Local hockey rivalry knits two teams together
The anticipation was almost palpable.
With little over a minute on the clock, Chugiak’s Kris Tomazevic was penalized for boarding, and Eagle River traded in their goalie for an extra man on offense.
Everyone in the McDonald Center leaned forward.
Defense prevailed and the Mustangs skated to a 3-2 victory.
The first period was dominated by Chugiak’s offense. Then, with just 13 seconds before the buzzer, Eagle River’s Anthony Fan netted the first goal.
Chugiak tied it halfway through the second period, with a strong shot by Taylor Garner. Six minutes later, Sam Hanson put the Mustangs up 2-1.
Jesse Johnson knotted the game at 2-2 with a goal 1:20 into the third period. Chugiak’s John Hammer scored what turned out to be the game-winner three minutes later.
Yet, after the clock ran out and Chugiak took home the win, it was just two hometown teams heading to the locker rooms in a rink so familiar they could have walked the distance with their eyes closed.
The hallway outside the Wolves’ locker room was quiet, but the Chugiak side was filled with clapping and cheering as the Super Fans waited for their team to emerge.
The Super Fans are a group of about 20 students ranging from elementary to high school (though predominately high school) who attend every game, home and away.
Dylan Timberlake and Marcus Gamble were decked out in Mustangs garb, right down to black and blue painted faces.
“We always wear the jerseys and bring the lights,” Gamble said. “But the face paint? We decided to go all out tonight since we’re seniors and this is our last year.”
Super Fan Zach Brueggemann said that it doesn’t get any better than Chugiak hockey.
“We don’t know what would happen if we missed a game,” he yelled.
The fans went wild when Tomazevic emerged, his hair still damp from a shower.
“It’s great to have consistent fans,” he said. “They’re at all games. It’s usually quiet at away (games) but they’re there cheering and it gets our momentum going.”
He grew more serious when he talked about the game. Playing against the Wolves is more emotional since everyone knows one another. There’s more to lose, and gain.
“Normally, when you might want to give up, you keep going. It’s about bragging rights.”
After the Super Fans quieted down, Chugiak head coach Rodney Wild chatted with Eagle River’s bench boss Bill Comer. They were headed off to have a beer together.
That’s a part of small-town hockey, Wild said.
“It’s a different feel,” he said. “I’m happy we won, but it’s a different feeling than when we beat an Anchorage team.”
“This is like a community event,” Comer said. “It’s one of the reasons I’m coaching. I was up in the stands years ago and I thought, ‘I want to be part of this.’”
The community also looks forward to the Eagle River-versus-Chugiak game, he said.
“All week I’ve heard people mention it,” he said.
“You won’t see me talking with, say, a Service coach the way I’m doing now,” Wild said. “All these boys on his team, I’ve coached many of them when they were small. You have an emotional connection to them. You know their parents, their families.”
“It’s a good feel, going up against him,” Comer said.
Chugiak 2, Service 1
Chugiak scored twice in the final minute of regulation to beat Service 2-1 on Friday, Dec. 13 at the Mac.
Kris Tomazevic’s power-play tally tied the game with 49 seconds to go. Taylor Garner scored the game-winner with just 12 seconds left on the clock.
Chugiak 8, Palmer 3
Kris Tomazevic scored a hat trick to lead Chugiak to an 8-3 win over Palmer on Dec. 12 at the Mac.