The bad news is that in a disappointing, but hard-fought, end of the 2013-2014 hockey season, the Homer Mariners suffered a 4-1 loss to the Kenai Kardinals in Thursday’s quarterfinal round of the Region III North Star Conference Tournament at the Kevin Bell Arena.
The good news is that Head Coach John Carlin was named the North Star Region’s Coach of the Year, a selection made by coaches of the North Star Conference and one Carlin said he found humbling.
“Even though this is my first season with the Mariners, I have known and respected these coaches over the years and have competed against them when I coached for another peninsula school. So, this is an honor to be recognized by my peers,” he said.
Other honors went to Mariner Tommy Bowe, named to the all-region team; Konstantin Reutov, named to the second team; Kiril Sanarov and Markian Polushkin, given honorable mention; and Clem Tillion, named to the good sport team.
“(Bowe) has a strong presence on the ice and adds intensity to his game,” said Carlin. “He is excited about the sport of hockey, which is contagious.”
Of Reutov, Carlin said his “deceptive speed and humble approach to the game put him on the score sheet often.”
The coach also had praise for Sanarov and Polushkin.
“(Sanarov’s) big play and his ability to create those ‘wow’ moments as an underclassman gives us another chance to watch him next year. (Polushkin’s) solid goal-tending allowed us to become competitive against these bigger programs. Without his growth and efforts throughout the year, we would not have finished as strong as we did.”
Carlin described Tillion as an athlete that gives “110 percent to every effort, whether I ask him to play center, wing or any other position. He did whatever was asked of him to better the team.”
Kenai came onto the ice ready to build on the Jan. 28 6-5 victory over Homer, a fierce game that ended in overtime. The Kardinals scored four points and then, with little more than two minutes left in the game, Sanarov put Homer on the scoreboard, assisted by Bowe and Dawson Roberts.
Losing the game brought the Mariners’ season to an end.
“The Mariners played a hard-fought battle against a historically good team,” said Carlin. “Even though we didn’t get the win, the Mariners proved they can play against a very competitive team.”
In addition to Homer and Kenai, the tournament included the Colony Knights, Palmer Moose, Soldotna Stars and Wasilla Warriors. It was Homer’s first time to serve as host of the Regions event. The Soldotna Stars won the tourney championship in a dramatic 3-2 win over Wasilla on Saturday. The score remained tied through three overtimes before the Stars finally scored the winning point with 2 minutes and 38 seconds left on the clock in the fourth overtime. Both teams will continue to the state championship tournament next weekend.
“We are grateful for all those who came and supported not only Homer Mariners, but the region tournament this past weekend,” said Carlin.
“It is a privilege to host a tournament and we look forward to hosting again in six years.”
Homer High finished the hockey season with seven wins, 12 losses and one tie. Thursday’s game also was the end of Mariner hockey for seniors Hannah Baird, Bowe and Reutov. The three players were honored at the start of the Jan. 28 at-home game.
This also wraps up Carlin’s first year as the team’s head coach.
“I could not have won the Coach of the Year award if it weren’t for the efforts of the team. They were the ones who fought the gritty fight, were relentless and willing to work hard to persevere,” he said.
Although the team struggled with illnesses and injuries, Carlin said those challenges also created a spirit of hope.
“When you’re working with as few players as on our team, every player and his-her effort makes a difference and counts. These are wonderful, well-founded student players to work with,” said Carlin.
“I never had to deal with ineligibilities concerning grades, either. They were sure to make their studies a priority during the season. Kudos to their efforts. … I’m proud of the efforts of the seasoned players and am impressed with the progression of the younger players.”