Following a lackluster win over Bartlett to open regional play last week, the Chugiak Mustangs waited until the fourth quarter of their second-round game with East to find their defense. When they did, the Mustang girls erased a 15-point deficit and gave the lady T-Birds all they could handle in an exciting 48-47 loss Thursday, March 10.
Late-game theatrics played a major role for the Chugiak Mustangs in their state playoff run last weekend, first derailing the Eagle River Wolves’ first-ever trip to the tournament, and then falling on third-period goals by the West Eagles in the championship match at Wasilla’s Menard Center.
The championship match was tied at 1-1 until late in the third period when West’s Alex Bardsley ended the Mustangs’ title hopes with a rink-long rush and goal. A pair of empty netters sealed the deal for West and the final was 4-1.
Beginning with Rhys Cottle’s go-ahead shot late in the second period of the Cook Inlet Conference Championship game Saturday night, the Chugiak Mustangs tallied five unanswered goals over Dimond High en route to a 6-2 win at Ben Boeke Arena.
Five Mustangs scored in the game, including Zachary Plucinski’s pair to end the second and open the third period. After an evenly-played first period, the Mustangs carried play for the second half of the evening, finding open passing lanes and frustrating the Dimond defense despite being outshot 26-22.
If state hockey tournament newbies Eagle River and the Chugiak Mustangs share anything in common this year, it’s good goaltending. Both Mustang Jack Walters and Eagle River’s Trent Burnham are All-Cook Inlet Conference selections.
Joining Burnham on the All-CIC team for the Wolves are Sutton McDonald, Josh Linn, Ben Rinckey and Connor Canterbury.
Eagle River will play Fairbanks powerhouse West Valley Thursday at 2.30 pm at the Menard Center in Wasilla, while Chugiak plays Soldotna at 7 p.m.
The Eagle River High School hockey team has waited 11 long years to wear their sweaters on state tournament ice, so the fact that it took three overtime sessions to defeat perennial attendee South High for the honor is understandable.
Forward Sutton McDonald scored both goals as the third-seeded Wolves eliminated the sixth-seeded Wolverines 2-1 in the Cook Inlet Conference playoffs and guaranteed the team a slot in the state tournament.