Senior night nerves appeared to get the better of the Homer hockey team last week when facing the Soldotna Stars again this season.
The Stars defeated the Mariners 4-3 in the Railbelt Conference matchup last Wednesday at Kevin Bell Arena. Soldotna moved to 4-1 in the conference and 8-7 overall. The loss moved Homer to 5-1-1 in the conference and 13-2-1 overall.
The Stars were able to clinch the victory with a last-minute goal from Trent Powell with an assist from Wyatt Medcoff with just 40 seconds left in the game. The teams began the game evenly matched, with no goals netted in the first period.
Soldotna was first to get on the scoreboard with a goal from Medcoff on an assist from Briar Books. Homer answered with its own goal that period made by Ethan Pitzman with an assist from Isaiah Nevak and Alden Ross. The Mariners then pulled ahead 2-1 with an unassisted goal by Nevak with about seven minutes left in the period.
Not to be outdone, Soldotna tied things up again with about 50 seconds left in the second period on another goal by Medcoff, assisted by Powell and Galen Brantley III.
Soldotna then took the lead in the third period with an unassisted goal from Dylan Walton. Homer tied things up once again with about four minutes left in the period with a goal from Ross, assisted by Pitzman and Tyler Gilliland, before the Stars grabbed the victory.
For Soldotna, goaltender Josh Tree blocked 23 shots on goal while Homer’s Keegan Strong stopped 20 of Soldotna’s shots on goal.
Homer head coach Steve Nevak said he saw some sloppiness out on the ice from the Mariners.
“The first period, pressure got to us,” he said. “Things just weren’t clicking until late in the second.”
“(There were) some really preventable penalties I was upset about on our end,” Nevak continued. “We can’t do that. And also at the very end, you can’t give up a shorty. You can say what you want about … the reffing or whatever. In the end we control our own destiny, and they wanted it more. That’s the way it was.”
Soldotna head coach Indy Walton noted the the game and the win were important for the Stars, as the teams in the Railbelt Conference are jockeying for the best position heading into the state championships later this winter.
“Everybody was in this one, wanting to win this one,” he said of both teams. “There’s a lot on the line in this game, too, because you know, we’re basically competing for that No. 1 seed at state, and Homer’s got a great club.”
Walton praised his team’s performance as well as the support from other players who didn’t get as much playing time. He said the chemistry of the bench was neat to see during the game.
“Their goalie came up big, our goalie came up big,” Walton said. “I thought overall the shots were fairly even, the penalties were fairly even, the heart, the hustle on both sides was fairly even. … And that’s how it’s been. We’ve played these guys — we’ve been up with a minute left in the last two games and ended up losing in overtime. And so, these guys don’t quit. Homer doesn’t quit.”
The two previous times Soldotna and Homer met on the ice this season, the Mariners won 4-3 in overtime with goals from Gilliland. This time, it was Soldonta’s turn to win by the same margin.
“A good rivalry is the best,” Nevak said.
The Mariners now head to the Mat-Su Valley for a weekend of away games against Wasilla, Houston and Palmer starting at 7 p.m. Thursday in Wasilla.