WASILLA — Late in the second period Friday night, the puck deflected over the goal Isaiah Saville was protecting and stuck in the netting above the plexiglass at the Menard Center.
Saville, West High's freshman goaltender, skated behind the net, reached up and used the blade of his stick in an attempt to dislodge the puck. He poked at the puck several times, to no avail.
It was the only time all evening Saville did not master vulcanized rubber. Otherwise, he stopped 28 Dimond shots and delivered West a 2-0 semifinal victory that lifted the defending state large-school hockey champions into a title showdown with fellow Cook Inlet Conference member Chugiak on Saturday night.
Linesman Gabe O'Lena finally used Saville's stick to work the puck free.
"I was having some trouble,'' Saville confessed with a laugh. "I finally just gave my stick to the (linesman) and said, 'You do it; I'm done.' ''
West used a first-period goal from Dimitri Hamm and Max Helgeson's third-period insurance strike to support Saville's perfect work and give itself a shot at repeating as First National Cup champions.
Though he's just 15 and a freshman, the 5-foot-11 Saville plays with poise beyond his years or experience, which is why he is on USA Hockey's radar. He does not waste motion in net, keeping himself compact and square to the shooter.
"He's a special goaltender,'' said West coach Nathan Shasby. "He's only a freshman, but he's mature. He's such a competitor, ultra-competitive. And he's a leader as a freshman.''
Saville's teammates said the goalie's play furnishes them confidence.
"He's got your back,'' said Helgeson, also a freshman. "Even when he gives up a goal, his brain's still focused.''
"He acts like a pro,'' said Eagles sophomore forward Tanner Edwards.
Saville said wasted motion, or emotion, is just that — a waste.
"I try to stay as calm as possible because if you're jittery, you lose your place in the net,'' he said.
Against a Dimond team that in Thursday's opening round furnished Lynx bench boss Dennis Sorenson his state-record 500th win, Saville's defensemen kept shooters at bay. Only rarely did Saville face point-blank shots.
"They kept everything to the outside,'' Saville said. "It was fantastic. They were phenomenal.''
West used only four defensemen — senior Alex Bardsley, junior Mac Fair, sophomore Parker Pickett and freshman Olin Fair.
Protecting a 1-0 lead in the third period — Hamm scored his first-period goal off helpers from Chase Schwamm and Bardsley — Saville kept a clean sheet.
Saville got a piece of his blocker on Ryan Perius' bid busting in off the right wing, snapped his pads closed on Cody Dearing's point-blank bit and stopped Tanner Rath blowing in from the right wing.
Those saves made Helgeson's strike with six minutes to go valuable insurance. Helgeson and Garrett Bruner worked a give-and-go on the rush. Bruner's pass put Helgeson in on Dimond goalie Chris Gardeline (27 saves) with speed, and the Eagles freshman got Gardeline to bite on a move before tucking a backhander behind him for this third goal in two tournament games.
Saville took care of the rest on a night when the only puck that eluded him wasn't even on the ice.