ER hockey team a tight-knit bunch

Short on numbers, Wolves will have to play together


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Eagle River’s Brant Benett splits a pair of Soldotna defenders during Eagle River’s 3-0 loss to the Stars on Nov. 3 at the Soldotna Sports Center.

PHOTO BY M. SCOTT MOON/PENINSULA CLARION

With just 14 skaters and two goalies on the roster, Eagle River’s hockey team has no room for selfish play.

“With just two lines, we can’t have people running all over the ice doing their own thing,” said head coach Kirby Senden.

Despite its small roster size, Eagle River posted a respectable 2-2 record in the season’s first week after going 2-1 at the Peninsula Ice Challenge last weekend. The Wolves opened that tourney with a 3-0 loss to Soldotna before rallying to pick up a 2-1 win over Kenai Central and a 6-1 win over North Pole.

Senden said the Ice Challenge was an ideal way to start the season because it featured teams the Wolves could feel comfortable squaring off against.

“It was the perfect tournament for us,” he said.

That may not be the case all season in the always-dangerous Cook Inlet Conference, where heavyweights like South, Dimond and Service are likely to ask more questions of teams like Eagle River than the roster-challenged Wolves will be prepared to answer.

“Those teams all should be tough,” Senden said.

Senior night this season won’t be much of an affair, as the Wolves don’t have a single 12th grader on their roster. The team features 11 juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen. All of Senden’s top returners are juniors, including goalie Andrew Shortridge, defensemen Brett Wood and Quinn Hulse and forwards Hunter Gally, Carter Jesiel and Stephen Wescott. Wood led the team with four goals in the Ice Challenge, including a hat trick against North Pole. Jesiel notched a goal and four assists in the three games, while Wescott had a goal and two assists.

Shortridge stopped 28 of 31 shots in the loss to Soldotna and 15 of 16 in the Kenai win, while sophomore backup Justin Lopez stopped 10 of 11 shots in the North Pole win.

Although his team is young and lacking numbers, Senden said he doesn’t like to use the word “rebuilding” when it comes to his program.

“For me, it’s more a matter of player development and program development,” he said.

If Senden’s players can stick to game plans and work within his system, the head coach said he thinks this season will be a successful one.

“It’s about working hard when you should be working hard and doing what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it,” he said.

Eagle River takes on South on Saturday, Nov. 12 and Palmer on Nov. 15.

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com

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