Mustangs win back-to-back CIC hockey titles

Saturday, February 18, 2017 - 00:44
  • Eagle River captains Sutton McDonald and Josh Linn reflect on their second-place finish to arch-rival Chugiak in their CIC championship game Friday, Feb. 4, 2017. Photo for the Star by Michael Dinneen

It’s back-to-back for the blue and black.

Four different Chugiak players scored goals Saturday night as the Mustangs claimed their second straight Cook Inlet Conference hockey title with a 4-1 win over Eagle River in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Ben Boeke in Anchorage.

“It’s been a while since a CIC title game has been like that,” said Chugiak head coach Rodney Wild of the game, which filled the stands with supporters who made the 15-minute drive in from Chugiak-Eagle River to witness the first conference final between the area’s two Class 4A high schools.

Freshman Luke Momblow hasn’t been around as long as the longtime Chugiak head coach, but he may have had a better description of what it was like to play in front of such an intense crowd.

“It’s pretty sick,” he said.

(For those who don’t speak teen, that’s a good thing.)

Momblow scored the biggest goal of his young career when he was in the right place at the right time to redirect a Zach Plucinski shot past Eagle River goalie Ryan Gray with 1:55 left in the second period of a 1-1 game. The freshman was in the slot and drifting up ice with his back to the net when Plucinski whipped a low, right-handed shot from just inside the blue line. Momblow turned and put his stick on the ice just as an Eagle River defender knocked him down.

“I was just in front and got lucky enough to hit it with my stick and deflect it in the net,” said Momblow, whose fist pump was welcomed by a wild Mustang standing ovation.

Eagle River never recovered. John Hammer gave the Mustangs some breathing room when he converted a rebound off a Zach Krajnik shot at the 7:18 mark in the third, and Plucinski shut the door with an unassisted snipe through Gray with 4:21 to go.

Chugiak goalie Eric Yancey made 22 saves, including 12 in a frenetic second period. Yancey got plenty of help from his physical defenseman, and made several tough saves on breakaways by Eagle River sharpshooter Sutton McDonald.

“We are blessed with good goaltending,” said Wild, who said the Mustangs will bring two of the state’s top goalies to state next week in Yancey and Jack Walters.

Saturday’s game was even up until Momblow’s goal, both in score and run of play. The Mustangs struck the first blow late in the first period when Krajnik scored an unassisted goal with 3:02 to go. But before Chugiak’s crowd could finish the final verse of its “Chu-Chu-Chugiak” cheer, Sutton McDonald finished it for them by slicing through the Mustangs’ defense off the face-off and scoring just six seconds later.

The first CIC title game meeting between the two schools since Eagle River opened in 2005 was fast, hard-hitting and clean throughout, with little controversy to speak of. The only two penalties were coincidental minors against Krajnik and Eagle River’s Logan Dudinsky for some rough stuff in the third period.

“It was a good show, too,” Wild said. “It was back and forth and both goaltenders played extremely well.”

Gray finished with 32 big saves for the Wolves and drew high praise from his coach after the game.

“He just played phenomenal,” said Eagle River coach Bill Comer of his freshman goalie, who several times had Chugiak fans scratching their heads after somehow scrambling to cover loose pucks in his crease.

In the end, Comer said Chugiak just had too much firepower Saturday night.

“They’re hard to hold down,” he said.

Chugiak had five players named to the All-CIC team, which was announced during a postgame ceremony. Walters was one of two goalies on the team, joining South freshman Hannah Hogenson. Also making the team for Chugiak were forwards Krajnik and Beckett and defensemen Plucinski and Kadin Yockey.

Among goalies with at least three CIC games played this season, Walters ranks first in goals against average, Hogenson is second and Yancey is third. More stats can be found at cichockey.com.

Eagle River forwards Sutton McDonald and Josh Linn were named All-CIC, along with defenseman Cam McDonald.

Chugiak and Eagle River will play in next weekend’s ASAA First National Cup Hockey State Championships, which begin Feb. 9 at the Menard Center in Wasilla. Chugiak earned the No. 1 seed by winning the CIC title, while the Wolves will be the conference’s No. 2 seed. They’ll be on different sides of the bracket, meaning they could meet in the state title game.

The Mustangs will be looking to reach the state final for the second straight year and win the championship for the first time since Wild’s first year as head coach in 2000. Eagle River will be playing in its second straight state tournament. Last year the Wolves reached the semifinals of the program’s first state tourney before getting knocked out of contention by the Mustangs.

Eagle River will face North Star Conference No. 2 seed Wasilla, which lost 3-2 to Colony Saturday in Palmer. According to state tournament seeding procedures, Chugiak will play Mid Alaska Conference No. 2 Juneau, which lost 2-1 to West Valley Saturday. Both games will be rematches of regular-season contests; Eagle River defeated Wasilla 6-4 on Nov. 8 at the McDonald Center, and Chugiak beat Juneau 8-1 on Jan. 12 at the Mac. Full brackets will be released by ASAA on Monday.

Despite seeing his team come up short for the third time this season against its biggest rival, Eagle River coach Bill Comer said getting to watch Chugiak and Eagle River play such a highly charged postseason game will be something to remember.

“It was a fun thing to be a part of,” Comer said.

And, Comer added, he doesn’t think the Wolves are done yet. Not by a long shot.

“We’re looking to win this thing,” he said.

Chugiak is, too, and Plucinski said the state’s No. 1 ranked team can’t afford to rest on its CIC tournament title.

“I think we’re excited, but we still have to focus and not get too high or too low.”

MUSTANGS 4, WOLVES 1

Saturday, Feb. 4

Ben Boeke Ice Arena

Chugiak 1-1-2—4

Eagle River 1-0-0—1

First period — 1. Chu- Krajnik (un), 11:58; 2. ER- S. McDonald (un), 12:04

Second period — 3. Chu- L. Momblow (Plucinski, Casey), 13:05

Third period — 4. Chu- Hammer (Krajnik), 7:42; 5. Chu- Plucinski (un), 10:39

Shots: Chugiak 9-15-12—36, Eagle River 5-12-6—23

Saves: Chugiak: Yancey 4-12-6—22; Eagle River: Gray 8-14-10—32.

Penalties: Chugiak 1 for 2 minutes, Eagle River 1 for 2.

CIC All-Conference Team:

Forwards: Cody Bell, Sr., Bartlett; Andrew Beckett, Sr., Chugiak; Zach Krajnik, Sr., Chugiak; Jacob Cummings, So., West; Sullivan Mack, So., West; Cody Dearing, Sr., Dimond; Sutton McDonald, Jr., Eagle River; Josh Linn, Jr., Eagle River; Nick Eddens, Jr., East; Tyler Millar, Sr., Service; Ben Trujillo, Sr., South; Asa Kinnear, So., South.

Defensemen: John Fabeck, Jr., South; Ryan Reid, Jr., Service; Kadin Yockey, Sr., Chugiak; Zach Plucinski, So., Chugiak; Cameron McDonald, So., Eagle River; Mac Fair, Sr., West.

Goalies: Hannah Hogenson, Fr., South; Jack Walters, Jr., Chugiak

Coach of the Year: Steve Belde, South

Academic Award: West (3.399 GPA)

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the name of Chugiak’s starting goaltender Saturday night.

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