Hungry to avenge their dramatic loss in overtime to Palmer in last year’s state championship game, members of the Homer hockey team were skating with something to prove Thursday night, and they proved it.
The Mariners took the game with a 5-2 victory over the Moose in Railbelt Conference action at the Kevin Bell Arena in Homer. In a penalty-heavy game, both teams started out slow with no points getting on the scoreboard until the second period when Homer freshman Jett Allen netted a goal with an assist from senior Ethan Pitzman less than a minute into the second period.
Not to let Homer run away with the win, Palmer answered with a goal from Carter Greco, assisted by Alexander Nelius and Jeremy Horacek with 11:55 left in the second. The teams continued to go goal for goal, with Homer junior Casey Otis scoring with an assist from Pitzman and junior Phinny Weston, and Palmer’s Easton Armstrong scoring unassisted also in the second period.
The Mariners then pulled away with an unassisted goal from senior Isaiah Nevak and a goal from Weston assisted by Nevak and senior Tyler Gilliland, just 12 seconds apart.
Homer clinched the win with one last goal by Nevak, assisted by Gilliland, with 56 seconds left in the game.
In all, Palmer goaltender Tiernan O’Rourke saved 36 out of Homer’s 41 shots on goal, while Homer goalie Keegan Strong made 34 saves against Palmer’s 36 shots on goal. Palmer racked up seven penalties for a total of 14 minutes, while the Mariners had nine totaling 18 minutes.
The win was sweet for Homer’s seniors who may have had last year’s championship loss still on their minds. Head coach Steve Nevak said it was an emotional game for some.
“This had been on their minds all summer and the first half of the season,” Nevak said. “And so we just restart our record for this half of the year. … So we’re 1-0. We can’t worry about what happened in 2019.”
Nevak said that while the win started the team off on the right foot coming back from their winter break, their skating wasn’t as polished as than he would have liked.
“After the long break, it’s going to be sloppy, it’s going to be messy,” he said. “That’s exactly what it was.”
He wants the team to use their first weekend back on the ice to get back into their systems.
“Getting back into our four check, that’s important,” he said. “It was just missing today, and hopefully we can pick it up.”
Palmer head coach Dean Wilson said he knows his team will get a good game when they come to Homer. He said the Moose played well, but got into penalty trouble.
“We couldn’t capitalize on the places that we needed to,” Wilson said. “Both teams have a lot of speed. There’s a lot of speed on these teams so, you know, very dangerous on both ends of the ice no matter where you’re at.”
“I thought it was a very entertaining game,” he continued. “And we’ve got some things to work on for the next game.”
Homer’s win moves the Mariners to 4-0-1 in the Railbelt Conference, while the Moose dropped to 2-1-1. Homer and Palmer will next face each other on Jan. 25 in the Mat-Su Valley.
“I think there’s probably going to be some fireworks in Palmer at the end of the year so, looking forward to that,” Nevak said.
Homer next hosts Colony High School at 7 p.m. Friday and Houston High School at noon Saturday.