The Homer Mariner hockey team stayed true to its winning pattern this season in the last home game Thursday, earning a narrow victory over the Kenai Kardinals at the Kevin Bell Arena.
The Mariners pulled ahead of the Kardinals early in the game, with the first period ending at 3-0. Kenai came back in the second period with Levi Mese scoring one goal, bringing the score to 3-1. Mese scored again in the third period, followed by goals from Homer’s Dimitry Kuzmin, a senior, and Lee Lowe. This brought the score to 5-2 in the third period.
With junior Connor Roderick in the goal for Homer, Kenai skaters scored three times from 10:48 to 13:28 in the period, bringing the teams to a 5-5 tie. Head Coach Steve Rockett threw all five of his seniors on the ice in the last minute of the game, and Spencer Warren came through with an unassisted goal with just 11.7 seconds left on the clock to clinch the win for Homer.
In all, Homer had 44 shots on goal, while Kenai had 21.
“You take away the first five minutes of the game, and we stuck right with them,” said Kenai head coach Jake Newton. “We played hard up to their intensity. I was really happy with the way the boys played, the boys and girls. But we just didn’t finish. We were real close, we were right where we needed to be.”
Rockett said the Homer coaching staff were thinking about the upcoming North Star Conference Championships when they decided to give goalie Hunter Warren a break.
“I talked to Steve (Nevak) … before the game about maybe taking Hunter (Warren) out if we got a lead,” Rockett said. “Not just to give Connor (Roderick) some ice time, but just to avoid a possible situation where, you know, he (Hunter) gets run or something like that.
“We didn’t want to put Hunter in that situation, so we made the switch. And they turned it on, and we took our foot off the pedal. They were in our zone for six straight minutes.”
Rockett said that while the game was closer than he would have liked, it was almost the way it was meant to be.
“The last shift, we’ve got 51 seconds to get it done,” he said. “We put all our seniors, all five seniors, out there, and just like they have all year, they led us to victory.”
Homer goals were contributed by Ethan Pitzman, Ali McCarron, Isaiah Nevak, Kuzmin, Lowe and Spencer Warren.
After a season of firsts, the Mariners now head to the Conference Championships in Soldotna, which start on Thursday. Homer faces off against the winner of Thursday’s Wasilla vs Soldotna game at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The championship game is at 3:45 p.m. Saturday.
Homer’s five seniors, Kuzmin, Spencer Warren, Charlie Menke, Tim Blakely and Douglas Dean, were honored on the ice for their years of work during a ceremony with their parents.