There’s nothing quite like a tie in sports.
The final horn sounds and nobody raises their arms. Nobody lowers their heads. Players head to the locker rooms wearing poker faces and fans file to the exits, not sure how to react.
Such was the case Tuesday night at the Soldotna Sports Center, when the Soldotna and Homer hockey teams tied 2-2 in North Star Conference action. Neither team scored in the sudden-death, five-minute extra period, and there is no shootout in high school hockey.
The Stars are now 7-3-1 overall and 2-1-1 in the conference, while Homer is 9-4-1 and 2-2-1. Not even the shots on goal were much help determining the better squad on this night, as Soldotna, buoyed by a 6-1 advantage in overtime, had 34 shots, while Homer had 35.
Both Soldotna Coach Aaron Swanson and Homer Coach Buck Laukitis were relatively pleased after the game — or at least as pleased as a coach can be by a tie.
Swanson said he was missing six players for the game for various reasons. He said that left him with 10 skaters, and that number dropped to nine midgame due to an injury. But after falling behind 2-0 in the first five minutes of the game, the Stars were at least able to avoid a loss.
“We came out in the first period and we had to juggle our lines,” Swanson said. “The kids battled hard all night to get back into the game.”
Laukitis was happy with the way his team’s attack looked after the Mariners finished 1-2 on a recent trip to the Matanuska-Susitna valleys. On that trip, Laukitis said film showed his team entering and exiting the offensive zone without much happening.
The coach knew that wouldn’t cut it against SoHi’s Cody Harvey, who Laukitis said has shut his team out three times in the last two years. Harvey was coming off two straight shutouts in the Valley.
“We were trying to emphasize keeping it simple, getting shots on net and driving the net,” Laukitis said. “Over the weekend, we were getting too cute and fancy.
“We were not going to beat him with one shot. It was going to be the second and third shot.”
Just 2 minutes, 15 seconds, into the game, Owen Delehanty scored for Homer on an assist from Keril Reutov. Then, at the 10:16 mark, Dennis Sanarov scored on helpers from Nikit Matveev and Konstantin Reutov. Laukitis said the coaching staff has been working with Sanarov on his shot, so it was nice to see him get his first goal of the year.
“The slow start was more about Homer’s quick start,” Swanson said. “They came out ready to play. They battled from the get-go.”
After the first five minutes, Harvey reverted to his stonewalling ways.
“He put us on his back and we got back in it,” Swanson said.
Swanson said the strategy was to spread big ice sheet at the sports center and create creases his team could exploit. The problem was SoHi was facing another stingy goalie in Alex Sanarov.
“Homer, Soldotna and Palmer have the three best goalies in the league, in my mind,” Swanson said.
At the 9:30 mark of the second period, Dalton Pearson finally solved Sanarov unassisted. Just 27 seconds later, Jonas Perletti tied the game, also unassisted.
Laukitis said both Pearson and Perletti made great plays. He said Homer did not give up an odd-man rush in either case and added the Homer had backchecking support on both plays.
“Both were cases of great individual effort,” Laukitis said.
After that, the game was all about Harvey and Alex Sanarov. Soldotna spent the first 1:33 of overtime on the power play and had several great chances, but Sanarov was there every time. Homer may have only had one shot in the extra period, but it was a dandy. With about 1:30 to play, Keril Reutov got the puck wide open in front of the net, but couldn’t get the best of Harvey.
“He made a great save there,” Laukitis said. “Keril is a pure goal-scorer.”
Laukitis said the Tommy Bowe-Carson Duggar-Ethan Kizzia line was effective all night, lauding in particular the play of Bowe and Duggar.
Swanson said it was hard to pick out standout players for his short-handed squad.
“All the players on the ice did a great job,” he said.