The Big Lake Rec Center came out the big winner of Friday’s hockey match up between Soldotna and Homer.
After the Nov. 30 earthquake damaged the skating rink at the recreation center in the Mat-Su Valley, a tournament Soldotna’s team was scheduled to participate in there was canceled. The 7 magnitude quake also forced games in Anchorage the Mariners had on their schedule to be called off.
Homer head coach Steve Nevak said Houston hockey team’s coach called him and asked whether Homer would consider putting on a charity game to help raise money to fix the center. There is a GoFundMe account set up to raise money for the repairs.
Soldotna coach Indy Walton said he and Kenai’s coach were searching for ice to play on that weekend. Walton coordinated with the hockey community in Homer, and through the various efforts the ice time was donated and the date was set.
The Stars came out victorious in the Railbelt Conference game, skating over the Mariners for a score of 4-0. More importantly, more than $1,000 was raised in gate fees that will go straight to the Big Lake Rec Center.
“Hockey is like one big family,” Nevak said. “… We have a rink, especially in our own division, that gets damaged where the kids can’t play — you know, that affects everyone.”
Walton said it was nice that Friday’s game held a bigger meaning than winning or losing.
“We play at all the rinks,” he said. “And so we want to take care of all the rinks so hockey will keep growing and survive.”
“Indy’s a great guy and a great coach obviously, and so it was just the right thing to do,” Nevak continued. “… It took a lot of work to get it going because you just don’t throw an unscheduled high school game together.”
Homer had 29 shots on the goal to Soldotna’s 23, but Stars goaltender Josh Tree saved all 29 for the his team while Homer’s Hunter Warren stopped 19 for the Mariners.
Journey Miller, Trent Powell, Galen Brantley III and Wyatt Medcoff all scored goals for the Soldotna.
“They (Soldotna) wanted every single puck,” Nevak said. “They had more urgency. They played hockey. And for some reason, we sat back and we just got in this downward spiral in between periods. … I just don’t know.”
Walton said his team knew heading to Homer that it would be a “good contest.” He said players like Homer’s Lee Lowe and Ethan Pitzman, goaltender Hunter Warren and Isaiah Nevak on defense are all skaters the Stars keep their eye on.
“These are guys that we’ve studied and that we’re trying to stop, and it’s really hard,” he said. “It’s really difficult because they’re great players.”
“They lost some key players last year (and) that has a big impact,” Walton continued. “And we were fortunate that we didn’t. So it’s a different story from where it was last year.”
Walton said the system he’s been working with his players paid off in that game.
“A big part of our game that we’ve been working on is the forecheck and keeping the pressure on them,” he said. “And that’s something that Homer hasn’t seen from us because, you know, we’ve been building the team.”
“And we were fortunate that we didn’t,” he continued. “So it’s a different story from where it was last year.”
The hockey game raised more than $1,000 for the center. Not including the Soldotna-Homer donation, the center had raised about $3,500 of its $75,000 goal as of Dec. 7, the Peninsula Clarion reported.
Stars 4, Mariners 0
Soldotna 0, 3, 1 — 4
Homer 0, 0, 0 — 0
First period — none. Penalties — Soldotna 1 for 2 minutes; Homer 1 for 2 minutes.
Second period — 1. Soldotna, Miller (Haakenson), 8:57; 2. Soldotna, Powell (un.), 13:06; 3. Soldotna, Brantley III (Walton, Kline), 14:07. Penalties — Soldotna 1 for 2 minutes.
Third period — 4. Soldotna, Medcoff (A. Montague, Urban), 10:37. Penalties — Soldotna 3 for 6 minutes; Homer 3 for 6 minutes.
Shots on goal — Soldotna 6-8-9—23; Homer 12-9-8—29.