Monday, February 15, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
STATE HOCKEY: Defending champion Lathrop knocks off South in first round.
By DOYLE WOODY
Published: February 12th, 2010 12:14 AM
Last Modified: February 12th, 2010 04:20 AM
WASILLA -- After the first period elapsed with barely a scoring chance for either side Thursday afternoon, Lathrop goaltender Stephon Williams figured the opener of the Class 4A state hockey championships was destined to turn on one flick of a stick.
4A State hockey
Menard Memorial Ice Arena
Lathrop 1, South 0
West 5, Kenai 0
Dimond 7, West Valley 2
East 2, Wasilla 1, 2OT
8 a.m. -- South vs. Kenai
10:15 a.m. -- West Valley vs. Wasilla
5:30 p.m. -- Lathrop vs. West
8 p.m -- Dimond vs. East
Menard Memorial Ice Arena
11:30 a.m. -- Tri-Valley vs. Delta Junction
3 p.m. -- Hutchison vs. Monroe
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tool goes here "Shots were pretty few both ways, and it was a really, really defensive game,'' Williams said. "And I knew the first team to pop one was going to win. I knew it was going to be a 1-0 game.''
Williams is not just the reigning state player of the year, but a decent prognosticator too. He stopped 28 shots and the defending state champion Malemutes used Colton Wolter's strike three minutes into the third period to beat South 1-0 at Menard Memorial Ice Arena.
Lathrop prospered by virtue of Williams' excellence and a largely fail-safe system that favored smarts and sensibility over risk and delivered the Malemutes a state-tournament victory over the Wolverines for the second straight season.
Time and again, when a Malemute puck carrier hit the red line, the cry from Lathrop's bench was, "Deep! Deep!'' -- an instruction that reinforced the tactic of dumping the puck deep in South's end and, at worst, making the Wolverines go 200 feet to threaten Williams. The Malemutes also took icings whenever they needed them and they routinely chipped the puck from their end by lifting it off the plexiglass and to safety in the neutral zone.
"We just wanted to make the simple plays,'' Williams said. "That's what we've been focusing on and we're peaking at the right time with it. If they beat us, they've got to beat us with speed and talent.''
South, the regular-season Cook Inlet Conference champion, owned an advantage in depth -- the Wolverines dressed the maximum 18 skaters to the Malemutes' 13. The Wolverines also owned the upper hand in skill.
Still, they barely mustered more than a handful of high-quality scoring chances from below the hash marks and they hardly sniffed a rebound opportunity. Meanwhile, the Malemutes, who do not have a single senior among their 16 players, proved patient and sound defensively against a team that beat them 3-0 earlier this season.
"I'm gonna take the blame on this,'' said South coach Mike Ashley. "We put a fore-checking system in halfway through the season, and we could pin teams in their end and get three or four goals.
"All of a sudden, you get to tournament time and everyone plays their Grade A game, and it's tough to score goals. We didn't generate any offense.''
Not that the Malemutes peppered South goalie Trevor Gutierrez (17 saves). But they did cash in when their best chance surfaced early in the third period.
Wolter forced a turnover in the neutral zone and carried the puck down left wing and behind the net before backhanding a centering pass to Whitney Wivoda in the left circle. Wivoda's shot rang off the right post and directly to Wolter, who had pivoted into the right circle. With Gutierrez out of his net -- he had scrambled to cut down Wivoda's angle -- Wolter was left with a gimme.
"You can't miss an empty net,'' Wolter said.
South enjoyed a power play about three minutes after Wolter's goal. Yet Williams made an easy glove save on Kyle Head's slapper from the right circle. And Torgen Soderlund blocked a shot, and Dawson Hebard blocked one shot and one pass, to keep the Wolverines at bay.
South pulled Gutierrez for an extra attacker in the last 76 seconds, but to no avail. Williams stopped Jake Onstott's shot from the left point with his stick and flashed his left pad to rebuff Kyle Simmons' deft deflection.
When the horn sounded to signal game's end, Williams lifted his arms in celebration, and his teammates swarmed him.
"We wanted to prove we're still the team to beat,'' Williams said.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
ASAA/First National Bank Alaska
First National Cup
State High School Hockey Championships
At Menard Memorial Ice Arena, Wasilla
South 0 0 0 -- 0
Lathrop 0 0 1 -- 1
First Period -- None. Penalties -- South 1 penalty for 2 minutes; Lathrop 1 for 1.
Second Period -- None. Penalties -- South 2 for 4; Lathrop 1 for 2.
Third Period -- 1, Lathrop, C. Wolter (Wivoda, J. Wolter), 2:58. Penalties -- South 0 for 0; Lathrop 1 for 2.
Goalies -- South, Guiterrez 2-11-4--17; Lathrop, Williams 6-13-9--28.
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