The young season of Juneau-Douglas High School hockey has found a number of positive attributes in an opening four-game road ice trip.
The biggest is that no player has scored unassisted.
“That is good right now,” JDHS coach Dave McKenna said. “We are a pretty balanced team this year and I think on any given night one player is going to have a hot hand, but really it is taking a lot of team work for us to be able to break the puck out effectively and floor check with some effectiveness.”
After Wednesday’s season opening 5-3 loss at the Homer Mariners’ (North Star Conference) Kevin Bell Arena, the Crimson Bears clashed against three straight opponents at the Kenai Peninsula Sports Center.
On Thursday the powerful Soldotna Stars (NSC) topped JDHS 4-1. McKenna stated that the Crimson Bears had trouble adjusting to the Olympic size ice sheet, roughly 10-feet wider, which gives players more room to move offensively.
Soldotna scored first and the Crimson Bears notched the game at the 9:12 mark of the first period when sophomore Dalton L’Allier found the net on an assist by seniors Kevin Sigler and Tod Baseden.
Soldotna closed the period with a goal, added another in the second, and put in the assurance puck in the thrid.
“We did a better job in the final period,” McKenna said of adjustments that allowed the team to utilize the ice space better. “It allowed us to get out of our own end a little better and keep the puck in their end a bit longer.”
JDHS became more defensive minded, used stronger floor checking, and stopped sending all three Crimson Bears forwards after the puck.
“If all three forwards don’t spread out properly you have a tendency to be beaten,” McKenna said. “The big challenge on the big ice is the spacing and timing and being a lot more aware.”
JDHS was outshot 39-20 in the contest. Penalties were even at eight.
“I liked the adjustments we made in the third period,” McKenna said. “We cold have just rolled over, but we used a little smarter play and better team play.”
Friday saw the Crimson Bears put together a strong 4-2 win over the Kenai Cardinals.
“On the whole it was a good effort,” McKenna said. “The kids were really communicating better and adjusting better to situations on the ice. I still think we could have done better creating offense and being hungrier around the net, but it was an improvement.”
JDHS found the net at 8:51 of the first period as L’Allier scored with an assist by juniors Ethan Seid and Zach Easton to lead 1-0.
The Crimson Bears put three more into the bank in the second period.
Senior Marc Heifetz snapped a wrist shot past the goalie at 12:41 with another Easton assist and 40 seconds later sophomore Kaipo Tseu backhanded a Seid touch pass through the pipes. Seid had skated down sophomore Cole Cheeseman’s assist and slipped off the puck just as a Cardinals defender swept in.
Seid found the net at the 5:35 mark (assists by Heifetz and senior Kevin Zigarlick) to open a 4-0 cushion.
Kenai scored at the 3:25 mark of the second period and at 2:06 in the third.
Penalties were even at five apiece; the majority being unsportsmanlike conduct calls in a tightly officiated match.
“It has been consistent officiating the whole weekend,” McKenna said. “We just have to learn to adjust a bit and show a little more discipline.”
On Saturday the Crimson Bears battled with Mid Alaska Conference foes North Pole.
The test would be to stay disciplined and out of the penalty box.
Trailing 1-0 entering the second period the Crimson Bears found the net twice. Baseden scored at the 13:15 mark (assists Baseden, Sigler) to tie the score and at 3:47 Zigarlick scored on a power play (assist Heifetz).
In the third period Baseden rang the bell again at the 12:45 mark (assist Heifetz, Tomaro). The Patriots scored at 3:35 to cut the deficit to one point but Baseden struck at 3:18 for his third goal of the night (assist Tomaro, Heifetz). The Crimson Bears put 30 shots on goal.
“Our seniors were really productive tonight,” McKenna stated. “I think we had one of our better games of the trip. We still have some things to work on for sure but I thought it was a good team effort. And we had some calls that didn’t quite go our way but we kept our composure, which is good. We had some good unselfish play and this was a great way to finish up a road trip.”
Season scores to date have come from Baseden (3), Heifetz (2), Tomaro (1), Zigarlick (1), Seid (1), L’Allier (3), and Tseu (1).
Assists have come from Baseden (2), Zigarlick (2), Heifetz (4), Sigler (2), Tomaro (3), Easton (2), Seid (2), Cheeseman (1), Dale (1).
“It is nice to have the numbers we do,” McKenna said. “We have almost four lines traveling with us and most players are getting good ice time.”
The Crimson Bears will host Chugiak on Friday Nov. 16 (8 p.m.) and Saturday Nov. 17 (7 p.m.) at Treadwell Arena.