• Homer’s Laukitis named Region III Coach of the Year
By Sean Pearson
After opening the North Star Conference Hockey Tournament on Thursday with a strong 5-0 win over the Kenai Kardinals, this year’s Homer Hockey team fell just short of earning its first-ever berth to the State Tournament with a Friday 0-3 loss to the Wasilla Warriors.
The early conference tourney exit may have proved disappointing to the M’s, but did little to dampen Head Coach Buck Laukitis’ enthusiasm about this year’s team.
“It is a pretty unique team: four schools, co-ed, multi-cultural — and we all get together through hockey,” Laukitis said. “I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
Entering the tourney as the fourth seed, Homer scoring got off to a slow start against the fifth-seeded Kards, as the game remained scoreless after the first period.
It wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Homer’s Tommy Bowe kicked off the scoring for Homer, picking up a goal just two minutes into the second period on a Mariner power play. Kiril Sanarov added a second goal at the four-minute mark, and a third-period Anton Kuzmin goal increased the Mariners’ lead to 3-0.
But Bowe had a few more tricks up his sleeve, scoring two more goals to round out the game with a hat trick. He scored his final goal with just 6.9 seconds left.
Homer outshot Kenai 39-26, with Mariner goalie Alex Sanarov turning away all 26 shots for the shutout.
“We played well against Kenai,” Laukitis said. “Alex played great in goal, Tommy had the hat trick, Caroline deCreeft had a nice assist on one of Tommy’s goals and Anton had a nice goal from the point.”
The win sent Homer to the semifinals on Friday to face the Wasilla Warriors. Defensive efforts by both teams left the game scoreless in the first period, but a top-shelf Warrior goal put Wasilla up 1-0 in the second period. A breakaway later in the second put Wasilla up 2-0.
A final third-period goal by the Warriors gave them the win and their fourth straight trip to the NSC title game.
“We had a good first period, (against Wasilla) but we never got any reward,” Laukitis said. “Our power play had been really good, but we didn’t convert. Our goal scorers didn’t put the puck in the back of the net.”
Laukitis said his M’s outshot Wasilla 22-11 the first two periods, but still found themselves down 3-0.
“In those really big games, we needed someone to rise and no one did that all year,” Laukitis said. “The 0-0 Soldotna game for second place and getting shut out in the last game of the year to go to State are the ones that matter. I hope the underclassmen come back next year with more skills acquired from their dedication to the sport.”
“I believe we played some of our best hockey at the Region Tourney,” said senior and team captain Carson Duggar. “The puck didn’t bounce our way in the Wasilla game, but we certainly came close.”
Duggar said he hit the post on a shot in the first period, and felt that if that would’ve gone in, it would have changed the entire momentum of the game.
Mariner players received an unprecedented number of awards at Regions, with goalie Alex Sanarov, defenseman Dennis Sanarov and forward Tommy Bowe all selected to the First Team All Conference. Carson Duggar and Kiril Sanarov earned Second Team All Conference honors, while Nikit Matveev and Ethan Kizzia were given an honorable mention.
Bowe won the shootout skills competition with a new “Homer move,” and Nikit Matveev was second in shooting accuracy skills competition. Markian Polushkin won the goalie shootout skills competition.
Laukitis was named Region III Coach of the Year. He thanked fellow coach Chris Brown and all the Mariner supporters for a “really fun year,” and noted that, “It takes a lot of work to make a hockey program successful.”
Laukitis said the team had a “good weekend and a good year.”
“I know the kids had fun. We had a cohesive team. Every player on the team stayed academically eligible all year. There was no big drama, and everyone stayed focused,” Laukitis said. “We had good leadership from captains Carson Duggar, Tommy Bowe and Dennis Sanarov.”
This was the Mariners’ first winning record.
“This year has been one of my favorite years of hockey in my life,” Duggar said. “It’s basically a culmination of all the years growing up and playing with all these same kids. It’s bittersweet that it’s now over, but I will remember this year for the rest of my life. It was an honor to be the captain of the Homer Mariner Hockey Team.”
“Our team was complimented on and off the ice all year, wherever we went,” Laukitis said. “Our goal as coaches is to help motivate players to be their best and help the team be its best. I think we came close to being as good as we could be. And that is success.”
Thursday, Menard Arena
Homer 5, Kenai 0
First period: no scoring.
Second period: 1. Bowe (K. Reutov, Roberts) pp 12:59; 2. K. Sanarov (K. Reutov) 11:00.
Third period: 3. A. Kuzmin (K. Reutov, N. Matveev) 8:20; 4. Bowe (de Creeft) 5:31; 5. Homer, Bowe (unassisted) :06.9.
Shots on goal: Homer 15-9-15—39, Kenai 9-8-9—26;
Saves: Homer, A. Saranov 9-8-9 — 26; Kenai, 15-7-12—34.
Wasilla 3, Homer 0
Friday, Menard Arena
First period: no scoring.
Second period: 1. Wasilla 9:15; 2. Wasilla- 6:54.
Third period: 3. Wasilla 1:09.
Shots on goal: Homer 6-5-6—17, Wasilla 9-11-11—31;
Saves: Homer- A. Sanarov 9-9-10—28, Wasilla 6-5-6—17.
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