Two seconds. That was all it took to see what kind of hockey team the Juneau-Douglas High School will put on the ice this season.
Freshman Jonathan Weston, hemmed in behind the opponent’s goal at Treadwell Ice Arena, looking for an open right or left wing, lifted the puck in the taper of his stick blade and lofted a pass over the goal and goalie to senior Christian Jacobsen who slaped a shot in.
JDHS opens the season with a two-game series against visiting Delta Junction on Friday
The Crimson Bears will not be hibernating on the ice. They will be fast. They will be crafty. More importantly, they will be a cohesive team with a championship goal.
“We want to work as hard as we can and see how far we can go,” senior co-captain Zach Bicknell said.
“Kind of the same what Zach said,” Jacobsen added. “Just keep our composure as a team and keep trying for what ever comes next.”
Co-captain Bill Holbrook stated they would use their daily hard work to find success.
JDHS graduated Trever Held, Cole Carnahan, Garret Cheeseman, Ben Peyton, Peyton Millay, Eric Verrelli, Matt Whistler and Taylor Lehnhart last season and junior Logan Hulse is at a prep school and sophomore Kathryn Noreen is in a Fairbanks girls’ league.
The Crimson Bears finished 9-10-1 and failed to make the Mid-Alaska, or “Railbelt,” Conference playoffs in what they expected to be a postseason run. Conference foes Lathrop, West Valley, North Pole and Houston did.
JDHS intends to play outside its conference schedule against Northstar (Kenai/Mat-su area) Conference’s Kenai Cardinals and Cook Inlet (Anchorage) Conference’s East High for added competition.
“That is our highest goal this season,” Holbrook said. “We have to take one game at a time but that is our goal at the end.”
Added Bicknell, “We have really good team chemistry. We are working a lot harder and we will see how it works out.”
Jacobsen, 6-foot-1 190 pounds, returns to the ice after spending last season on the snowboarding circuit. That competitiveness and athleticism translates to action on the ice.
“There will not be as much of the snowboarding this season,” Jacobsen said. “The difference between the two is there are a lot more sprints in hockey than boarding.”
JDHS head coach Dave McKenna has 10 juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen to share the ice with his senior trifecta.
Holbrook is a 6-foot-3, 190 pound center and plays a skilled game. He is solid, good on his skates, fast and a fun player to watch, according to McKenna.
Bicknell is 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, can play defense or forward and has a personality on the ice that carries over to locker room leadership.
“He’s mature for his age and it helps us having that personality on our team,” McKenna said.
The youthfulness of the Crimson Bears is not to be associated with being timid however; it is more of an excited to be on the ice mentality and a willingness to do anything to stay there.
All three lines bring added energy to each shift. The defensive line up has speed and quickness for corner battles and offensive transitions.
Junior Tod Baseden is assistant captain and weighs in at just 150 pounds, but the weight is compacted into a 5-foot-9 wrecking ball. Baseden was moved from defense to add more puck control on the front lines.
“He gets a little hot under the collar, so he has an extra gear” McKenna said. “He is fun to watch.”
Holbrook, Baseden and Weston (5-foot-9, 150 pounds) make up the first line, at least in the beginning stages of the season.
“Weston is going to be fun to watch,” McKenna said. “He is a talented player. They are just a fun line to watch, they are exciting and fast skaters. You just let them go.”
That trio can all shoot, pass, and are creative and well rounded.
“As a group we have good leadership,” McKenna said. “We are working really hard harder than the five years I have been coaching. And the guys were good about getting together in the off season too.”
McKenna said that coming to see a game in person is exciting for fans but this year the cheering section is going to see a lot more hunger for the net and spirited play in the middle.
“This group of kids has a lot of drive,” McKenna said. “No one is going to be disappointed coming to see them play.”
Junior goaltenders Colter Pritchard (5-foot-5, 135 pounds) and Grifin Bozarth (6-foot-3 and 225 pounds) played in the shadow of current semi-pro Cheeseman. While seemingly opposites, they both can control the pipes.
Weston’s frosh classmate Dalton L’Allier is another well-rounded player who will see action but his travel play experience in the off-season is not as extensive as others on the roster.
“It is tough for guys to make the transition into high school,” McKenna said. “It is a little more physical.”
Another notable player who will make things happen on the ice is Eastern Washington transfer Kevin Zigarlick. The 6-foot, 160 pound junior defenseman played a lot of hockey in Canada and brings a toughness to the rink.
The complete roster can be found at www.jdhshockey.com.
“Opposing teams like the size of the crowds we get,” McKenna commented. “They don’t play in front of the fans we do. We bring more fans when we travel than they get. It helps us to bring good quality teams in and the fans like to see good hockey. We want to bring more fans back to the rink.”
JDHS’ first series of the season will be good hockey.
The Delta Junction Huskies won last season’s Alaska School Activities Association 2A/3A Greatland Conference and state tournament championships. They are as fast and competitive as the Crimson Bears and play a solid, scrappy game. Game times Friday and Saturday are 7 p.m.
“The disappointment of not making the playoffs, when it was right there for us, is on our minds,” McKenna said. “In theory you try to take care of what goes on in your own end and then open it up for creativity on the other end. We are letting this team run. I have a good feeling about this team.”