South, West to square off for state hockey crown

Renee Esparza

WASILLA -- South High senior Cayden Cahill had one thing on his mind Friday during the semifinal round of the First National Cup state hockey championships.

Not Saturday's state championship game. Not the sudden upset of top-seeded Dimond in Thursday's opening round. All Cahill focused on Friday was himself, his teammates and beating the Chugiak Mustangs.

The focus paid off. The Wolverines defeated the Mustangs 6-0, earning a spot in Saturday's championship game at the Menard Sports Complex.

South will meet West, a 4-2 winner over Wasilla in Friday's other semifinal.

West's win ensured an all-Anchorage finale, something that is the norm at the state hockey tournament. South, last year's runnerup, is seeking its sixth state title. West is chasing its second.

"I thought we played really great," Cahill said after South's win. "There were like no nerves in the locker room. We just worried about ourselves and only this game.

"We came out really excited and moved the puck really well."

The Wolverines dominated while building a 3-0 first-period lead.

It was Cahill who opened the scoring for South scoring at the 12:57 mark on passes from junior forward Daniel Widmar and junior defenseman Croix Evingson.

Senior defenseman Trevor Geerin and Jared Cruz, a junior forward, accounted for South's other two first-period goals at the 7:52 and 3:59 marks, respectively.

After that, Cahill admitted, the focus shifted a bit.

"I thought (we) wanted to win a state championship," he said. "You could tell that's where the minds were after the first period."

Chugiak, which a day earlier earned a 2-1 triple overtime win over Soldotna, mustered 17 shots on goal, including four in the first period and four in the third. South goalie Kevin Lake stopped them all.

Chugiak's starting goalie, Jack Straub, fended off 14 of 17 shots in the first period. DJ Paxson took over from there and stopped 17 of 20 shots.

Cahill scored in all three periods to earn the hat trick, and Cruz added his second goal in the second period to help the Wolverines to a 5-0 lead after two periods. Evingson, Daniel Widmar and William Hemmen each provided two assists.

In their semifinal win Friday, the Eagles scored 17 seconds into the game to deprive Wasilla of any momentum left from Thursday's stunning win over Dimond.

Ryder Schwamm provided the early strike, and Kevin Hodsdon made it 2-0 less than four minute later.

Schwamm's second goal lifted West to a 3-0 lead a little more than three minutes into the second period. Wasilla answered with less than six minutes left on Tanner Schachle's goal, but James Batman's goal with 97 seconds left restored West's three-goal lead.

Wasilla's Cooper Hanson cut it to 4-2 midway through the third period.

Joe Chekan recorded 26 saves for West, and Kiana Verplancke and Wyatt Monear combined for 28 saves for Wasilla.

The title-game appearance will be the fourth in history for West, which won it lone state title in 2010 and placed second in 2004 and 1990.

South, a 7-3 loser to Dimond in last year's title game, is looking for its first crown since 2011. Cahill said the Wolverines will be ready.

"We're going to just worry about ourselves again," he said. "It's only up to us to play good and focus."

Consolation games

Two-time defending state champion Dimond rebounded from Thursday's shocking loss to Wasilla by pounding West Valley 10-2, although the Lynx only led 1-0 after the first period.

The victory puts the Lynx in Saturday's fourth-place game, where they will face Soldotna. The Stars, again showing a flair for dramatics, stayed alive with a come-from-behind, 2-1 consolation-round win over Lathrop.

Drake Glover and Josh Larson furnished hat tricks for Dimond, which led 5-1 after two periods and scored five unanswered goals in the third period. Aidan Teilborg added two goals and Tyler Dunn and Desmond Conley scored one goal apiece for the Lynx.

Zach Ahiers and Casey Lewandoski scored goals and Lane Wood stopped 42 shots for West Valley. Ashton Good recorded 21 saves for Dimond.

A day after losing in triple overtime, Soldotna rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Lathrop. Nick Wroben scored the game winner for the Stars with just more than six minutes left.

Tristen Ramaker gave Lathrop a 1-0 lead, and Kenny Griffin answered in the second period to tie the game.

Soldotna goalie Stephon Endsley and Lathrop goalie Ryan Ebenal each recorded 18 saves.

Greatland tournament

Houston and Hutchison both rode four-goal games to victory Friday in the semifinals of the four-team Greatland touranment.

Houston blanked Monroe 4-0, and Hutchison defeated Delta Junction 4-2.

Jonathan Lovelace's hat trick sparked Houston, which also got a goal from John Ball.

Hutchison triumphed behind two goals from Kevin Steffey and one apiece from Brandon Rustad and Alex Marcos. Taylor Harbison and Craig Hennager delivered goals for Delta Junction.

Houston and Hutchison meet in Saturday's title game at 4:30 p.m. at the Menard Sports Complex.

ASAA/First National Cup

State hockey championships

Menard Sports Complex, Wasilla

Friday's results

West 4, Wasilla 2 (semifinal)

South 6, Chugiak 0 (semifinal)

Dimond 10, West Valley 2 (loser out)

Soldotna 2, Lathrop 1 (loser out)

Saturday's games

9 a.m. -- Dimond vs. Soldotna, fourth place

1:30 p.m. -- Chugiak vs. Wasilla, third place

7:30 p.m. -- South vs. West, championship

Greatland tournament

Friday's results

Houston 4, Monroe 0

Hutchison 4, Delta Junction 2

Saturday's games

11:15 a.m. -- Monroe vs. Delta Junction, third place

4:30 p.m. -- Houston vs. Hutchison, championship

Daily News Correspondent