FAIRBANKS-In the Railbelt conference tournament opener Friday evening at the Patty Center Ice Arena it was number two versus number three. Lathrop and North Pole. The last time these met, last Tuesday, the Patriots won in 3-2 in an overtime thriller. But last night was the rematch.
Both teams were getting through some nerves as a trip to the 4A state tournament was on the line. Not a lot of shots just 7-3 in favor of Lathrop. The first period went scoreless.
Lathrop goalie Ryan Ebenal and North Pole netminder Allan Heineken displayed their saving skills well into the second period and looked as if it would be another scoreless period. But one of the goalies blinked.
The Patriots were on a power play and Lathrop cleared the puck back into North Pole's zone. Heineken stepped up and looked to pass to one of his teammates to set up another rush. Instead the pass found Lathrop's Colton Meier who made Heineken pay for his mistake with a the first goal of the game at the 4:16 mark of the second a short-handed one.
Lathrop's defense continued to deny shots on goal for the Patriots in the third as they allowed just four shots. Ebenal stopped them all. The Malemutes weren't scoring that much either as Heineken continued to make saves to keep his team in it after the second period blunder.
It's still just 1-0 Lathrop with less than two minutes in regulation but defenseman Arthur Edgren scored a back breaking power play goal to clinch this one with 1:47 remaining.
Ebenal and the defense held of the Patriots in the final 1:47 and win 2-0 to punch their ticket to the state tournament and the Railbelt conference championship.
Ebenal finished with 13 saves and Heineken made 30 for the Patriots.
So how would number one seed West Valley do against number four seed Juneau following Lathrop's win?
The Wolfpack were up 1-0 at the end of the first courtesy of a Mike Olsen goal. West Valley added another score in the second period as sophomore forward Stoshie Skorulski dove in front of the net and smacked the puck in behind goalie Neil Champman. 2-0 West Valley.
Now West Valley put up 16 goals on Juneau in their two regular season games but the Crimson Bears and Champman put up a fight. It was only a 2-0 game heading into the third period.
But Ethan Daniels of West Valley scored a decisive goal in the third period to put this one on ice. West Valley wins 3-1 over Juneau and will play Lathrop tonight at 8pm for the Railbelt Conference title. The Wolfpack defeated Lathrop last year for the conference championship.