Having already won five games in the State Championship Hockey Tournament for Squirt Tier III in Wasilla, including one earlier that morning, on Monday afternoon the Homer Hockey Glacier Kings Squirt C team headed back on the ice for the final game of the tournament. Tired though they may have been, they did everything Coach Chris Owen knew they could do and scored a 3-1 victory against a Kenai team that has been their archenemy.
“It’s been back and forth all year, but we got the upper hand on them this time,” said Owen.
Team Captain Casey Otis, 10, identified the Homer team’s secret.
“We work as a team instead of just one player at a time going up the ice and trying to score by themselves,” said Casey.
Co-captain Fiona Hatton said the game was “really fun. … We just have a great team and all played pretty hard.”
The Homer Squirts, a coed team of youth athletes 10 years old and younger, had such a tight hold of the game that it was the final 10 seconds before Kenai was able to get on the scoreboard.
“We just stepped it up to another level and I think my team is really good,” said Homer goalie Keegan Strong, 9.
“At this age, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” said Owen, who has been coaching for five years, most of that time with this team. “But they were working together, doing exactly what they needed.”
What they got, in addition to a championship victory, were loud cheers from fans that included their parents.
“We were hysterical. You’d have thought they’d won the Stanley Cup,” said Fiona’s mother, Michelle Hatton. “Kenai always seems to get the better of us at the last moment and they came into this pretty confident. … They didn’t know what hit them.”
Derotha Ferraro, whose daughter, Delilah Harris, also plays on the team, was among the cheering crowd.
“The team is very excited, but I think the parents are more excited,” said Ferraro. “The last time we played Kenai in a tournament, it ended up in the championship game, went into overtime and had to go to penalty shots.”
This season wraps up Casey and Fiona’s hockey experience as members of the Squirt team. Next year they move up to Pee Wee hockey.
“It’s a really fun sport,” said Fiona.
“I just like how it’s a challenge and you have to learn different things and there are different positions to play. … I’ve switched around, but this year I’ve mostly focused on defense.”
“(Hockey) is just fun. You go fast and you get to pass to other people and shoot and score,” said Casey of his love of the game. “I want to thank the coaches for teaching us this year.”
While it’s the last game of the season, it isn’t the end of the fun. When Keegan showed up to play with a Mohawk haircut, Owen made a promise to the team.
“They were giving me a hard time, seeing if I wanted a Mohawk. I said sure, if they won the tournament,” said Owen.
The excitement of becoming champions didn’t overshadow the coach’s promise.
“They wanted me to do it right then and there,” said Owen, an Alaska Department of Transportation equipment operator who had to hurry back to Homer after the game to return to work.
That didn’t mean he forgot his promise, however.
“It’s all right. I’m a man of my word,” said Owen.
State Championship Tournament
Squirt Tier III, Wasilla
10 teams competing
First place: Homer Hockey Glacier Kings Squirt C
Coaches: Chris Owen,
Dave Bolin, Travis Larson
Casey Otis, captain
Fiona Hatton, co-captain
Keegan Strong, goalie