Chugiak takes runner-up in state tournament to West

Eagle River gets first-ever win at state before falling to rival Mustangs in semis
Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - 09:12
  • Chugiak’s Andrew Beckett goes on the attack against West High in the First National Cup title game Feb. 13 at the Menard Complex in Wasilla. Becket had two goals and four assists in the Mustangs’ opening round 9-2 win against Soldotna. Photo by Bruce Eggleston for the Star
  • Zachary Krajnik of Chugiak ices the Mustangs’ 3-1 win against Eagle River in the state tournament semifinals on Feb. 12. Kranjik was among three Mustangs named to the all-tournament team with John Hammer and Jack Walters as Chugiak came up short in a tight contest against West in the championship game. Photo by Michael Dinneen for the Star
  • Josh Linn fires the puck for Eagle River as captain and all-tournament teammate Connor Canterbury looks on. Linn scored the game-winning goal against West Valley. Photo by Bruce Eggleston for the Star
  • Goalie Tyler Burnham makes one of his 30 saves against West Valley. Photo by Bruce Eggleston for the Star
  • Nat Nielsen and goalie Tyler Burnham celebrate Eagle River’s 2-1 upset win against West Valley to open the state tournament on Feb. 11. It was the Wolves’ first trip to the tourney since the school opened in 2005. Photo by Bruce Eggleston for the Star

Late-game theatrics played a major role for the Chugiak Mustangs in their state playoff run last weekend, first derailing the Eagle River Wolves’ first-ever trip to the tournament, and then falling on third-period goals by the West Eagles in the championship match at Wasilla’s Menard Center.

The championship match was tied at 1-1 until late in the third period when West’s Alex Bardsley ended the Mustangs’ title hopes with a rink-long rush and goal. A pair of empty netters sealed the deal for West and the final was 4-1.

Chugiak had scored early in the first period to take the lead when John Hammer scored on an assist from Zachary Krajnik.

In the semifinal matchup with the Wolves, who’d upset West Valley the night before, the Mustangs trailed Eagle River 1-0 for most of the contest till Cody Curfman brought the Mustangs even at 9:55 of the third period. 

Andrew Beckett broke the tie at 5:21 and Krajnik iced the win at 3:12, sending the Mustangs to the title game against defending champion West Anchorage. 

The Wolves began the tourney well by upsetting Fairbanks’ West Valley 2-1, as Chugiak raced past Soldotna 9-2 to set up the cross-town semifinal matchup.

Against West Valley, Ben Rinckey for Eagle River scored the opening goal and Josh Linn sent the game-winner home in the third period. Wolves goalie Tyler Burnham had 30 saves in the victory.

Chugiak’s Krajnik and Hammer teamed up for two goals and four assists each in the first period against Soldotna as the Mustangs jumped to a 4-0 lead.

Also scoring in the blowout win were Beckett, who had two goals and an assist, and Kaden Yockey, Zachary Plucinski and Rhys Cottle.

It was the second runner-up finish for Chugiak to West this school year, having fallen to the Eagles in the football state title game. Eagle River dropped a 1-0 decision to Dimond in the third-place game.

Making the all-tournament team from Chugiak were Hammer, Krajnik and goalie Jack Walters. Defenseman and captain Connor Canterbury was selected from Eagle River.

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