The Bartlett hockey team finally knows how victory feels.
When freshman Cody Bell struck for his first career goal Tuesday, the Golden Bears earned their first Cook Inlet Conference win since 2005, earning a 5-4 overtime triumph over East.
Bell deposited the puck on a play in front of a net at Ben Boeke Arena, where Bartlett's Joel Johnson notched a hat trick and Mason Rafter added a goal. The winning goal wasn't the most forceful of shots, Bartlett coach Jeff Barney said, but it got the job done and was a big thrill for Bell.
"He was pretty excited," Barney said. "There was a lot of shock, especially from our veteran players, that we just won."
Finding hockey players to fill out a roster at Bartlett has been a tough task since Barney took the helm six seasons ago. The Golden Bears went into battle with 13 listed on the roster Tuesday. Full teams like to carry around 20 players and use three or four lines of players skating in shifts.
Bartlett relies heavily on its starting five, rotating one other line of players when the first line needs a break.
"Our second line won every shift they went out there for," Barney said. "You can't ask anymore from them."
The Golden Bears, who lost their first two games this season by a combined score of 25-1, nearly locked up the win in regulation. They led 4-2 with less than four minutes to play, but surrendered goals to East's Laaoli Tosi and Noah Willis, who sent the game to overtime with a power-play strike with just 13 seconds left in the third period. Bell netted the game-winner with 1:23 to play in the extra frame.
"For the most part, for the overtime, we were down in their end 90 percent of the time and there was a lot of traffic in front of the net," Barney said.
Bartlett took a 2-1 lead after one period, opening scoring less than a minute in on Rafter's goal. Johnson struck for his first goal with less than a minute to go in the period. The score remained 2-1 after two periods, Johnson completing his hat trick with two third-period goals and East scored three times in the third.
East, which suited up 17 players, got two goals from Willis, a goal and assist from Tosi and a goal and assist from Justin Beverlin. The Thunderbirds were a little down after the game, Barney said, but several players made a point to come over and congratulate the Golden Bears.
"They handled it well, handled it with lass," Barney said. "It was nice, a very, very classy performance from coaches and players."
A lot of credit for the win has to go to Bartlett goalie Malakye Felix (32 saves), who hadn't played any hockey until last season. Felix could barely stand on skates last season, Barney said, but has shown massive improvement since then.
"He was incredible tonight, made some amazing saves," Barney said. "He's got a lot of raw talent."
Johnson, Bartlett's offensive star of the day, is one of two players from the team to be named all-conference last season, Rafter being the other. Johnson logged a lot of ice time Tuesday, Barney said, and somehow managed to maintain high energy until the end.
"You can't say enough about the kid," Barney said. "The kid has endurance like you could not believe. He would stay on the ice all game if I let him."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS