The Kenai Central hockey team celebrated senior night with a 4-2 victory over Homer on Tuesday night at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility.
The Kardinals avenged a 5-4 loss to Homer on Jan. 22 that opened up the season for both teams. Kenai improves to 3-1, while Homer falls to 1-3.
The Kardinals have a big group of nine seniors on a varsity roster of 19. The seniors honored Tuesday were Cooper Stock, Hunter Erwin, Everett Strong, Aidan Milburn, Tucker Vann, Nick Wehrstein, Riley Graves, Logan Steiner and Jackson Cross.
“Their energy just carried us,” Kenai coach Scott Shelden said of the seniors. “All nine contributed and we played a really good game.”
Vann got things started for Kenai quickly when he scored just 15 seconds into the game on an assist from Milburn.
“Tucker, he’s our captain, and he just brings it on the ice and off the ice,” Shelden said.
Homer goalie Keegan Strong would prove very hard to beat for the rest of the night, saving 54 shots.
“Our shots were quality shots,” Shelden said. “We weren’t just flipping it in from center ice, and he had over 50 saves.”
With 7:23 left in the first, Hunter Green squared things for the Mariners with a power-play strike.
Gavin Langham, assisted by Daniel Shelden, had the lone goal of the second period on the power play to put the Kards up 2-1.
Homer quickly got even in the third, with Green, this time assisted by Kazden Stineff, knotting the game just 27 seconds in to the final frame.
Cross, who saved 19 in the game, was able to keep a clean sheet for the rest of the contest.
“He’s a senior, he’s steady and so calm,” Shelden said of Cross. “I really like his disposition and demeanor. He doesn’t get too worked up and that’s what we need in that situation.”
Kenai’s Landen Cialek scored the unassisted game-winner with 1:56 to play. Cialek brought the puck down with his glove, then scored. Shelden said the line of Cialek, Shelden and Jacob Begisch was getting good looks all night.
Jacob Begich, assisted by Shelden and Milburn, then scored on the empty net with a second left.
“The 18 kids that were in there, nobody cares who scores, nobody gets frustrated when things aren’t going our way,” Shelden said. “They’re really showing what it means to be a team and play for each other.”
Kardinals 4, Mariners 2
Homer 1 0 1 —2
Kenai 1 1 2 —4
First period — 1. Kenai, Vann (Milburn), 0:15; 2. Homer, Green (un.), pp, 7:37. Penalties — Kenai 2 for 4:00; Homer 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai, Langham (Sheldon), pp, 11:13. Penalties — Homer 2 for 4:00; Kenai 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 4. Homer, Green (Stineff), 0:27; 5. Kenai, Cialek (un.), 13:04; 6. Kenai, Begich (Shelden, Milburn), 14:59. Penalties — Homer 3 for 6:00; Kenai 1 for 2:00.