• Kevin Bell Arena to host six teams for Region III Tournament
By Sean Pearson
The scene was set last Tuesday night at Kevin Bell Arena.
It was Senior Night, and the Mariners had just rallied back with three, third-period goals to tie the North Star Conference hockey game and force Kenai into overtime. Any one of Homer’s three seniors — Konstantin Reutov, Hannah Baird or Tommy Bowe — could have buried the puck in the back of Kenai’s net, creating an epic story to tell the grandkids in 40 years.
Unfortunately, Kardinal Ross Hanson had some plans of his own. The freshman scored with 2 minutes, 35 seconds left on the overtime clock, pushing Kenai to the 6-5 win.
The M’s looked strong early, when Reutov took advantage of some sluggish Kardinals to pick up Homer’s first goal. Homer goalie Riley Swanson picked up the assist.
Swanson pushed the puck up the ice, where Reutov bolted past his defenders, reached the puck first, and lifted it over the Kenai goalie.
Kenai answered with two goals — one coming with just 15 seconds left in the first period — to take a 2-1 lead into the second period.
Reutov tied the game with an unassisted goal at the 3:25 mark, but Kenai marched back with three unanswered goals in the last 8 minutes, giving them a 5-2 advantage going into the third period.
The Mariners hit the ice with determination in the final period. They came out swinging early, as Kiril Sanarov scored two goals in a span of 12 seconds to bring the Mariners within one.
Sanarov’s first goal came on an assist from Hunter Tillion, and the second off a feed from Bowe. The Mariners continued to attack the net, but couldn’t find the back of it until Bowe whipped a tight-angled shot past Kenai’s goalie with just over two minutes left in regulation play to tie the game at five.
The M’s survived a late Kardinal powerplay off a Homer penalty that carried over into the overtime period. The shorthanded Mariners continued to shut down Kenai’s high-quality scoring chances, and then applied pressure once again. After taking multiple shots on goal, the M’s were running out of overtime scoring opportunities.
That’s when the Kards slipped the winning shot past Homer goalie Riley Swanson, and crushed Homer’s Senior Night celebration with the 6-5 victory.
Homer took 34 shots on goal, while Kenai took 27. Swanson picked up 11 saves in the goal, while teammate and fellow goalkeeper made 10 saves.
The Mariners host the Region III tournament at Kevin Bell Arena this weekend. The single-elimination showdown puts pressure on tourney teams, as they try to stay alive game after game.
The two surviving teams face each other on Saturday for the championship title. Both qualify to move on to the State Tournament on Feb. 13-15 at Curtis Menard Sports Center in Wasilla.
The M’s kick off their post-season play with a 7:30 p.m. rematch against Kenai on Thursday. If they win, they go on to play Wasilla at 5 p.m. Friday.
The six teams competing for Region III honors include Homer, Kenai, Soldotna, Palmer, Colony and Wasilla.
A Friday skills competition kicks off at 10 a.m., and Saturday’s championship game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
Schedule updates are available at Homer High School, 235-4600 or online at www.homerhockey.org/schedule.htm.
Entry fees for the tournament are $7 for adults, $3 for students and seniors and $25 for a tournament pass.
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