The first test of the hockey season for the Mid Alaska Conference Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears was perfect from a coaching standpoint.
Aside from the 5-3 loss, the game had it all: fast action, a top road opponent, and adventure. Road adventure.
“Our bus broke down about 30 miles outside of Homer,” JDHS coach Dave McKenna said. “About an hour before game time. They sent another bus to get us. Five minutes after getting on that bus we almost hit a moose.”
Homer (North Star Conference) is allowed to have players from some of the outside Russian communities in their area and have fielded a strong team the past two seasons.
“It was a really fun first game,” McKenna said. “Obviously we would have liked to come out of it with a win, but it was good hockey.”
Homer scored the games first two goals in the opening six minutes on a few Crimson Bears defensive lapses according to McKenna. Specifically not being strong on the puck in front of their own net.
JDHS’ senior Dillon Tomaro got one back with an assist by sophomore Michael Dale at 9:06 of the first period. Sophomore Dalton L’Allier tied the score at the 4:02 mark on an assist by senior captain Kevin Zigarlick.
The Crimson Bears took the lead at the 11:04 mark of the second period on senior assistant captain Marc Heifetz’ goal, with an assist by classmate, and assistant captain, Tod Baseden.
Homer tied the score with three minutes remaining in the period.
JDHS had a goal disallowed in the third period when the net was dislodged and the Mariners went on to score two goals in the last three minutes of the game.
Both teams’ goalies saved 37 shots, with the Crimson Bears’ net minder Colter Pritchard facing 42 pucks. Baseden had a cross checking penalty, Zigarlick was called for roughing, and sophomore Grant Ainsworth was whistled for slashing.
“It was a fast game and a lot of fun,” McKenna said.
Homer will be visiting the Crimson Bears in late December. JDHS faced the Soldotna Stars (North Star) on Thursday night, play the Kenai Cardinals (North Star) tonight and the North Pole Patriots (Mid Alaska) on Saturday. All games are at the Kenai Peninsula Sport Center.
“I think that our guys showed they can stay very focused,” McKenna said. “Even with all the distractions they had a lot of resilience and fought back from being down on the road. We also had some real smart and unselfish passing. I think we need to tighten up on our defense, but I am pretty happy with the smart level of play we are seeing right now.”
The Crimson Bears graduated all time top JDHS scorer Bill Holbrook and physical speedsters Chris Jacobsen, and Zach Bicknell; saw talented sophomore Jonathan Weston move up to Anchorage (South High School); and lost talented Jake Bicknell to a concussion.
JDHS has reloaded with a solid sheet of icebreakers, including nine seniors:
Captain Kevin Zigarlick is a big, strong, fast defenseman who played comp hockey in Anchorage over the summer. Should be a leader both in the locker room and on the ice.
Marc Heifetz (forward) is a great all around player and responsible defensively with a head for the game, always one of the Bears’ hardest workers.
Kevin Sigler (defenseman) was the most improved defender last season, should have a big year.
Matthew Campbell (forward) is a big strong and smart kid used to hard work.
Connor Brown (forward) is working harder day in and day out than any other player and should be fun to watch in his first varsity season.
Colter Pritchard (goaltender) is a good all-around athlete and competitor and was a mainstay in goal last season.
Grifin Bozarth (goaltender) another big kid who is ready to step in whenever needed.
Dillon Tomaro (forward) is a strong kid, not big, but digs hard in the corners and does things well.
Tod Baseden (forward) is another all-around athlete that should chip in the scoring quite often.
Zach Easton (sophomore forward) has been one of the better players in the pre-season.
Grant Ainsworth (sophomore forward) is a smart player all over the ice.
Cole Cheeseman and Michael Dale are both sophomore defensemen that got good playoff experience last year and are ready to jump in on a regular rotation and can control the game.
Ethan Seid (junior forward) is always flying, has a lot of speed and hustle and will contribute this season.
Logan Coleman (junior defenseman) is a big strong first year varsity kid looking for time but he will have to be patient.
Kaipo Tseu (sophomore forward) is competitor with a good shot and a nose for the net that will need to adjust to physical play.
Neal Chapman (junior goalie) will learn the game as the second backup, but should get some experience as he will be the number one next season.
Dalton L’Allier (sophomore forward) is a strong skater who has had one of the best pre-seasons and will be relied on a lot this season.
Logan Moser (sophomore forward) is a big skilled forward picking up the varsity game quickly and will see a lot of ice time.
Two girls will make a difference on the ice as well. Kathryn Noreen (junior defenseman) returns from Fairbanks this season and learned a lot last season up north and should earn ice time quickly. (Freshman forward Natalie Johansen also learning the physical game and should find junior varsity time.)
Freshmen Zach Herbert and Chase Barnum are skilled players that McKenna stated may work their way onto varsity.
“We have a lot of experience,” McKenna said. “Most of them have good experience and a lot of maturity. It is a good positive group. I characterize them as a smart group. This is a team that is really going to come together over time. From what I have seen so far they have picked things up quickly and have come together as a team.”
Assistant coaches include Luke Adams, Matt Boline, and Jay Lloyd. The Crimson Bears first home game is Nov. 16-17 against the Chugiak Mustangs.