Mustangs, Wolves fall in first round of CIC tourney
Chugiak center Daniel Casey won the opening faceoff and without taking a stride fired the puck at the Service net for the first shot game Monday night.
The puck bounced off Cougar goalie Kevin Taunton and skittered harmlessly away. That was as about good as it got for the Mustangs in the opening period of their first round of the Cook Inlet Conference playoffs.
Two minutes later, Josh Boneta’s errant clearing pass snuck by Mustangs teammate and goalie Riley Fugere into the net, and by the end of the period the Mustangs were outshot 12-6 and staring at the wrong end of a 4-0 deficit.
Service linemates Luke Martensen and Landow Hill did most of the damage on the night, combining for four goals and six assists in an 8-1 drubbing of the home team at the McDonald Center in Eagle River. Playing with a shortened bench as it had for most of the season, the Mustangs lacked the jump of the Cougars, and found themselves chasing the puck for most of the game.
A resurgent second period saw Chugiak play the visitors evenly and score its only goal on a Casey wrister on an assist from Boneta at Taunton’s glove side. But at the 4:37 mark a Service shot rang off the post and lay in the crease until Hill tapped in the Cougars’ fifth goal. A sixth came 12 seconds later, and Fugere was replaced by Tanner Holta for the rest of the period. Fugere came back in net for the scoreless third.
“We played way better in the second period, but it was just one of those nights when we had a hard time keeping the puck out of our net,” said head coach Rodney Wild.
Casey agreed, and told his coach after the game that, “I kind of had the feeling when we had that kind of a rough start, it wasn’t going to go so well.”
An injury-depleted squad hampered the Mustangs for most of the season, playing with four defenseman and lacking Jared Beckett (concussion) for an extended period, making playing three lines a difficult task.
“When you have two lines for the most part, you can’t play the style of hockey that we like to play,” Wild said. “I’m super proud of the kids, they did the best they could.”
After the game, Mustang Jacob Kosinski offered his assessment of the season.
“It was a good season overall, with the expectations going into the season, we came out better than expected,” he said.
For the night, the fifth-seeded Cougars outshot the fourth-seeded Mustangs 29-23.
Wolves fall 3-1 to West at CIC tourney
You could hold a mirror to the Eagle River Wolves’ season and their Cook Inlet Conference Tournament game against Anchorage West and see the same results, according to head coach Travis Martin.
“We just couldn’t capitalize on those open nets or get any of those bounces in the net,” he said after Eagle River ended their season with a 3-1 loss despite a spirited effort and stellar goaltending by Ryan Gray, who had 35 saves against 38 shots.
Down by a pair of goals in the second period, Nick Silance scored the Wolves’ only goal on a long breakaway and wrister at 10:24 to pull within 2-1, but West put a third goal behind Gray as the netminder lost his stick in a scrum late in the period.
The sixth-seeded Wolves opened the third with a two-man advantage, but were unable to generate any scoring opportunities as the third-seeded Eagles cleared the puck several times, and the teams played to a scoreless draw in the third, ending the road for the Wolves.
“I told the team after the game that this isn’t the end of the road, if you’re a senior or not,” Martin said. “You’re going to walk a straight line no matter what you do after this. And for the guys coming back, the job’s not done.”
Chugiak takes regular season finale over Eagle River
Managing Eagle River’s opening pressure was key for the Chugiak Mustangs in their 4-2 season-ending win last Thursday night at the McDonald Center.
“We had to survive that first five minutes; if they had scored, it would have been a different hockey game,” said Mustangs head coach Rodney Wild. “And Riley had to be good.”
Wild was referring to netminder Riley Fugere, who was good as he stopped 14 shots in the first period alone and the offense used the momentum to jump to a 3-0 lead.
The Mustangs’ defense also escaped a pair of 5-on-3 power plays on a night when they were outshot 23-16.
On the evening, Chugiak spread the goals among Jacob Kosinski, Tyler Huffer, Peter Simmes and Grant Epple. Daniel Casey had three assists. Eagle River eventually cut the lead to 4-2 in the third period on goals from Nick Silance and Sal Demma, who had the third-period goal for the Wolves to make it 4-2. Silance had an assist as well and Ty McEnaney had two.
Eagle River head coach Travis Martin felt his team started out a little jittery Thursday night, but overall thought his team played well.
“We had our chances on the 5-on-3s, but we just couldn’t put the puck in,” he said. “It was fast hockey and our kids left their hearts out there.”