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Kenai Peninsula Holds On to Win Pacific Title in Three OTs

By John Tranchina - Special to USAHockey.com, 03/16/15, 11:45PM MDT

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First from Kenai Peninsula to reach nationals by winning a district tournament.

It’s not often that a game goes past the second overtime period at any level, so when it happens, it’s a memorable occasion, especially for the team lucky enough to come out on the winning side.

For the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association Ice Hawks Tier II 14U girls’ team, defeating the Alaska Lady Pioneers 3-2 in three overtimes last weekend in the Pacific District final in San Jose to earn a trip to the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships will be a game they likely won’t ever forget.

Center Alie McCarron scored her second goal of the game with 4:12 remaining in the third overtime to win the game. She received a nice pass from Brianna Stanton behind the net and drilled home a one-timer from the slot.

“We dumped the puck into the offensive zone, and [Stanton] followed the puck into the corner,” Ice Hawks coach Ted Barton said. “Remarkably, the defenseman in front of the net left her position in front of the net to try to get the puck, and she didn’t make it in time, and [Stanton] backhands a pass right into the slot, where [McCarron] was, and she just buried it. And it was just pandemonium.”

Each team had more than one puck clang off the goalposts during the multiple overtime periods, but when they didn’t make it over the goal line, the game just kept going and going.

“In the first overtime, we hit the post, and then we hit another post,” recalled Barton. “I thought it went in, so I actually started jumping up and down when I saw that, but it was not to be. And then it went to the third overtime, in which we had a 5-on-3 power play and couldn’t convert it.”

The Ice Hawks had already lost 3-1 during the tournament’s round-robin portion to the Lady Pioneers, a team from Palmer, Alaska, that had rolled through the round-robin portion with four straight victories in which it outscored the opposition 22-4.

The teams from Alaska were familiar with each other, and the fact that the Lady Pioneers had the advantage more often during the season might have played into the Ice Hawks’ favor for the district final. The KPHA jumped out to a blazing start and almost put the game away in the first period.

“I don’t know if Palmer was over-confident or let their guard down or what, I have no idea, but we jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, and it came close to being 4-0,” Barton said. “We hit a post on another shot, and another one there was a loose puck in front of the net and they just barely got to it in front of us before we could tap it in. We could have easily gone up 4-0 and it was like, ‘This never happens to us.’

“As the case may be, they scored a power play goal in the second period, and in the third period a Palmer player just took a shot from the top of the circle towards the boards and it just found the net. It was just one of those things. So now it’s 2-2 and that’s the way regulation ended.”

Not only was the game one to remember because of how long it went and the seesawing momentum and emotions during it, but the stakes were high with a trip to the national championships was on the line. The victory marks a major milestone for the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association.

“For our area, our association, I’ve been here a long time, and all that time, we’re only the third team that I am aware of, boys or girls, that has made it to nationals,” Barton said. “And we’re the first team from the Kenai Peninsula, boys or girls, to get to a national tournament by winning the district.”

Two prior KPHA teams, including last year’s 16U girls that Barton also coached, made it to the nationals by receiving byes, without having to win their way in.

“The girls were just bound and determined, I just sensed that they were going to win this game,” said Barton, who actually ended up singing the national anthem before the game when the arena encountered some technical difficulties with the recorded version — yet another thing that made it memorable. “It was just total euphoria, we never expected it.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.


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