Mariner hockey falls to Kenai, braces for Soldotna

In the first hockey match of the season, the Homer Mariners traveled to Kenai on Tuesday to take on the Kenai Kardinals. A final score of 5-2 in Kenai’s favor gives the Homer team its marching orders for the season ahead.

“It’s going to be a little bit of work this season, but it’s within reach,” said Mariner Head Coach John Carlin. “I think the team is a little frustrated overall. We talked about it and understand that we progressively played better. We were flat-footed that first period and progressively played better.”

He praised the efforts of goal tender Markian Polushkin and said “the defense did an admirable job and all our lines contributed.” Carlin also recognized the effort of some of the newer players.

“Sometimes the kids that aren’t on the top line don’t get a lot of press, but they did a really nice job,” he said. “In fact, it’s motivating for the rest of the team when you see skaters that aren’t the fastest doing what you ask them to do and doing it to the best of their ability.”

Overall, Carlin said “Everybody did a decent job. We just need an awesome job.”

The first period ended with Kenai ahead, 2-0. Homer came back in the opening of the second period, bringing the score to 2-1.

“Then, unfortunately, right at the end of the second period, we gave up a goal. With 30 seconds left, it was 3-1,” said Carlin.

Homer opened the third period scoring another goal and bringing the Mariners within one point of Kenai’s lead.

“Then, about 33 seconds later, we gave up another puck,” said Carlin.

In a game where Homer seemed to take one step forward and then a step back, Kenai was quick to respond.

“As soon as we felt like we were getting back in the game, they’d be back on top of us,” said Carlin. “But as the game progressed, we played better and that was critical.”

The essential part of the game is the number of shots on net. The more made, the better chance of scoring.

“We got five shots. They got 12. That’s twice as many shots on net,” said Carlin. “If we’d had more shots per period and they’d had less, it would have possibly been a different outcome. If you put the puck in the net, you’re going to score. So we’ve got to get the shots on net. That’s the critical part of the game.”

In addition to playing progressively better each period in the Kenai game, Carlin said the Mariners worked hard to close the gap that formed at the beginning of the game against Kenai. 

“If we could have got a few more shots on them as the game went on and sustained their attack, that’s a step in the right direction,” he said.  

Tuesday, Homer takes on SoHi at Soldotna.

“We’ll be back at it and adjust a few things,” said Carlin, who didn’t want this week’s game to reflect all Homer has to offer on the ice. “I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag. We’ve got some tricks up our sleeves.”

Carlin coached the SoHi team in the 1990s and early 2000s. He’s hoping to use what he knows about the team to the Mariners’ advantage during Tuesday’s game.

“I have to apply what I know from when I was coaching there and try to turn the tables and beat them at their own game,” he said.

For now, the Mariners have their work laid out for them.

“We need to finish our checks. We didn’t support the puck well. We need to win the races to the puck. When someone is in trouble, others need to come in and support the player and the puck,” said Carlin. “We just need to keep moving, pick up the pace. It’s a learning curve here, but we have something to work with.”

The Mariners return home for the End of the Road Shoot Out Nov. 21-23.

“It’ll be important to get a lot of support for those home games,” said Carline. That’s a big week for us.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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