One final icy showdown

Tourney seeding settled — rivalry is not


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Eagle River’s Bryan Grant tries to maneuver past East’s Bradley Hudson during the T-Birds’ 5-1 Cook Inlet Conference win on Jan. 20. Eagle River and Chugiak will face off in the final game of the regular season on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the McDonald Center in Eagle River.

STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH

(UPDATE: Chugiak clinched the No. 5 seed in the CIC tournament with a 6-1 win over West on Jan. 25)

The two-and-a-half month wait is over.

After skating to a 1-1 tie Nov. 17, 2011, Chugiak and Eagle River finally have a chance to show which program owns the ice when they face off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28 at the McDonald Center.

Both sides were disappointed with the previous game’s outcome.

“I don’t think anybody felt like they walked away victorious,” Wolves’ head coach Kirby Senden said.

Past Eagle River teams would have been satisfied with a tie against Chugiak, Senden said, but defeating the Mustangs twice in the 2010-11 campaign has given the Wolves confidence.

The final hockey game of the regular season, Chugiak’s senior night, could have more than crosstown bragging rights on the line.

It might decide seeding for the Cook Inlet Conference tournament, which starts Monday, Jan. 30 — something Senden was hoping for as the week began.

“If the chips fall where I hope they fall, that game will decide the No. 5 spot,” he said last week.

Heading into this week’s final CIC games, each of the eight CIC teams had played 12 conference games. Dimond was in first place at a perfect 12-0. Service (11-1), whose only CIC loss came to Dimond, was just two points behind the Lynx. Those two square off today at 6:45 p.m. at Ben Boeke.

At 9-3, South was six points ahead of fourth-place East (6-6), Chugiak (4-7-1) was fifth, followed by Eagle River (2-8-2), West (2-9-1) and Bartlett (0-12). With a win in its last two games — tonight at 7:15 p.m. against Bartlett at the Mac and Saturday’s season finale — Eagle River would have a shot at leapfrogging the Mustangs into the No. 5 spot. That’s important, because whichever team gets the fifth seed will likely play the Thunderbirds — a potentially easier game than any of the three Southside powers would likely offer.

“That matchup would be better for us if we’re playing East,” Senden said.

Finishing sixth would pit Eagle River against South, a team that held the Wolves scoreless in both games this season.

Playing East would also give Eagle River the chance for revenge. Not only have the T-Birds beat the Wolves twice this year (including a 5-1 East win on Jan. 20), East also knocked Eagle River out of the CIC tournament in the opening round last year.

But not so fast — Chugiak controls Eagle River’s future more than the Wolves themselves do.

The Mustangs could make all the scenarios moot with a win over West on Wednesday, Jan. 25 in a game held after The Star went to press.

Check www.alaskastar.com, for up-to-date scores and CIC standings. If Chugiak won, it locked up the No. 5 seed. If not, a win tonight by Eagle River would set up a season-ending battle for fifth place between the bitter rivals.

Chugiak can actually finish as high as fourth in the CIC. But that unlikely scenario would require East losses to both seventh-place West and winless Bartlett.

Chugiak split its series with East this season, losing 7-0 early in the season and winning 3-2 a month later.

Should Chugiak lose its final two games and fall to sixth, the Mustangs would face South. The Wolverines swept Chugiak this year, winning 5-2 and 6-0.

Senden said Eagle River wants to make school history by being the school’s first hockey team to earn one of the CIC’s four Class 4A state tournament berths.

“That’s one of our team goals,” he said.

The North Star Conference and Mid Alaska Conference each send two teams to state, which will be held Feb. 9-11 at the Wasilla Sports Complex.

Here’s a look at how Chugiak and Eagle River fared heading into the final week of the regular season:

 

West Valley 4, Chugiak 1

West Valley defeated Chugiak 4-1 in nonconference action Jan. 19 at the Mac.

Josh Smith scored the Mustangs’ lone goal with Tyler Painter and Chad Peterson adding the helpers.

Smith’s second-period goal cut West Valley’s lead to one, however, the Wolfpack scored 42 seconds later to regain a two-goal lead. West Valley added one more in the third.

Mustangs netminder Joey Lindquist stopped 27 of 31 shots.

 

Service 8, Eagle River 0

Service Matthew Meszaros had two goals to lead Service to an 8-0 CIC win on Jan. 21 at the McDonald Center in Eagle River. The Cougars got goals from seven different players.

Brandon King made 19 saves for the Wolves.

 

East 5, Eagle River 1

East got goals from five different players for a convincing 5-1 CIC win on Jan. 20.

The T-Birds scored three goals in the first period, including two on the power play. After a Brett Wood strike in the second, East added two more in the third for the final margin of victory.

Brandon King made 19 saves for Eagle River, which was outshot 24-14.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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