The Mariner hockey team crushed the competition on Thursday, Jan. 28, at the last home game of the season, shutting down Kenai Central High 7-2.
Following the win, the Mariners will play in regions at the Sport Center in Soldotna beginning today. They play Soldotna High School at 4 p.m. If the Mariners defeat the Stars, they will match up against Palmer on Friday at 7:30 p.m. A win against Palmer then would mean facing off against either Kenai, Wasilla or Colony at the championship game at 4:15 p.m. Saturday.
After a season with ups and downs, the Mariners are back up again and feeling confident going into the playoffs.
“Come Thursday, we’ll line up against any team that lines up against us, and we’ll take them on,” said Mariner Hockey Head Coach John Carlin.
Mariners 7, Kardinals 2
Kenai matched Homer goal for goal in the first and second periods, and the teams began the third period tied 2-2. In the final period, however, the Mariners became an unstoppable scoring machine.
“We’re just slowly bonding more, playing together more,” senior defender Hunter Tillion said. “Playing together as a team is what really got us the win. Once we got a couple more goals over them, we just built momentum and we scored even more.”
Junior defender Garrett Butcher scored two goals: the first one of the game, assisted by senior captain Dawson Roberts, and another in the third period, assisted by Roberts and sophomore defender Charlie Menke. Sophomore forward Robby Larson followed up Butcher’s second goal with a point less than a minute later, assisted by Roberts as well. Roberts also assisted Robby Larson’s first goal in the second period, along with Tillion.
Sophomore forward Dimitry Kuzmin also scored two points. Kuzmin brought in the third point of the game, assisted by Butcher and sophomore defender Douglas Dean, and the sixth point, assisted by Butcher and freshman defender Tucker Weston. Sophomore forward Tim Blakely scored the final goal of the game taking the puck clear across the ice and knocking it straight into Kenai’s goal. Dean and Tillion assisted Blakely.
Junior goalie Riley Swanson kept all of Kenai’s goal attempts out of the net, resulting in a period with 5 goals from Homer and none for Kenai. The team swarmed Riley at the end of the game, ending the night in a Mariner group hug.
“We had not played Riley Swanson against Kenai yet and it helps to have your upperclassman goal tender who has more experience,” said Mariner hockey head coach John Carlin. “We were able to give the previous games against Kenai to our freshman goal tender — and he won one and lost one — so he did a nice job, but it helps when we have our upperclassman goal tender.”
Farewell to seniors
In addition to the victory, the last home game celebrated the seniors leaving the team — Roberts, Tillion, defender Daniel Wiest and team manager Christina Mitchell. Of the three players graduating, only Roberts plans to go on to play hockey after this season. He will play junior hockey in Colorado next year, according to the game brochure. Tillion and Wiest plan to go to college, with Tillion going to California Maritime Academy and Wiest still undecided. Mitchell plans to study early childhood education at University of Alaska, Fairbanks. For some, the most memorable part of the Mariner hockey is a moment — both Roberts and Tillion cited winning against Colony at home last year. For Wiest, the every day experience of being a team stood out.
“You’re with your friends, doing the sport you love, just a good experience everyday. Even when you’re not having the best day, your friends will pick you up and carry you,” Wiest said. “It’s about the team, not about me.”
Anna Frost can be reached at email@example.com.