By Wendy Wayne
For the Homer News
In spite of schedule-changing weather, hockey teams from Houston, Hutchison and Juneau were in Homer Nov. 21-23 for the Homer Mariner hockey team’s End of the Road Shootout.
Eighteen inches of snow blanketing Southeast Alaska caused Juneau’s late arrival and a reshuffling of games, with the Homer-Juneau game planned for Thursday rescheduled for Saturday.
Homer’s first home game of the season was Friday, when they took on the Hutchison Hawks and won 2-1. The Mariners dominated much of the play, outshooting the Hawks 41-13 for the game. Mariner skaters swarmed the Hutchison net much of the game, but stout goaltending kept the game scoreless until the third period, when Konstantin Reutov scored for the Mariners.
‘’It was the best feeling ever,” said Reutov of picking up the first at-home goal. He scored by skating to the side with the defense screening the goalie when he fired his shot, with an assist from Anton Kuzmin.
“The big crowd gave us good support,” said Reutov of the packed Kevin Bell Arena.
The Homer team picked up its second goal from Kiril Sanarov on a wrist shot from the left circle. Hutchison responded with an unassisted goal with six minutes left in the game, ensuring an exciting, tight finish. Homer goalie Markian Polushkin stood tall in the net, making a dozen saves and ensuring the Mariner victory.
Mariner Coach John Carlin has been switching up the lines and Reutov said, “I like playing with a set line and learning to play with those guys.” Difficult as it may have been, however, Reutov said, “It worked for this game.”
The Mariners were eager to showcase what they had in front of a home crowd.
“The team did well. We put more than 30 shots on the net. The ice sheet was definitely tipped in our favor that night,” said Carlin.
Homer won its second game on Saturday 2 to 1 over Houston. Mariner freshman Riley Swanson was the goalie, playing his first varsity game.
“I was nervous for the first period, but after that it all came back to me and it felt good to block the shots,” he said. “I’m glad I got to start this game. I have skated out other seasons but goalie is what I want to do. It’s what I’m best at.”
Carlin also praised Swanson’s goaltending.
“He showed he can step up and play excellent hockey,” said Carlin. “He allowed only one goal and we can win with that.”
Swanson was aided by the Mariners’ solid defensive effort. Hannah Baird, Dawson Roberts, Anton Kuzmin, JJ Sonnen and Hunter Tillion were strong on defense, and the Mariner forwards provided solid back-checking to help the defense minimize scoring chances for Hutchison and limit them to one goal. Meanwhile, the Mariners did some goal scoring of their own with a second period, unassisted slap-shot from Kuzmin and a third period goal from Reutov off an assist by Tommy Bowe.
Mariner senior Hannah Baird has been playing both offense and defense this season.
“I’ve played defense my whole life, but it’s helpful to the team to play both positions. ... This year’s team is fantastic, a really good, hard working team,” said Baird, who also plays on the Alaska All-stars U-19 team.
As she often does, Baird sang the national anthem at Homer’s opening game of the tournament.
“It gives me a lot of pride to combine two things I love to do: singing and hockey,” said Baird.
The Mariners needed a win against the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears on Saturday to take first place in the tournament. The reshuffling of games due to Juneau’s late arrival meant both teams played two games on Saturday and the Mariners had only a two-hour break between games.
Their weariness showed through, with Juneau winning 4-2. Juneau jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead. In the second period, Clem Tillion scored for Homer, after a scramble in front of the net with Reutov providing the assist. Juneau scored twice more, opening up a 4-1 lead before Sanarov scored, assisted by Owen Delehanty and Dawson Roberts. The Mariners lost one of their players for much of the third period due to a boarding penalty. Despite the absence, however, the Mariners stepped up their effort for a frantic final eight minutes, keeping the puck in the Juneau zone much of the time. However, it was too little, too late.
“We played hockey that continues to show signs of improvement and we did a good solid job, defensively allowing a limited amount of shots on the net. What did make it to the net, our veteran goaltender Markian Polushkin turned aside most of those shots,” said Carlin.
Carlin also continued to give all the Mariners time on the ice.
“That helps grow the program,” he said. “There might be parents that don’t want their kids to play in high school because they’d just sit on the bench all the time. That’s definitely not the way we work this program.”
The Shootout ended with Houston, Juneau and Homer tied for the top spot with identical 2-1 tournament records. Rules dictate a three-way tie is broken by total tournament goals scored minus total goals given up and the Houston Hawks were crowned 2013 Shootout champs.
The Mariners are back on the home ice, starting Dec. 5 with a game against Wasilla, Dec. 6 against Palmer, Dec. 7 against Colony and Dec. 10 against Kenai Central.
“We have four big conference games coming at us,” said Coach Carlin.
Mariner supporters can help win those games by cheering for the team.
“That really makes a big, big difference,” said Carlin.
McKibben Jackinsky contributed to this article and can be reached at