Just half way through the first period Thursday night, the Dimond High School Lynx hockey team left little doubt that it was on a mission to win a third straight state championship against the Wasilla High School Warriors.
The Lynx opened the First National Cup Tournament by blitzing the Warriros for three goals in less than 10 minutes. The Lynx were quick smart, and on their way to what appeared to be a rout. Wasilla looked frustrated and deflated.
Wasilla Coach Trent Schachle knew he had to something to shake up his team. With about 5:30 remaining in the first period Schachle decided to change goalies. Out came starter Wyatt Monear; in his place went Kiana Verplancke.
Verplancke is not what you’d call an imposing figure on the ice. She’d tell anyone she’s 5 feet, 6inches tall, but she’s really just 5 foot 4 inches. However, for the rest of the game against Dimond she stood far taller than anyone else on the ice.
The Lynx picked right up where they left off putting more pressure on Wasilla. Verplancke, who Schachle describes as a solid player, turned away several Dimond scoring chances and kept the score at 3-0.
As the second period started Wasilla was still back on its heels. The Lynx had fired 20 shots on the goal. The Warriors had shot one.
The Lynx continued to swarm around the Wasilla net while Verplancke stood her ground.
She was giving her team a chance to get back into the game. Finally, with 3:45 remaining in the second period, the Warriors struck. They got their first goal to make it 3-1.
In the third period Wasilla began to play with the same confidence and spark as their goalie. With 9:26 remaining a Warrior goal made it 3-2. Less than two minutes later another score tied the game.
Now it was Dimond looking frustrated. The Lynx turned up the heat. Several times they crashed the net slamming into Verplancke. Buried under a heap of hockey players from both teams she still hung onto the puck.
Schachle said Verplancke was fearless.
He said earlier in the season one of the boys on an opposing team punched her in the back of the head. According to Schachle she’s never intimidated.
She certainly wasn’t last night either. Not by the powerful Lynx, nor the pressure of a big game. She continued to make important saves. Then with only 1:25 remaining, what seemed unthinkable at the beginning of the game, Wasilla scored to take the lead.
They hung on to defeat the two-time defending state champions and at the final horn the Warriors rushed from the bench and mobbed their goalie. Verplancke says that’s never happened to her before. She called it shocking.
Verplancke, who’s been playing hockey since she was five-years-old, says she became a goalie when her dad and coach at the time “volunteered her.”
Verplanke says she liked being a goalie and made the decision early on it was the position she wanted to play.
The Wasilla Warriors are certainly glad she made that decision. Now her teammates are hoping their tiny goalie can stand tall again, just like she did against Dimond.