Eagle River's Jens Bombeck rips a shot toward the net during the Wolves' 4-0 win over Palmer on April 18 at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium in Chugiak. The win was the first of the season for Eagle River.
STAR PHOTO by Matt Tunseth
First things first.
In their first outdoor action of the season, the Eagle River Wolves picked up their first victory with a dominant 4-0 nonconference win over Palmer on April 18 at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium.
"We started making the better passes, better traps and as soon as we started possessing, the shots started coming," said Wolves coach Luke Almon.
Goalie Jordan Oberlander also earned his first career shutout in net for Eagle River (1-6), which got two goals from captain Mikai Hulse and another from Patrick Prior.
The game started out shaky, with both teams doing their best to kick the ball back and forth to each other in long, looping arcs that are the hallmark of sloppy soccer. But a gift goal by Palmer gave Eagle River the first break of the game, and the Wolves never let the Moose get back up.
Wolves forward Ben Russell forced the break when he charged into the heart of the Palmer defense in an effort to reach a long pass out of the midfield. All three of Palmer's back line converged on the onrushing Russell, and in the commotion a Palmer defender accidentally pushed the ball past Palmer goalie Thomas Morino to give Eagle River a 1-0 lead after 15 minutes.
Though Russell didn't get the goal, his charging, aggressive play was what caused the defensive breakdown.
"He's really our muscle man," Hulse said.
Almon said he likes having Russell at the striker spot because of the way the senior can create havoc with his squat, powerful frame.
"He's out there because he's an aggressive kid," Almon said.
The goal seemed to ignite the Wolves, and in the 32nd minute they went up 2-0 when Prior put home the rebound after Hulse's header was cleared off the goal line by a Palmer defender.
"It was right on the line," Hulse said. "But I'm glad Patrick finished it. That's what counts. It doesn't matter who scores, it's just about the end result."
Almon said Hulse's play was key to his team's success.
"He certainly lived up to the title of captain," he said.
Eagle River showed off some nifty play in the second half, making lengthy forays into Palmer's end and stringing together sharp, meaningful passes that led to dangerous scoring opportunities.
The disciplined approach paid dividends late in the second half when Hulse broke off a pair of goals in an eight-minute span, capping his stellar day with a breakaway goal set up by a feed from Abdelramha Baroud.
Eagle River's dominance of the ball meant things were fairly quiet at the other end, where Oberlander got the shutout without having to make more than a handful of saves. Oberlander's biggest test came on a Palmer free kick from the top of the box late in the game, but he was able to get a hand on the hard shot and deflect it over the cage.
"I saw it coming a mile away," Oberlander said.
Oberlander said he was pleased with the way his team played in front of him even if it did mean things were rather quiet at his end.
"I thought it was a pretty good show," he said. "I kinda just stood there most of the game."
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WOLVES 4, MOOSE 0
April 18, Huffer Stadium
Eagle River 2 2 4
Palmer 0 0 0
Eagle River Prior (32nd), Hulse (71st), Hulse (79th)
Palmer Own goal (15th)
This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, April 20, 2011.