Michael Dinneen

Eagle River played a spirited first half Friday night in their season opener against the Wasilla Warriors. They led the game twice, caused and recovered fumbles deep in enemy territory, intercepted a pass for a touchdown, but stumbled in the second half allowing a pair of scores to finally succumb by a 29-14 margin. 

The Chugiak Mustangs girls soccer team benefitted from a solid defensive effort and a pair of goals from sophomore forward Carson Head to blank their Eagle River neighbors 3-0 Monday at the Dome.

“It was really good teamwork, it was nice passing that led up to it,” Head said of her finishing goal, an against the grain effort from just outside the box in the second half. “I was pretty happy with it.”

Following a lackluster win over Bartlett to open regional play last week, the Chugiak Mustangs waited until the fourth quarter of their second-round game with East to find their defense. When they did, the Mustang girls erased a 15-point deficit and gave the lady T-Birds all they could handle in an exciting 48-47 loss Thursday, March 10.

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.

Beginning with Rhys Cottle’s go-ahead shot late in the second period of the Cook Inlet Conference Championship game Saturday night, the Chugiak Mustangs tallied five unanswered goals over Dimond High en route to a 6-2 win at Ben Boeke Arena.

Five Mustangs scored in the game, including Zachary Plucinski’s pair to end the second and open the third period. After an evenly-played first period, the Mustangs carried play for the second half of the evening, finding open passing lanes and frustrating the Dimond defense despite being outshot 26-22.

If state hockey tournament newbies Eagle River and the Chugiak Mustangs share anything in common this year, it’s good goaltending. Both Mustang Jack Walters and Eagle River’s Trent Burnham are All-Cook Inlet Conference selections.

Joining Burnham on the All-CIC team for the Wolves are Sutton McDonald, Josh Linn, Ben Rinckey and Connor Canterbury.

Eagle River will play Fairbanks powerhouse West Valley Thursday at 2.30 pm at the Menard Center in Wasilla, while Chugiak plays Soldotna at 7 p.m.

The Eagle River High School hockey team has waited 11 long years to wear their sweaters on state tournament ice, so the fact that it took three overtime sessions to defeat perennial attendee South High for the honor is understandable.

Forward Sutton McDonald scored both goals as the third-seeded Wolves eliminated the sixth-seeded Wolverines 2-1 in the Cook Inlet Conference playoffs and guaranteed the team a slot in the state tournament.

The Chugiak Mustangs rode the four-point performances of captain John Hammer and forward Zachary Krajnik to a convincing 5-2 playoff win over the Service Cougars Monday night at the McDonald Center.

Hammer had three goals and an assist, while Krajnik had two goals and two assists as the Mustangs assured themselves of a continuing presence in the CIC playoff picture and a state playoff berth.