Extreme weather conditions did not exist only outside Fairbanks’ Polar Ice Arena for the Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team.
Inside the Crimson Bears put on a heat wave by downing the North Pole Patriots 8-0 on Wednesday, went chillingly silent in an 8-0 loss to the West Valley Wolfpack on Thursday, thawed out in a 2-2 tie against the Patriots on Friday, then succumbed to the minus 25-degree temperatures around their host city and were iced by the Wolf Pack 7-0 on Saturday morning.
“West Valley is one of the top teams in the state,” JDHS coach Dave McKenna said. “They are definitely the top of the Railbelt Conference and will give the Anchorage schools a run for their money in the state tournament.”
The Crimson Bears dominated North Pole (0-2-1 Mid Alaska, 2-8-1 Overall), churning through the ice against the Patriots as they did in a 4-2 win earlier in the season at Soldotna’s Peninsula Challenge.
“We had a very good opening game,” McKenna said. “We game out flying on the ice. To open and play a conference game with that kind of intensity was nice.”
JDHS (3-6-1 overall) got the first goal with 1:01 left in the first period by Kaipo Tseu, assisted by Dillon Tomaro and Michael Dale.
Two short-handed goals came midway through the second period as Ethan Seid found the net unassisted at 7:16 and Tod Baseden hit his first of two at 4:11 (assist Marc Heifetz).
Seid scored again at 2:16 with (assists Cole Cheeseman, Dale) and with 49 seconds remaining Heifetz scored the puck (assist Baseden).
Three more goals in the third came from Zach Easton at 12:11 (unassisted), Matthew Campbell at 9:27 (assist Baseden), and Baseden at 8:59 (assist Tseu).
On Thursday, West Valley jumped out to a five-goal lead at the Big Dipper Ice Arena, added two more in the second and one in the final period.
The Crimson Bears had just five shots on the Wolfpack net. JDHS goaltenders Colton Pritchard and Griffin Bozarth combined to stop 30 shots on the night.
“They are a very strong team this year,” McKenna said. “I don’t think it was our best effort, but they are by far the fastest team we have seen this year. We made adjustments as time went on but they still have a lot of fire power.”
On Friday the Crimson Bears tied with North Pole.
“That was a combination of their team showing up a lot more ready to play and we had a tough time getting off to a good start,” McKenna said. “We really let them into the game, but give them a lot of credit they were much more physical and difficult to play against.”
Baseden scored unassisted for the Crimson Bears at the 2:33 mark of the first period and Tseu scored at 4:22 of the second (assist Tomaro) to open a 2-0 advantage.
North Pole scored two goals in the third period to knot the game. The Crimson Bears battled through an overtime period with chances to score that didn’t connect. JDHS outshot the Patriots 37-17 in the game.
“We didn’t have the right frame of mind,” McKenna said. “I think that is part of maturing as a hockey player. You have to follow up against a team you had a great win against with another solid effort. Even though things weren’t clicking for us, we did put in the effort and I give North Pole a lot of credit.”
A Saturday 9 a.m. start against the talented West Valley skaters finished the road trip with a second shutout loss for the Crimson Bears.
“They are really balanced,” McKenna said of the Wolfpack. “They have four lines that you cannot tell apart. They really pushed our skill level on all aspects.”
McKenna stated that it was still early December. Normally, JDHS takes the northern road trip late, before playoffs. This early play gives the team good feed back and reminders on what needs to be squared away.
“I am sure people will see West Valley is at the top of the conference,” McKenna said. “We will just have to fight for that playoff win, that is our long-term goal.”
McKenna stated that the Crimson Bears need to keep improving physical play and are not a team that intimidates opponents with big hits.
“We need to show up mentally ready to play physical hockey,” McKenna said. “Every player on the team has to be committed to body checking and separating their opponents from the puck. We paid for it when we weren’t in that frame of mind.”
Senior Marc Heifetz was selected player of the series by the team and given the Old Time Skates.
“He was just a battler all weekend long,” McKenna said. “We had several people who were good candidates but Marc really stood out for gritty play all week.”
The Crimson Bears will play four games in a row at home this week at Treadwell Arena: Wednesday (8 p.m.) and Thursday (8 p.m.) against Lathrop; and Friday (8 p.m.) and Saturday (7 p.m.) against Monroe Catholic.
The JDHS junior varsity fell to West Valley JV by scores of 6-3 and 12-1.