SOLDOTNA - When a defenseman pinches in to try and keep the puck in the opposing team's zone and trips, the goal that results is usually for the other team.
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Kenai Central High School sophomore Dominick Eubank turned the tables on Wednesday in Kenai Central's 3-0 nonconference victory over Juneau-Douglas at the Soldotna Sports Center.
After falling, Eubank immediately got up and fought off Juneau for the puck. He blasted a shot past Juneau goalie Sam Post to give the Kardinals a 1-0 lead.
"It was a great effort," said Kenai coach Nate Kiel after his squad improved to 3-2 overall. "I told the team after that, 'That's the kind of effort we need.' That's the way they all have to play all of the time."
The goal highlighted a solid night for Kenai's defense, which gave up just four shots in the first two periods. Kiel said Eubank headed up that effort.
KARDINALS 3, CRIMSON BEARS 0
Juneau-Douglas 0 0 0 - 0
Kenai Central 1 1 1 - 3
First period: 1. Kenai, Eubank (un.), 6:03. Penalties: Juneau 1 for 2:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Second period : 2. Kenai, H. Perkins (Sonnichsen, Barrett), 11:05.
Penalties: Juneau 1 for 2:00; Kenai Central 3 for 6:00.
Third period : 3. Kenai, Hendricks (un.), 14:37. Penalties: Juneau 3 for 6:00; Kenai 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal: Juneau 3-1-11-15; Kenai 16-14-12-42.
Goalies: Juneau, Post (42 shots, 39 saves); Kenai, Barrett (15 shots, 15 saves).
"He's always moving his feet," Kiel said. "He made some smart plays with the puck and broke up a couple of their opportunities."
While the Kardinals return some experience on defense from last season's North Star Conference champions, Kenai lost 95 percent of its scoring to graduation. Kiel said Wednesday's game against the Juneau, a third-year program that is now 2-1 overall this year, showed the Kardinals still need to come a long way on offense.
"We have a hard time executing (on offense)," Kiel said. "We're getting better at taking the shot when it's there. There weren't enough quality shots, and there were not enough players going to the net for screens, deflections, tips and rebounds."
Usually when that is the case, the other team's goalie makes a load of saves. Post did not disappoint, allowing three goals on 42 shots. One of those goals actually came when Post was on the bench in the final minute as Juneau was pressing for a goal.
"Sam played very well," Juneau coach Dave McKenna said. "He got tested early and held up."
Kenai dominated the first two periods, mainly because the Kardinals defensemen were able to keep the puck in Juneau's zone. In the first period, Juneau was outshot 16-3 and in the second period the Crimson Bears were outshot 14-1.
"In the first period we were weak on the puck," McKenna said. "On 50-50 pucks, we'd stop moving our feet and lose out on those."
Tactics also were a reason the Crimson Bears struggled.
"It was an inability to break the puck out," McKenna said. "Kenai did a good job shutting down the puck side. We kept trying the same side. Later in the game, when we tried the other side, that led to success."
The Kardinals grabbed a 2-0 goal with 3:55 left in the second period on a short-handed goal by junior Holly Perkins. Freshman Zack Sonnichsen got the puck in the Kenai zone and Perkins burst up the ice, splitting the seam between Juneau's defenders. Sonnichsen nailed Perkins with a perfect pass, then Perkins converted the breakaway with a crafty forehand. Kiel said the goal was a high point in a night where Perkins showed a lot of leadership and created a lot of scoring opportunities.
"That's not the type of thing that's going to happen all the time, but it was taking advantage of an opportunity," Kiel said of the short-handed goal. "That's what we're going to have to do this year - take advantage of every opportunity we can."
In the third period, Juneau started breaking out of its zone better and Kiel said Kenai did not back-check as well. Mix in a couple of ill-timed penalties by the Kards, and Juneau was outshot 12-11. The lone goal in the third came from freshman Dylan Hendricks on the empty netter. It was the first varsity goal for Hendricks, and Kiel said the tally was deserved because Hendricks worked so hard all night.
Penalties were the one problem Kenai's defensemen had on Wednesday.
"Other than the undisciplined penalties, I'm pleased with the defense," Kiel said. "We took way too many penalties. That can't happen when we face the top guns. We have to stay out of the sin bin."
Kiel also said goalie Matt Barrett showed good focus in making 15 saves for the shutout. The coach said concentration can be tough when the puck stays at the other end. At the same time, because Kenai had trouble scoring, if Barrett had let in a goal, it could have changed the complexion of the game.
McKenna said the game was a great learning experience for his team.
"We know what we need to work on," the coach said. "I wish every game we played could be like this. This was great for us."
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