Unusual Penalty Contributes to Mariners' First Loss


     The Homer High hockey team is off to the best start in school history. The Mariners took their undefeated 6-0 record into North Star Conference play Tuesday night, in a tough battle against the rival Soldotna Stars. 

     With the National Hockey League locked out, hockey fans in Homer haven’t has a whole lot to cheer about – that is until the Homer High Mariners opened their hockey season at a blistering pace, winning their first six games and outscoring opponents at the recent “End of the Road” tournament, 28 to 5.

     The Mariners opened North Star Conference play at Kevin Bell Arena Tuesday night, against one of the programs in the state, the Soldotna Stars.

     SoHi jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on an unassisted goal by Nick Wrobel. The score remained at 1-0 Soldotna until, with 12:32 left in the second period, the Homer offense found the back of the net for the team’s first score.

     A moment later, however, officials waived the goal off.

     Homer Head Coach Buck Laukitis shrugged off the disallowed goal, saying hockey is “a game of inches.”

     "It was a tight play at the net ... I'm nto sure what the call was," said Laukitis. "You're going to win some and lose some."

     For most of the second period, the Mariners kept up the pressure, controlling the puck and keeping the action on the Soldotna end of the ice. The Homer offense had some nice, crisp passing but just couldn’t seem to get a decent shot on Soldotna goalkeeper Cody Harvey.

     With the score still stuck at 1-0 Stars deep into the final period, Homer finally gained an advantage with 3:49 left in the game, when Soldotna forward Jarrett Urban was sent to the penalty box after crashing into Homer goalie Alex Sanarov. 

     But then – in a strange twist seldom seen in a high school hockey game – the officials took away Homer’s powerplay chance by assessing the fans with an “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty for repeatedly beating on the glass. 

     That evened the numbers and moments later, Wrobel scored his second goal of the night, icing the win for the Stars.

     After that, it was all over but the Zamboni.

     "It's a tough loss," said Laukitis. "We played hard but just didn't come out on the right end of things."

      Like Mariner hockey fans, Coach Laukitis – who has been there throughout the team’s struggles in recent years – is excited about the future.

     The Mariners head up to the Mat-Su Valley this weekend for tournament play before returning to Kevin Bell Arena next week for a game against Kenai.