Those with a taste for invigorating Cook Inlet Conference tournament hockey can once again thank South and West for satiating all those interested.

Wolverines junior goaltender Cooper Kinnear stopped 69 shots in an exhausting yet star-making turn, and sophomore defenseman Bryce Webb scored the go-home goal after a long Thursday night at Ben Boeke Arena. Webb’s high, looping shot from the right point found the back of the net 27 seconds into the seventh overtime to lift South to an amazing 4-3 semifinal victory over West in the 54th conference tournament.

The win puts South, the tournament’s second seed, into the Saturday night championship against top seed and unbeaten Chugiak. The Mustangs dispatched Dimond 4-0 out in Eagle River on Thursday and improved 19-0-1.

Winning also afforded the Wolverines (11-6-2) a day off. Kinnear definitely deserves it.

“Oh, I’m going to sleep all day (Friday),” Kinnear said from outside South’s jubilant locker room as nearby classmates recorded his postgame media chat for posterity.

Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

But what about attendance for the school day?

“We’ll see,” Kinnear said.

Whatever Kinnear decided, chances are he enjoyed total control like he did for most of Thursday’s 93 minute, 27 second on-ice operation.

“After seven, eight, nine, 10 periods, however many there were, I’m just so tired and happy we won,” said Kinnear, who made 40 saves in the overtimes alone. “It was all crazy.

“After that long, it’s not difficult to stay calm because you’re so tired. It’s hard to be nervous.”

Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

South and West went to the seventh overtime Thursday, taking up more than 3.5 hours of real time. Less than a year ago, Feb. 5, 2022 to be exact, the teams needed four overtimes and 75:10 of game time to decide the CIC tourney championship. Then-senior Reed Donald scored the decisive goal in the Wolverines’ 3-2 triumph.

The 2023 spectacle proved to be about as great as high school sports gets. Student sections from each school were mostly well behaved and certainly amped throughout. These kids screamed and shrieked regularly, reacting to each body check like they’d never seen such a thing. Even mundane defensive poke-checks and puck clears out of trouble were getting the full-throat fan treatment – superlative stuff.

West’s Joseph Dittrich had a hand in all three Eagles goals. He scored in the first and assisted twice in the second. Evan Fitzgerald gave West a 3-2 edge 12:08 into the second.

Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Dawson Norene tied the game for South at 13:11 of the final regulation period. Seventh-OT hero Webb also picked up an assist on Maddox Carr’s second-period goal.

Eagles senior goalie Michael Rust made 25 saves. West dropped to 10-7-1.

CIC Tournament
Fifth-Place Game

Eagle River vs. Service
Friday, 7:15 p.m. McDonald Center
Third-Place Game
West vs. Dimond
Friday, 6:30 p.m., Ben Boeke Arena
Title Game
Chugiak vs. South
Saturday, 7:00 p.m., Ben Boeke Arena

Kinnear wasn’t on the South team that needed four overtimes to win last season’s tournament thriller. But he remembered that game when Thursday’s fourth OT got underway.

“I was hoping history would repeat itself,” he said.

It did but took a little longer.

Chugiak, South, West and Dimond have all officially qualified for next week’s Division I First National Cup state tournament in Wasilla. The final CIC tournament results will help determine seedings and bracketing for state.

The Mustangs and Wolverines get some time to rest. The Eagles and Lynx play for third place Friday night at Boeke.

“We have a fourth line that didn’t play much (Thursday),” said West assistant coach Kevin Fitzgerald. “You’ll see them play a lot (against Dimond on Friday).”

Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report



Mustangs senior goalie Daegen Love made 21 saves and senior Barrett Pelant scored twice in the semifinal win at the McDonald Center.

Shayden Davis and Ajay Johnson also scored goals for Chugiak, which extended its unbeaten streak to 20 games.

Dimond senior Austin Sanders, who played only 44 regular-season minutes between the pipes, made 20 saves in the loss. The defending state-champion Lynx fell to 9-10-3.

  • Houston opened defense of its Division II First National Cup state tournament title with an 8-0 victory over Delta Junction on Thursday in Fairbanks. If the Hawks repeat, it will be interesting to potentially see them in next week’s DI tournament in Wasilla. Houston owns five wins over DI opponents this season – Wasilla twice, South, Dimond and West. Other DII quarterfinal scores from Thursday include Juneau-Douglas 7, Kenai Central 4, Soldotna 3, Monroe Catholic 2 and Palmer 4, North Pole 3.
  • The 20th CIC girls tournament championship went down Wednesday night at Dempsey-Anderson with Dimond-West cruising to a 7-0 victory over South-Bartlett, remaining unbeaten at the same time. The tournament title was Dimond-West’s seventh overall since the 2003-04 season and second in a row. They beat South-Bartlett 2-0 last season. One visible drawback to the evening, Dimond-West skated with a full allotment of players while South-Bartlett featured only seven skaters.
  • Hard to say what a fact like that says about the local hockey community, but Anchorage School District programs are currently weird all over. For instance, on the boys side, a game was forfeited during the regular season when West reportedly didn’t have enough players because of Outside travel. Headscratchers aplenty. Regardless, the CIC’s four girls merged squads will compete in the Anchorage Hockey Association’s state invitational next week at Boeke – during the DI FN Cup, unfortunately. Teams from the Interior, Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna Valley are expected to compete for an unofficial state crown.
  • Props to the AHA’s mostly volunteer coaches and officials for not only putting on the varsity state invitational, but also the small, unheralded girls junior varsity program. It’s done a spectacular job of getting new or less polished players involved in the game.

Cook Inlet Conference Girls
Tournament Championship Results

2004 – Central 4, South 3
2005 – North 3, Central 0
2006 – Dimond-West 2, Service-East 0
2007 – Dimond-West 2, Chugiak-Eagle River 0
2008 – Service-East 1, Dimond-West 0
2009 – Service-East 6, South-Bartlett 2
2010 – South-Bartlett 4, Dimond-West 1
2011 – Dimond-West 2, South-Bartlett 1
2012 – Dimond-West 2, Service-East 0
2013 – Service-East 2, Dimond-West 1
2014 – Service-East-South-Bartlett 1, Dimond-West 0
2015 – Fairbanks Dark 2, Dimond-West 0
2016 – Fairbanks 3, Dimond-West 2
2017 – Dimond-West 5, South-Bartlett 1
2018 – Service-East 4, Dimond-West 3 (shootout)
2019 – South-Bartlett 3, Dimond-West 1
2020 – South-Bartlett 3, Dimond-West 1
2021 – South-Bartlett 1, Chugiak-Eagle River 0 (OT)
2022 – Dimond-West 2, South-Bartlett 0
2023 – Dimond-West 7, South-Bartlett 0

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