• Hockey M’s go 1-2 at home against Valley foes
By Sean Pearson
If you ever played any kind of sports in your youth, you have undoubtedly heard the immortal words of 20th-century sportswriter Grantland Rice – even if you weren’t aware of it. Rice is credited with the adage, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
Not everyone agrees with that sentiment. In fact, cowboy/performer Gene Autry was once quoted as saying, “Grantland Rice can go to hell as far as I’m concerned.”
And then there’s Vince Lombardi’s famous, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
Well, apparently, the Wasilla Warrior hockey team also subscribes to that same point of view.
Wasilla was the final opponent of the Mariner Co-op Hockey team’s three-game home stand at Kevin Bell Arena last week. And, by many accounts, the Warriors were far from sportsmanlike.
Homer fell to Wasilla on Saturday after splitting games against Palmer and Colony on Thursday and Friday.
The battle between the Warriors and Mariners was a physical one, with the Valley team racking up 14 penalties for a total of 28 minutes spent in the penalty box. Homer picked up eight penalties for 16 minutes.
A strong and quick Wasilla squad dominated the ice in the first period, but never found the back of the net, thanks to tough defense and unfaltering goaltending by Alex Sanarov. The M’s held the Warriors scoreless until the last minute of the first period when the Warriors snuck one in. They would score two more goals against the M’s in the second period, giving Wasilla a 3-0 lead heading into the third and final period.
But the mighty Mariners were far from giving up, scoring two goals in the third period to bring them to within one.
Ethan Kizzia scored off an assist from Kiril Sanarov to close the Warrior gap to two. And, just 67 seconds later, Nikit Matveev scored off of a Clem Tillion assist to make it a one-goal game. That, however, would be as close as the M’s would get, as they fell to Wasilla 2-3 in conference play.
Sanarov faced 26 Wasilla shots on goal, turning away 23. Homer took 15 shots in the game.
“I told the team after the Wasilla game that the way they played honors the game of hockey,” said Homer Head Coach Buck Laukitis. “This team shows respect for the game and the way it is supposed to be played. That makes them better as young adults and community members. They shouldn’t hang their heads because they didn’t get the win they worked hard for.”
In earlier competition, Homer defeated Palmer 3-1 on Thursday, thanks to a lot of hustle and good passing. The Moose drew first blood, but the M’s were quick to rally back.
With the forwards working hard in the corners, Owen Delehanty fed the puck to Dawson Roberts, who took a hard shot from the point. Mavrick Ivanov tipped the shot into the net, and Roberts and senior Connor McCarron picked up the assist.
Homer scored twice in the second period, as Tommy Bowe pushed the puck down the ice and past the Palmer goalie on an unassisted score. The goal gave Homer a 2-1 lead, and five minutes later, Carson Duggar sealed Palmer’s fate with a goal off an assist from Ethan Kizzia.
Homer goalie Alex Sanarov picked up 12 saves in the game.
The Mariners returned Friday night to take on the Colony Knights and got off to a strong start in an evenly matched first period. Homer scored first on a power play goal by Dennis Sanarov off a feed from Carson Duggar. Unfortunately, that was all the offense the M’s could muster, as a physical Colony team kept Homer off balance much of the night.
The Knights Colony took advantage of a power play and a two-on-one rush to score three goals in a span of just seven minutes in the second period.
And, while third period play was generally even, a Colony goal just 25 seconds into the period proved too much for the M’s. In addition, Homer lost leader Tommy Bowe to a game disqualification on a checking from behind penalty.
Goalie Sanarov made 12 saves on 16 shots, while Colony’s goalie made 21 saves on 22 shots.
“It’s a good time to be a Mariner,” Coach Laukitis told his team. “You are 12-7-1. You go into every game with self-confidence and know you can win.”
Laukitis said this is the first team he’s coached that was willing to set goals for themselves as defined by wins and losses. And, while goals introduce the threat of failure, being willing to fail — even though you try your hardest — shows confidence and strength of character.
“This weekend, we didn’t achieve the outcome we wanted, but we still are in position to achieve our long-term goals,” Laukitis said. “We have a lot of things we need to work on in the next few weeks and that motivates us at practice.”
Laukitis said it recently occurred to him that the “Mariners” moniker was quite appropriate for the team this year, noting that many members are from fishing families, and some players even run their own commercial fishing boats.
“We have players who work all off-season fishing and maintaining boats with their fathers,” he explained. “One player’s dad is the marine pilot and captain who just pulled the oil rig off Kodiak Island, another’s is an engineer on the Tustumena and one even has an uncle who is a float plane pilot. We have a bi-lingual (Russian and Italian,) multi-cultural, co-ed, co-op team from four different schools. We all come together to play hockey.”
Senior night for the Mariners will begin around 5 p.m. on Jan. 22 at the Kevin Bell Arena. The varsity squad will then kick off play against the Soldotna Stars at 5:30 p.m.
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