The area’s two hometown rival high schools – Chugiak and Eagle River – skated against each other on Jan. 28 for their last game of hockey in regular Cook Inlet Conference play.
It was a game that would ultimately decide each team’s rank in the conference and the importance of this game for those that follow local high school hockey was obvious. The parking lot at the Harry J. McDonald Center was full long before the puck first hit the ice. The stands were packed with fans – young and old; families with grandparents there to watch their grandsons take the ice, siblings there to cheer on their brothers, moms with buttons showing off their boys and dads reliving their own glory days.
While Eagle River fought hard and never gave up, the Chugiak Mustangs brought home the win against the Wolves, 5-2.
ERHS Head Coach, Bill Comer from Eagle River said, “Four to five years ago, Eagle River used to beat Chugiak, but recently it has changed, and it is hard to play against the first line because of all the really good seniors.”
Owen Crumley, a Chugiak player, said, “The reason we won is because of moving the puck, solid back checking, and body contact.”
CHS Head Coach, Rodney Wild told the ECHO News that playing against Eagle River is a solid test of his team’s abilities.
“The best two games that Chugiak has played has been against Eagle River, and if the team plays with the same skill as they did tonight, Chugiak will be the team to beat,” Wild said after the game.
Andrew Beckett from Chugiak got the first shot on Eagle River’s goalie Ryan Gray. Freshman Tyler Huffer, from Chugiak, got the first goal of the game which was assisted by Daniel Casey.
Huffer’s dad, John Huffer, said, “I have had a lot of time watching him grow, and he deserved this goal. What makes it even more is that he is a wholesome kid.”
The first penalty of the game went to Bret Jedlicki for the Wolves for interfering. Jack Walters was in net for Chugiak and had five saves in the first period while Ryan Gray had seven.
During the second period, Aiden Burton from Eagle River scored with an assist by Ty McEnany and Sutton McDonald. Burton tied the score up making it 1-1. Kaden Yockey got the first penalty for the Mustangs for tripping Sutton McDonald resulting in Eagle River getting their first power play. Gray played an amazing period stopping the first line of seniors on Chugiak multiple times. Chugiak’s Zach Krajnik scored with 1:30 remaining in the second period by tip- ping the puck through Ryan Gray’s ve hole, and Andrew Beckett got the assist. Mustangs had eight shots on net, and the Wolves had seven shots.
During the third period, Eagle River got another power play with a penalty on Zach Plucinski for holding. Grant Epple from Chugiak scored with 9:50 left in the period and was assisted by Daniel Casey and Zach Plucinski. Beckett came back on the ice to score against Eagle River making the score 4-1. Chugiak’s Noah Denny got the fifth and final goal of the night, his first goal of the season.
Eagle River did not give up, though; they were still fighting as the Mustangs’ Zach Plucinski goes in to hit the Wolves’ Brandon Lajoie, who does a flip over Plucinski’s back and keeps on playing hard. The Wolves’ Linn scored with 1:03 left on an assist from McDonald and Ben Rinckey. Linn crashed the net and got the rebound and made the goal.
As soon as the buzzer went off both teams went to congratulate their goalies, shake hands, and salute the crowd. Eagle River may have lost, but they kept their heads held high. The shots on net for the third period were seven on Jack Walters of CHS and ten on Ryan Gray of ERHS.
Office, there are many friendships between the players that represent the local community. The high school players grew up together playing youth leagues. But on the ice, the players on the two high school hockey teams are rivals.
“It’s always hard to play the rivals. They aren’t friends/teammates on the ice, but off ice everyone is friends,” Macsen Cottle said.
Jedlicki from ERHS added, “It was a good experience to play against the rivals.”
Yet, both he and Cottle say they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to prepare for Saturday night’s game. They and their coaches say the Mustangs and the Wolves got ready for this game just like any other game.
“Treat it as any other game,” Nick Silance from ERHS said.
The crowd gathered also treated like any other game. They cheered, they pounded the stands with their feet and there was plenty of team apparel sported by supporters of both schools. Cheers were exchanged back and forth with glee and gusto.
ERHS fans didn’t lose heart as they routed for the silver and navy.
With ERHS only down by one point by the third period, Wolves’ fan Anya Green held out hope for a victory.
“Eagle River might get them back because it has been a close game so far,” Green said. “The game is exciting and it’s fun to watch.”
Ryan Flodin, a CHS fan, said, “This game is going to be intense.”
At game’s end, the CHS victory gave the Mustangs the No. 2 seed in CIC playoffs. The Mustangs played East High School on Jan. 31. The ERHS loss put the Wolves in the No. 5 position and they played Service on Jan. 30. Both games occurred after the ECHO News weekly deadline. Check on at echoak.com for scores and information on those games.
Editor’s Note: Keara Chaperon is a photography and writing intern for the ECHO News. She is a junior at Chugiak High School and a hockey player