The Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team dropped two games to Lathrop at Fairbanks over the weekend, falling to the Malemutes 5-0 on Friday and 7-0 on Saturday.
The losses mean that the Crimson Bears need to get one win this weekend in a crucial home stand at Treadwell Arena against conference foe West Valley.
“These are going to be crucial games,” JDHS coach Dave McKenna said. “In the least they will show us what we are up against in the playoffs. Lathrop and West Valley are the favorites to take the one and two spots and we are in a good spot to have third. We can improve that this weekend.”
The Lathrop road games featured fast skating and fierce battles for loose pucks, which created good opportunities for both teams to score. The first points of the contest came midway through the second period when JDHS had to skate short handed due to penalties. The Malemutes put in two unanswered goals to end the period.
In the third stanza Lathrop scored three more goals against a penalty-short Crimson Bears lineup.
The penalty bug hit harder in Saturday’s loss as the diminished Crimson Bears’ line up took the first of 16 early penalties in the first period and were behind 5-0 before the second ice began. The Malemutes added one goal in each of the final two periods and outshot the Crimson Bears 31-15.
The losses put the Crimson Bears at 4-2 in conference (11-7 overall), meaning they are still mired in the third spot when the playoffs begin in two weeks.
The West Valley Wolfpack is also looking to secure a top playoff spot.
If the Crimson Bears win two they could tie for first as Lathrop still has conference games remaining against the Wolfpack, win one and they will probably be tied with West Valley for the second position. They have locked up a playoff berth but would rather not face the top seed, which is looking to be Lathrop.
The Malemutes skate what is basically a roster of national competition team members that play hockey in clubs year round. Lathrop is considered the power of the Mid Alaska Conference and West Valley is right behind. Houston and North Pole are battling for the fourth and final playoff spot.
According to McKenna the Crimson Bears will probably face the Wolfpack.
“So this weekend is important in many ways,” McKenna said. “These are probably two of the most exciting hockey games ever played in Juneau. Fans are going to see our vastly improved team against some good skaters. There will be non-stop action.”
The MAC playoffs begin Feb. 3 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Patty Center with the top seed facing the four seed and the second and third place teams facing off. The winners play for the conference title the next day and both move on to the State Tournament at the Curtis Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla Feb. 9-11. They will join two teams from the North Star Conference and four from the Cook Inlet Conference
The Crimson Bears were not picked to be in the playoff hunt according to coaches from Lathrop and West Valley, they have, however turned a few heads around the league.
JDHS began their road trip with a 2-1 win over Hutchison, and then beat Monroe 6-1, before getting caught up in penalties against Lathrop.
Against Monroe Zach Easton scored on a rebound shot and assist by Dillon Tomaro in the first period. Still I that stanza Jonathan Weston scored on an assist by Billy Holbrook and Chris Jacobsen. Holbrook than scored, with assists credited to Tod Baseden and Jacobsen.
In the second period Monroe scored their lone goal to make it 3-1 JDHS.
Baseden notched a goal, with assists credited to Holbrook and Zack Bicknell. Jacobsen followed with a goal on another Holbrook assist with credit to Weston.
In the final period Dalton Lallier scored on a backhand shot over the goalie’s shoulder, with assist credit to Mathew Campbell and Ethan Seid.
The Crimson Bears had 33 shots on goal while the Rams cranked just 11 at JDHS goalie Griffin Bozarth.
This weekend’s game times are 8 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday. Saturday is also senior appreciation night for the Crimson Bears trio of Bill Holbrook, Chris Jacobsen, and Zach Bicknell.