• Obscure “tie-breaker” formula gives 2013 title to Houston Hawks
By Sean Pearson
Perhaps Mother Nature was giving the Homer hockey team some kind of omen when she dumped 18 inches of snow in Juneau last week. A strong winter storm closed the airport, preventing the Juneau Douglas Crimson Bears from arriving on time for their 5 p.m. Friday game at Homer’s End of the Road Shootout Hockey Tournament at Kevin Bell Arena.
After winning their first two games of the tourney, the only thing standing between the M’s and the championship trophy was a large pack of Crimson Bears. And, because those Bears were held up by inclement weather, both they and the Mariners were forced to play two games on Saturday. Homer got a two-hour break between games.
The lack of recovery time showed, as the M’s fell to Juneau 2-4. And, by some kind of mathematical miracle, the Houston Hawks wound up being the 2013 Shootout champions.
“I think playing two games in one day had an effect on the guys,” said Homer goalie Markian Polushkin. “But, the Crimson Bears are a solid team; they just found a way to beat us.”
Freshman forward Garrett Butcher agreed.
“They are definitely a beatable team,” Butcher said. “We’ll just have to get them next month.”
The Mariners opened the tournament — and their home season — with a 2-1 win over Hutchison on Friday night.
Homer outshot the Hawks 41-13 for the game, but you wouldn’t know it by the final score, as the Hawk goalie turned away a barrage of Mariner shots on goal. Both goalies kept the game scoreless until the third period, when Konstantin Reutov scored off an assist from Anton Kuzmin.
Reutov, who credited a supportive home crowd with helping the M’s pick up the win, chalks his impressive speed on the ice up to hours spent playing pond hockey in the village.
“We play on the pond at home every Sunday,” he said. “I have an older brother, and I was always trying to keep up with him and his friends on the ice.”
Homer got its second goal of the game off a wrist shot by junior forward Kiril Sanarov. Hutchison responded, scoring a goal with six minutes left in the game.
That’s when Polushkin made a stand at the net, turning away several shots on the way to a Mariner victory.
Homer went on to face a talented Houston Hawks team on Saturday, and squeaked by with a 2-1 win.
Freshman Riley Swanson tended goal in his first varsity game.
“I was nervous for the first period, but it all came back to me after that,” Swanson said. “The team did a good job of moving guys away from the net and breaking the puck out of our zone.”
Swanson has played other positions in the past, but said goalie is what he prefers. “It’s what I’m best at.”
Varsity goalie Markian Polushkin said he was impressed with how the team played, “especially freshman goaltender Riley Swanson.”
“Riley had a great game against Houston,” Polushkin said. “They are a solid team, but Riley found a way to make the big saves when we needed him to.”
It didn’t hurt that Swanson got some substantial defense from teammates Hannah Baird, Dawson Roberts, Anton Kuzmin, JJ Sonnen and Hunter Tillion. Their smothering defense held Houston to just one goal.
A second-period goal off a slapshot from Anton Kuzmin, and a third-period Reutov goal off a Tommy Bowe assist, pushed Homer ahead for the win.
In the Mariners’ final game of the tourney, the tardy Crimson Bears jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead. Junior forward Clem Tillion responded with a goal in the second period, scoring on an assist from Reutov. Juneau scored two more unanswered goals before Kiril Sanarov found the back of the net off assists from Owen Delehanty and Dawson Roberts.
Homer’s play was hampered in the third quarter when senior forward Tommy Bowe was hit with a boarding penalty, and had to leave the ice. The “game misconduct” call also came with 5 minutes in the penalty box, forcing the M’s to play short-handed.
“It was called a major penalty because the player was ‘hurt’ on the hit,” Bowe explained. “He was probably pretty shaken-up from the big hit, but he was fine.”
Regardless of the penalty or outcome of the game, Bowe said he was “surprised and impressed” with the physical play of his team over the weekend.
“We have definitely improved our aggressiveness since our first game against Kenai,” he said. “I hope to see more solid plays on the puck and a strong physical presence in the games to come.”
Polushkin said he thought the tournament was a success, despite losing the final game.
“The team really stepped up to the challenge of playing two games in one day,” he said. “That shows the resilience and toughness of this squad.”
Wendy Wayne contributed to this article.
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