The Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team dropped a pair of games against Cook Inlet Conference power East, but learned a valuable lesson in the process.
“What I told the players is it is hard to be happy with a 6-1 loss,” JDHS head coach Dave McKenna said. “But when you are coming off of a 13-2 loss you have something to feel good about I guess.”
The Crimson Bears lost to East 13-2 on Thursday night and 6-1 on Friday.
East had 43 shots on goal Thursday, compared to 22 for JDHS.
The JDHS goals came in the first period as both teams felt each other out. Junior Dillon Tomaro scored at the 12:53 mark with an assist by freshman Dalton L’Allier and junior Tod Baseden scored at the 3:03 on an assist by junior Marc Heifetz.
“Honestly I feel like our team has gained a lot of chemistry from playing these guys,” L’Allier said after the series. “We came out and beat Delta Junction here bad and then it was a whole different game with East. I believe we found a new part of our game. After Thursday’s game the coaches told us if we played more physical than East would back down and they did. We played physical tonight and they coughed up the puck. I believe we can play against any team.”
In Thursday’s game East put up three goals in the first by Christian Luiten, Steven Butts and Alex Jackstadt.
In the second period the Thunderbirds upped the tempo, scoring seven goals on 16 shots and denying any puck action in their own end.
The Crimson Bears drifted away from their assigned areas and would often have multiple skaters converging on the puck, which East capitalized on with endless odd man rushes on goal.
“With the kind of talent they have they can put the puck in the net,” JDHS head coach Dave McKenna said. “They made us pay for every mistake. Maybe we were a little bit intimidated but the bigger part was defensive responsibility. We had three guys getting caught deep in their zone and that gave them too many three-on-two’s.”
East notched another three goals in the final period. Jackstadt lead East with four goals and two assists, Butts tallied four goals and one assist, Jacob Leguineche two goals and Bradley Hudson one goal three assists.
East players start in July and August on traveling competition or club teams and have 60 games on their skates before the high school season begins. Juneau’s youth hockey consists of inter-town games.
“We tried our best,” senior Bill Holbrook said. “That’s all we can really do. We have to be working hard and maybe we can get another shot at those guys in the future.”
At 6-foot-3, 190-pounds, Holbrook is one of the largest Crimson Bears while East had a steady lineup of bruising boarders.
“Now we know what to expect from some of the other teams this season,” Holbrook said. “There are a lot of fast paced teams so we are going to have to pick up our pace and play harder.”
On Friday the Crimson Bears acted like Treadwell Arena was the home ice they lived on, not just skated on for practice. Although East drew first net at the 13:15 mark on a Butts shot and Jackstadt assist, L’Allier struck less than a minute later on an unassisted attack. While JDHS would not score again East lit the score clock at seven minutes and four times in the stanza. Jackstadt had two goals and three assists in the game and Craig Hayes two goals one assist.
Crimson Bears’ goalie Colter Pritchard stopped 30 of 36 shots.
“I think the first night we didn’t really know what we were expecting,” senior forward Chris Jacobsen said. “They came out firing. We got on their level once and started playing their speed of hockey. We got on the puck more and played the body harder tonight and dished out some hits playing harder and faster hockey.”
Jacobsen played with a passion, defending his mates across the ice and sacrificing his body as a physical presence for the Crimson Bears.
Jacobsen’s play inspired JDHS to use their bodies more in retrieving the puck and securing possession.
“It is a big step forward for us in the sense that I think we are starting to believe we can play with some of the better teams that we face,” McKenna said after Friday’s match. “Now we just have to get it into our heads that if we go out and play smart and play tough we will compete with just about anyone.”
The Crimson Bears were called for just three penalties on the weekend: two holding and one interference. East was whistled ten times: three for tripping, two each for roughing, boarding, illegal head contact, one interference and one extra man on the ice.
Continued McKenna, “I wish the spread wasn’t as much as it was tonight but we took steps in the right direction. We played more responsibly and with some passion. We haven’t spent much time focusing on hitting right now. We were trying to keep our sticks under control and stay out of the penalty box. Now it is time to improve our physical play. Guys did it on their own tonight but it will be a focus from now on.”