Sometimes a bad break can turn into a golden opportunity.

Trailing East 2-0 in the opening round of the Cook Inlet Conference hockey playoffs on Jan. 31 at the McDonald Center, Chugiak found itself on the verge of catastrophe when the T-Birds were awarded a second-period penalty shot after the Mustangs’ Chad Peterson was judged to have covered the puck in the Chugiak crease.

But when East’s Alex Jackstadt was stoned by Chugiak goalie Joey Lindquist on the freebie, the Mustangs’ stampede began.

Chugiak captain Josh Smith scored on a breakaway 39 seconds into the second overtime period to lead the Mustangs to a dramatic 3-2 win over East in the opening round of the Cook Inlet Conference hockey tournament at the McDonald Center in Eagle River Tuesday night.

Mustangs senior goalie Joey Lindquist made 38 saves in the game, including a penalty shot midway through the second period with the T-Birds already up 2-0.

Game on.

The future of the prep hockey season comes down to single game tonight for Chugiak and Eagle River.

The No. 5 Mustangs open their Cook Inlet Conference tournament with a 7:15 p.m. battle with No. 4 East at the McDonald Center, while the no. 6 Wolves will face No. 3 South at 6:30 p.m. at Ben Boeke.

The stakes are high in the opening round in the tourney — and simple. Win, and a team is guaranteed a berth in the semifinals and one of the CIC's four berths in next week's state tournament. Lose, and the only guarantee is an end early-morning practices. 

The Wolves have done it again.

For the second straight year, Eagle River won its two-game, regular season series against crosstown rival Chugiak with a 7-4 victory Saturday, Jan. 28 at the McDonald Center.

The two skated to a 1-1 tie their first meeting Nov. 17, 2011. Eagle River beat Chugiak for the first time in school history last season by sweeping the Mustangs with two one-goal wins.  

“I feel like the tides might be turning a little bit,” Wolves’ captain Stephen Wescott said.

Chugiak’s Garrett Morrison and Eagle River’s Dominic Taus each earned their second consecutive Cook Inlet Conference wrestling titles on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Chugiak High. The two seniors were joined at the top of the podium by Chugiak sophomore Richard Burroughs, who claimed a narrow 8-7 finals win over Service’s Derek Zorea at 220 pounds for his first CIC title.

Chugiak finished fourth in the team standings. Eagle River was sixth.

Brett Wood had a hat trick and three assists to lead Eagle River to a 7-5 win over Bartlett on Thursday, Jan. 26 at the McDonald Center in Eagle River.

Carter Jesiel added two goals and an assist for the Wolves, who also got goals from Bryan Grant and Quinn Hulse.

The victory clinched the No. 6 seed in the upcoming CIC tournament for Eagle River. The Wolves will play No. 3 South on Tuesday, Jan. 31 — time and rink TBA.

Chugiak clinched the No. 5 seed in the Cook Inlet Conference playoffs with a 6-1 win over West on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at Ben Boeke Arena in Anchorage.

Five different players scored in the win. Hunter Hanson led the way with a pair of goals, while Josh Smith had a goal and three assists. Kris Tomazevic, Chad Peterson and Adam Groendyke also scored for Chugiak, which got 15 saves from Joey Lindquist.

The Chugiak win means Eagle River can finish no higher than sixth. The Wolves can clinch that spot with a victory on Thursday, Jan. 26 over 0-13 Bartlett.

 Eagle River junior basketball player Dana Panfil scored a game-high 15 points Saturday, Jan. 21 to lead the Wolves to a 45-30 win over Skyview in Soldotna. The victory was the first since 2009 for the Wolves. Panfil, 17, is the daughter of Sue and Mike Panfil of Eagle River.

Eagle River’s girls basketball team has insisted all season that they’re an improving bunch. On Saturday, Jan. 21, the Wolves proved it with a 45-30 non conference win over Skyview in Soldotna.

The Wolves improved to 1-7 overall after picking up the program’s first victory since beating Service on Feb. 11, 2009.

The Wolves clamped down on Skyview from the outset, allowing just two first-half points and leading 27-13 at the half. Eagle River knocked down six 3-pointers in the game, including three by Dana Panfil, two from Lauren Frost and one by Mikayla Douglas.