Hockey team nears end of the road

  • Homer senior Dimitry Kuzmin faces off against East Anchorage High School’s Devon Ament during their game Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018 at the Kevin Bell Arena in Homer, Alaska. The Mariners beat East, whose team was missing four players, 10-1. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
  • Homer’s Ethan Pitzman passes the puck under pressure from a skater from East Anchorage High School during their game Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018 at the Kevin Bell Arena in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

The Homer High School Hockey team ended on a high note after a tough weekend of games against Anchorage teams.

After losing 4-3 to Dimond High School on Thursday, beating West Anchorage High School 4-3 on Friday and rolling over East Anchorage High School 10-1 on Saturday, the Mariners moved to 16-5 overall and remain 7-2 in the North Star Conference.

Thursday’s game against the Dimond Lynx made the Mariners work for every goal. A rough game with several penalties, it saw Homer come short of a win when the team ran out of time to catch up to the Anchorage powerhouse.

“That was a real tight battle,” said Head Coach Chance Rockett. “Speed on speed, skill on skill. They had opportunities, we had opportunities. They were one goal better.”

Homer skaters Alden Ross, Tim Blakely and Tyler Gilliland contributed goals against Dimond, while goalie Hunter Warren saved 23 out of 27 shots. Homer made 41 shots on Dimond.

“We definitely did not sit back and let them take the play to us,” Rockett said. “We held our own. They’re the second best team in the state right now, so we definitely, I think, proved that we can play with the big boys, if we haven’t yet.”

Rockett said the Dimond game illustrates what he and assistant coach Steve Nevak are trying to teach their players: that it’s not always about the results. He said they try to impress upon the team that winning the small victories and the one-on-one battles on the ice is just as important as the final score.

“You never like losing, but honestly it was our best game of the weekend,” Rockett said.

Rockett and Nevak made the decision in the Dimond game when the score was 4-2 in the third period to remove their goalie in order to put a sixth skater on the rink against them. There was a minute and 54 seconds left on the clock, and Rockett said “my thought process was, it’s now or never. We’ve got them on their heels, we’ve got an extra man.”

The only risk of pulling the goalie is that the other team can ice the puck at will, Rockett said, but luckily that didn’t end in another goal for Dimond.

Friday’s game against West Anchorage was no less intense, but the Mariners were able to flip the score and come out victorious.

“The West game was also a … team win,” Rockett said. “We weren’t as clean breaking out of our zone as we were against Dimond, our passes weren’t quite there. We weren’t winning the one-on-one battles as much in the corner, but we made up for it with the effort. And that’s the thing that was never questioned, was the effort.”

In the Saturday game against East Anchorage High School, the opposing team entered the Kevin Bell Arena already at a disadvantage, having lost four players to injuries after their Friday bout against Kenai Central High School. The Thunderbirds took to the ice in Homer with only seven players total.

“Our main focus the last, I would say five games now, has been do not worry about the other team, worry about yourself,” Rockett said. “I felt bad for the kids. You know, it’s a varsity game, you’re trying to get up for it, you only got two home games left, and then the team comes down with only six kids.”

However, Rockett said his team knew they were going up against one of the best goalies in the state, Lane Fox. Homer outshot East 85-10, with Fox making 75 saves.

Rockett said he wanted the team on Saturday to focus on passing and team play rather than individual victories.

Freshman Charly Tappan scored his first goal of the season, earning the game puck.

The Mariners play their last home game Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Kevin Bell Arena against Kenai Central High School. It’s also senior night.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.

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