Homer’s Ethan Pitzman (26) and Matey Reutov (67) battle with Soldotna’s Dylan Dahlgren (left) for the puck during the second period of the Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020 final of the ASAA/First National Cup Division II State Hockey Championships at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Ice Arena in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Photo by Danny Martin/News-Miner)

Homer’s Ethan Pitzman (26) and Matey Reutov (67) battle with Soldotna’s Dylan Dahlgren (left) for the puck during the second period of the Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020 final of the ASAA/First National Cup Division II State Hockey Championships at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Ice Arena in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Photo by Danny Martin/News-Miner)

Homer wins first hockey state championship in school history

The Homer Mariner hockey team made school history last weekend when they secured the program’s first ever state championship win during the ASAA/First National Cup Division II State Hockey Championships in Fairbanks.

After coming within inches of the first place trophy last year but losing to the Palmer Moose in a crushing overtime period, the Mariners did what they had to to keep this year’s championship from slipping through their fingers. They defeated fellow Railbelt Conference team Soldotna 4-1 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Ice Arena.

“It was pretty surreal, you know,” said head coach Steve Nevak after the game Saturday. “I just keep thinking back to last year when my core group of seniors, when they lost to Palmer. And they told me, ‘It won’t happen again.’ And, you know, they rode that emotion and they put forth a great game.”

The win was especially sweet for those seniors who remembered just how close they came the year before, and for Nevak, who has coached many of the players since they were children and who is stepping down as head coach after this season.

Senior Ethan Pitzman helped the team to victory with two goals — one in the second period with an assist from fellow seniors Tyler Gilliland and Alden Ross, and an unassisted shot in the third — but it was sophomore Karl Wickstrom who got the first point on the scoreboard with an assist from Casey Otis in the first period.

Senior Phinny Weston also contributed a goal late in the second period with an assist from Pitzman to help clinch the win.

A major effort was put in on Saturday by Homer goaltender Keegan Strong, who stayed mobile throughout the game and blocked 40 of Soldotna’s 41 shots on Homer’s net, compared to Homer’s total 36 shots on goal. Soldotna outshot Homer in both the first and third periods (14-11 and 17-12, respectively).

“No team is great without a goaltender, and he (Strong) was player of the game for sure,” Nevak said.

Nevak said he’s proud of the entire program, from the managers to the members of the fourth line.

“We had a game plan for each game and we executed each game,” he said.

The plan that worked so well on Saturday was for Homer to use all four lines in order to wear out Soldotna’s “big guns,” Nevak said. Then the team went to work with its top three lines for the rest of the game.

“I couldn’t ask for a better ending,” Nevak said of the victory. “Especially with my boys on the team and then the other seniors on the team.”

Palmer took third place in the state championships after a 4-3 victory over the North Pole Patriots that went into overtime. Kenai Central High School secured fourth place in the tournament after a 4-0 shutout of Glennallen/Tok/Barrow.

Now, the Mariners head to the DI State Championships this weekend in Wasilla. The winning DII team was given the option to compete in the larger schools tournament. The team will play South Anchorage at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Curtis Menard Sports Center.

“The good thing about going into DI is there’s no pressure on us,” Nevak said. “We’re going in there pressure free, and that’s good.”

He said the Mariners will just stick to their game plan and play hard.

“A number of those (DI) teams have seen us play, and they know what we’re about,” Nevak said.

Thursday

Mariners 13, Viking Warriors 0

Tri-Valley 0, 0, 0 — 0

Homer 0, 9, 4 — 13

First period goals: none. Penalties : none.

Second period goals: 1. Homer, Shafford (Stineff), 0:31; 2. Homer, E. Pitzman (Ross); 3. Homer, E. Pitzman (Allen, Knutson), 4:00; 4. Homer, Ross (Gilliland), 5:42; 5. Homer, I. Nevak (Gilliland), 6:07; 6. Homer, T. Nevak (un.), 7:58; 7. Homer, Shafford (un.), 8:30; 8. Homer, O. Pitzman (Allen, Otis), 9:04; 9. Homer, I. Nevak (Weston), 10:17. Penalties: Homer 2 for 4:00.

Third period goals: 10. Homer, Allen (E. Pitzman), 5:35; 11. Homer, Stineff (Weston), 8:25; 12. Homer, Banks (Green), 10:35; 13. Homer, Nevak (un.), 13:12. Penalties: Tri-Valley 1 for 2:00; Homer 1 for 2:00.

Shots on goal: Tri-Valley 4, 3, 2 – 9; Homer 16, 22, 18 – 56.

Friday

Mariners 7, Patriots 1

North Pole 1, 0, 0 — 1

Homer 3, 2, 2 — 7

First period goals: 1. Homer, Gilliland (I. Nevak), 1:58; 2. Homer, I. Nevak (un.), 5:05; 3. Homer, Ross (I. Nevak, E. Pitzman), 6:20; 4. North Pole, Clark (Wilbus), 9:58. Penalties : North Pole 2 for 4:00; Homer 3 for 6:00.

Second period goals: 5. Homer, I. Nevak (un.), 3:32; 6. Homer, I. Nevak (un.), 11:51. Penalties: North Pole 1 for 2:00; Homer 2 for 4:00.

Third period goals: 7. Homer, I. Nevak (un.), 3:52; 8. Homer, E. Pitzman (un.), 5:32. Penalties: North Pole 1 for 2:00; Homer 3 for 6:00.

Shots on goal: North Pole 1, 8, 5 – 14; Homer 20, 25, 16 – 61.

Several Homer players were named to the all conference team for the Railbelt Conference, which was released ahead of the championships last week. Pitzman was named most valuable player for the conference.

Railbelt All-Conference team

Most Valuable Player: Ethan Pitzman, Homer.

Coach of the Year: Scott Shelden, Kenai Central.

All-conference: Ethan Pitzman, Homer; Wyatt Medcoff, Soldotna; Isaiah Nevak, Homer; Tyler Gilliland, Homer; Galen Brantley III, Soldotna; Trent Powell, Soldotna; Jordan Knudsen, Kenai; Miles Marston, Kenai; Tiernan O’Rourke, Palmer; Isaiah Squires, Houston; Ethan Welch, Juneau.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

More in Sports

Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion
Sam Spencer, Erik Route and Josiah Brown, all of Cooper Landing, near the finish of Sunday’s 20-kilometer classic race at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna.
Tour of Tsalteshi sees record turnout

In its fourth year at the trail system just outside of Soldotna, the Tour had record turnout of 136 finishers.

Photo by Colin Canterbury/USFWS 
A great gray owl perches in an aspen tree on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Refuge notebook: Winter is the season for finding great gray owls

Winter can be a fantastic time to observe owls. Owls can be… Continue reading

The Homer Mariner hockey team celebrates back to back Division II state hockey championship wins, after defeating the Palmer Moose 3-2 in overtime Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center in Wasilla, Alaska. (Photo by Tim Rockey/Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman)
Mariners defend Division II state hockey title

Homer avenges 2019 loss by topping Palmer 2-3 in overtime

Homer's Hannah Hatfield looks for a teammate to pass to under pressure from Nikiski's Avery White during a Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 basketball game at the Alice Witte Gymnasium in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer hoops sweep Nikiski; boys fall to Seward

Homer girls sail through Thursday and Saturday games

Homer's Zoe Stonorov skies the girls 5-kilometer classic race on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021 at the Lookout Mountain Trails near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Debbie Delker)
Sports in brief

General announcements All spectators must be on the player guest list. Two… Continue reading

A day on Kachemak Bay. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of the Office: Water taxi talking

Reporters spend a lot of time talking to people: people they don’t… Continue reading

Salt marshes are important food sources for brown bears. As we see an earlier start to the growing season or increased plant growth, bears will likely benefit from them even more. (Photo by Michael Hannam/NPS)
Refuge Notebook: Could bears benefit from changing coastal marshes?

Flying over the Cook Inlet coast, you can look down and see… Continue reading

Phil Basargin 5-year-old Maxim Basargin around the ice Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021 during the Skate the Lake event on Beluga Lake in Homer, Alaska. The free skating event was hosted for the community by the Homer Hockey Association. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homerites take to the lake in skate event

Homer Hockey Association hosted Skate the Lake for the community

A red-breasted nuthatch looks over its shoulder between bites of suet in a hanging-cage style feeder. (Photo by Todd Eskelin/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Social distancing is not just for humans

Salmonella is a type of bacteria that hits our news feeds often.… Continue reading

Most Read