Mariners skate to 2nd at Palmer Showdown
The Homer High School Mariners turned more than a few heads on the ice this weekend, grinding out a 3-0 record and a second-place finish at the Palmer Hockey Showdown at the MTA Events Center in Palmer.
The Mariners finished the tournament in a tie for the top spot in the tournament standings. Colony was awarded the tournament title based on a tie-breaker using a goal differential.
"The tournament was a huge success for our boys and girls," said HHS Head Coach Chance Rockett. "It was a big step for our hockey program. We are trying to make these kids believe they can beat anyone if they put their minds to it. I can guarantee you no one works harder at school, practice and games than these student-athletes."
The Mariners used a dynamic third-period rally to highlight their outing. After battling Lathrop to a 0-0 deadlock through the first two periods, Homer gave up a goal early in the third.
"Lathrop came out playing very physical and over the line, in my opinion, at times," said Rockett. "We were not playing very good hockey. (I told the players) We needed the best 15 minutes of our season."
Homer answered the challenge. The Mariners pounded out two goals in a 10-second span midway through the final stanza to claim the lead. Spencer Warren erased Lathrop's brief lead at the 8:23 mark of the frame by slapping a shot past the LHS goalie. Just 10 seconds later, the HHS standout ripped off a second goal and staked the Mariners to a 2-1 cushion.
Minutes later, Phineas Weston capped the rally with a blistering wrist shot.
"It was another come-from-behind victory and it felt really good, considering the chippiness of the game," said Rockett. "Our players persevered and stayed focused when it mattered most."
Hunter Warren, who was selected the team's player of the game, starred for the Mariners in the goal. He stopped 20 of the 21 shots the Malemutes took.
The Mariners kicked off Saturday's action by skating to a 2-0 victory over defending Division III state champion, Monroe Catholic,
Homer's defense shut down the Rams' offensive game. Monroe Catholic managed just 20 shots on the net during the entire contest, including only five in the opening frame.
"This was the most enjoyable game of the year," said Rockett. "Two teams with a lot of skill and a lot of speed. It was a defensive showdown and goaltending duel for most of the game."
Charlie Menke, who was named to the all-tournament squad following the tourney, gave the M's the lead in the second quarter by rifling a shot into the net off a power play opportunity. Ethan Pitzman recorded the assist on the play.
Dimitry Kuzman tallied the Mariners' other goal in the third period by scoring off s pass from Spencer Warren.
"Both teams worked super-hard and their goalie was phenomenal," he said. "He stopped two point-blank opportunities that were SportsCenter highlight reel material."
The win was a milestone for Warren, who stopped 20 shots on the goal. The M's 2-0 victory was the first shutout of his high school career.
The Mariners opened the tournament with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Eagle River on Thursday. Homer scored twice in the third period and then held on to take the 1-goal victory.
Trailing 3-2 in the final stanza, Tim Blakely started the Mariners' comeback. He pushed home a goal midway through the third and tied the game at 3-3. Isaiah Nevak scored the game-winning shot from in front of the goal with 4:57 left in the contest.
Joshua Williamson and Tucker Weston scored in the first period for the Mariners.
Ali McCarron was chosen for player of the game because of her defensive play, particularly in the third period. She also managed to tally an assist in the contest.
Homer will host the annual End of the Road tournament on Thursday at 7 p.m. with a bout against Houston. The Mariners will face Bartlett on Friday at 7 p.m., and then close out the tournament on Saturday with a noon showdown with Soldotna.