of seven senior players honored during Thursday’s Senior Night, along with Brenna and Ali McCarron, Nikola Reutov, Warren, Roderick and Lee Lowe.
Looking back on the season, Nevak said the younger players stood out.
“We had a lot of freshmen get big goals for us,” he said. “As the seniors leave, those freshmen need to fill those voids, and they have.”
Now, the Mariners head to the Division II Hockey State Championships at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center in Wasilla this weekend. Homer is slated to play Glenallen in the second game of the tournament at 2:30 p.m. today. Winners of the Thursday games will advance to games on Friday, with the championship game being played this Saturday.
Nevak said he’d like his team to focus on their time on the ice rather than look at the tournament as a whole.
“One shift at a time,” he said. “One shift. And so, you can’t look ahead … whoever we’re playing, it doesn’t matter. One shift at a time. You get back to the bench after a shift and reset and go to the next shift. That’s how you manage a tournament.”
Mariners 6, Moose 1
Palmer 0 1 0 — 1
Homer 0 1 5 — 6
First period — none. Penalties — Palmer 3 for 6:00; Homer 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 1. Palmer, Z. Nelius (Wilson, A. Nelius), 1:08; 2. Homer, Pitzman (Nevak), 14:14. Penalties — Palmer 4 for 14:00; Homer 4 for 11:00.
Third period — 3. Homer, Pitzman (un.), :06; 4. Homer, Pitzman (Gilliland), 1:45; 5. Homer, Stineff (Gilliland), 2:59; 6. Homer, Gilliland (Nevak), 6:00; 7. Homer, Pitzman (un.), 7:49. Penalties — Palmer 2 for 4:00; Homer 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Palmer 13-6-13—32; Homer 12-7-16—35.
Goalies — Palmer, O’Rourke (35 shots, 29 saves); Homer, Warren (32 shots, 31 saves).