Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

As the clock ticked down to secure Dimond/West’s third girls hockey state championship in three years, senior Sasha Kleckner had a lot on her mind.

“Last three minutes of the third period, I thought I was gonna cry,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my high school career is almost over,’ but they’d also just scored, and I watched it, and I was like ‘oh my gosh, I cannot give up another goal.’ So I was kind of freaking out, but I had to stay in the game.”

Saturday’s 2-1 win over Chugiak/Eagle River finished another stellar season for the team, which went undefeated in conference, CIC tournament and state tournament and gave up just eleven goals in 13 games this season.

Dimond/West started the game in control on offense, making 12 shots in the first period to just two from Chugiak/Eagle River. Breakouts from quick Dimond/West skaters like Hailey Murray and tough shots from players like Emme Campbell and Elizabeth Sharpe made Chugiak/Eagle River’s defense stay ready, with Alder Niederer and Myla Lubken knocking away pucks and goalie Maddy Derleth blocking shots left and right.

Chugiak/Eagle River’s Blake Phillips (left) and Dimond/West’s Renee Doyle race for the puck. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

“We know Chugiak’s got a great team, and they’ve given us three great games prior to today,” said coach Brian Gross. “And we knew this was going to be battle and they wanted nothing more than to beat us.”

With just over five minutes left in the first period, Kleckner got Dimond/West on the board with an ace shot from the blue line that managed to find the gap through a wall of defenders.

Chugiak/Eagle River turned up the heat on offense during the second period, but Dimond/West kept the pressure on, securing a 2-0 lead midway through the period on a close-range goal netted by Murray.

As the energy swelled in the third period, Niederer sunk a shot from the blue line with 8:14 left in the game, suddenly cutting Dimond/West’s lead in half.

Chugiak/Eagle River’s Kyra Walter celebrates with Myla Lubken. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

“The one they got to make it 2-1 really changed the game and put us on our heels all the way to the finish,” said Gross.

The puck sailed back and forth in the last minutes of the game, with Chugiak/Eagle River’s Kendra Comer, Summer Olmstead, Blake Phillips and Willow Bailey Brunello making valiant efforts to tie it up, countered by Dimond/West’s Tana Carlson, Sienna Kowal and Renee Doyle.

“We were able to hold them at one today and we’re very happy about that,” said Chugiak/Eagle River coach Nic Dutton. “We had a plan, we went out there and we’re like, ‘we’re gonna see if this will work,’ and it worked pretty good. We’ve got a really light bench and without numbers, it’s really hard to stay strong through the whole three periods. But very proud of the girls, they did an outstanding job.”

Dimond/West goalie Siena Lardizabel made 17 saves and carried a shutout into the third period.

Dimond-West goalie Siena Lardizabel. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

For Kleckner, another championship ended her high school career on a high note – and was a great way to celebrate her 18th birthday.

“It’s very rewarding, especially for a third time in a row. That almost never happens,” she said. “I think it’s a good experience for our freshmen and underclassmen, and hopefully our juniors are looking forward to trying to win one next year for a four-peat.”

Amid the busy corridors of Ben Boeke Arena, signs emblazoned with “Save Girls High School Hockey!” urged spectators to purchase raffle tickets in support of the program. Players are responsible for raising the necessary funds to keep the program in existence, and this year, they need to raise $40,000 for costs not covered by registration fees.

Dimond/West’s Sienna Kowal braids the hair of Kendra Comer of Chugiak/Eagle River. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

“Dimond girls hockey isn’t funded by our schools, even though we wear their logos,” said Kleckner, who pointed out that boys’ programs fundraise as well, but are still supported by their schools.

“We have to pay for ice, we have to pay for jerseys…this jersey’s like, older than me,” she said. “But it’s a great thing that it’s still kept going.”


Third Place Game

Frankie Wolff set up Ruth Schweisthal for the game-winning goal in overtime to lift Colony/Palmer to a 3-2 win over Wasilla/Houston in an all-Valley third-place game.

Winning goalie Mily Christman stopped 37 shots, including all 32 in the second and third periods and OT.

Morgan Gallagher and Madi Bigelow also scored for Colony/Palmer.

Wasilla/Houston took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Alexa Mills and Danica Bowers. Goalie Scarlett Jack made 21 saves.


Fourth Place Game

Kenai Peninsula scored two goals in the final 9:20 of regulation and then won a shootout to claim a 7-6 win over South/Bartlett in the fourth-place game.

Brooklyn Larsen forced overtime for Kenai Peninsula after scoring on a penalty shot on the final play of the third period. Larsen and Chloe See each scored twice and goalies Kacey Cunningham and Seanna Swanson shared time in net.

South/Bartlett’s Peyton Marcum scored two goals, Ella Rozzi had one goal and two assists, and Holly Rogness racked up three assists.

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