WASILLA — Stephen Belde and the South High hockey team stood as a group on one of the blue lines at the Menard Center, only a few skate strides away from a celebratory mess of sticks, gloves and helmets strewn across the ice surface behind them.
Only then did Belde, the Wolverines coach, remember his squad earned another piece of headwear which, while figurative, was as important as those nearby helmets.
“That is the Triple Crown, I’m just now realizing it,” he said.
South had already won two of the gems in the crown — the Cook Inlet Conference regular-season title and the CIC tournament title. Saturday, behind Nic Corbin’s hat trick, the Wolverines captured their first ASAA First National Cup Division I state championship since 2014 with a 6-3 victory over neighboring Service.
“I will remember this the rest of my life,” said Corbin, one of the team’s nine seniors. “Just an awesome experience.
“I’ll never get to play with this group of guys again. It will be great to see 2019 on the banner — it’s never going away.”
South won its 14 straight game to cap a 23-1-0 season. It scored three second-period goals, two of which quickly answered Service scores. Ryan Bailey scored 64 seconds after one Cougars goal, and Corbin notched his second of the night 48 ticks after a Cougars goal.
Corbin’s second goal came at 11 minutes, 27 seconds of the second period and gave the Wolverines a 4-2 lead. Josh Costello and Ryan Marcum also added South goals.
Ben Martensen and Jake Hayes scored for Service, which ended the season 15-9-0. The Cougars’ 15th win came in Friday’s semifinals when goalie Kevin Taunton made 44 saves in a 2-1 win over Dimond.
During its winning streak, South allowed a paltry 16 goals, including the three in the title tilt. While the offense was always opportune, the Wolverines relied heavily on goaltender Hannah Hogenson (18 saves Saturday) and the defensive unit.
“Hannah is unbelievable,” said South senior defenseman Dylan Nibert. “She saved our butts a number of times. We have great relationships with her and everyone. We communicated well the entire way.”
Belde credited his coaching staff with the two-way brilliance that led to its one-loss record. Matt Thompson handled the effective forwards and Ken Hemenway took care of the defense.
“We pride ourselves on our defense,” Belde said. ”Hemenway does an incredible job and is still quite a player in his own right. He really gets the kids prepared, whether it’s stick placement, positioning or decision-making.
“It’s why we had such a good goals-against average.”
With three goals Saturday, third-seeded Service was the only team to score a state-tournament goal against South, which beat Palmer 10-0 and Eagle River 8-0 in earlier games.
“I’m not sure anyone expected this out of us, but this team had the heart,” Martensen said. “It’s nice to know we’re a team that can break their defense. We just didn’t do it enough tonight."
After the game, Nibert, a towering 6-foot-5 senior for South, took a look at his teammates on the blue line and gave a final summation.
“It’s unreal,” he said.
Dimond 6, Eagle River 0
The defending champion Dimond Lynx shut out the Eagle River Wolves to capture third place.
Five players scored for the Lynx, including sophomore Landen Reed scoring twice in the second period. Getting one goal apiece were Dawson Thompson, Teague Porter, Brenden Anaruk and Henry Minich.
Junior goalie Hunter Kattness anchored the Dimond defense with 13 saves.
Colony 3, Wasilla 1
The Colony Knights took down the Wasilla Warriors to secure fourth place.
The Knights’ goals came from sophomore Kaden Ketchum, junior Dane Jellich and senior Jack Holman.
Junior goalie Roman Shepard racked up 29 saves for the Knights.
Wasilla’s lone goal came from senior Aidan Goff.
ASAA First National Cup all-tournament team
Logan Dudinksy, Eagle River
Hannah Hogenson, South
Dylan Hoey, Dimond
Kevin Taunton, Service
Jack Holman, Colony
Dylan Harbour, Wasilla
Henry Minich, Dimond
Jake Hayes, Service
Josh Costello, South
Samuel Bourdon, Service
Ryan Bailey, South
Nicholas Corbin, South