After a month of practice, it’s time to play the first game of Season 13.
The Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team plays in its first games of the 2017-18 campaign this Friday and Saturday. The Crimson Bears take on the Kenai Central High School Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. at Treadwell Arena on Douglas.
The team returns all-conference junior forwards Bill Bosse and Cameron Smith. Bosse and Smith will be tasked with leading the team alongside senior captains Joseph Monsef and Jacob Dale.
“I haven’t been able to sleep all week,” Monsef said of looking to this weekend.
JDHS is coming off an 8-14 season in which the team qualified for its second consecutive state tournament. The Crimson Bears boasted wins over Hutchinson, North Pole, Houston and Lathrop last year.
With an ego-less and hungry group of juniors and seniors, the team appears to be headed for more wins this season than last.
“We all genuinely like each other, honestly,” Monsef said. “We all hang out with each other outside of hockey and you know, we’ve known each other for a long time.”
JDHS graduated Cameron Jardell, Cahal Morehouse, Ryan Liebelt, Quin Gist, Simon Marks, Alexis Doutt, Niko Hebert and Gavin Murphy from last season. In their void, eight freshmen have joined the program, who will play in either the JV or varsity games this weekend.
“As coaches, we really love the training element in practice,” JDHS head coach Luke Adams said. “But as players, they want to play, and I think right now they’re ready to play a game because you can only do so much without having tested yourself against somebody else.”
The juniors, most if not all of whom have grown up in Juneau, have never known a Juneau without Treadwell Arena. Smith, Bosse and the 11 others are reaping the benefits of having an established youth hockey program to enroll in as soon as they could stand up on skates.
“I can trust all of them; we’re a family,” Smith said.
JDHS assistant coach Matt Boline comes up with the same word when describing the group: family.
“They’ve been the team leaders since they were probably freshmen, everyone wanted to be apart of that group, and they’ve accepted everybody, too,” Boline said. “So it’s like we have a team full of juniors right now.”
Blake Bixby, Cully Corrigan, Dalton Hoy, Kyler Alderfer, Greyson Liebelt, Logan Ginter, Erik Genitz, Owen Squires, Ronan Lynch, Tyler Weldon and Wolf Dostal make up the rest of the junior class.
Sizing up the Kards
The Kardinals look to get the bulk of their production out of all-conference seniors Levi Mese and Jakob O’Brien this year.
Kenai Central turned in a third-place showing at the Peninsula Ice Challenge at the beginning of November. The Kardinals were blown out by Service — the eventual tournament champion — and Monroe Catholic but took down conference foe Soldotna, 7-2.
Last weekend, Kenai skated to a 7-6 win over Glennallen/Kenny Lake.
JDHS split their last series with Kenai — almost two years ago to the day. Playing in their home ice arena, the Kardinals dropped a 12-4 contest to the Crimson Bears before winning the following day, 3-2.
This year’s crop of seniors were just freshmen the last time the Kardinals traveled to Juneau for games. The Crimson Bears handed them 5-2 and 2-1 losses in November 2014.
Freshman Dawson Hickok, sophomore Cody Mitchell and junior Wolf Dostal will all compete for the varsity crease this season. Junior goalie Kyle Farley-Robinson elected not to play this year which opened the door to Hickok.
“They’re all going to be competing for spots this year, including our new guy,” Adams said.
Headin’ to Houston
JDHS plays in the Big Lake Lions Christmas Classic Dec. 7-9 at the Big Lake Lions Recreation Center in Houston.
The tournament will be JDHS’ first look at Monroe Catholic, who they play in January at Treadwell. The Crimson Bears play Chugiak in the first round of the eight-team tournament. Wasilla, Palmer, Hutchinson and Kenai also received admittance into the tournament.
“It’s a good tournament to start off the season on the road,” Adams said. “It brings the kids together. We’re staying in a school, in a gym, so we don’t have to hotel. So it’s a lot of fun for our kids and it’s kinda out the road so there’s not too many distractions. We like the Houston Tournament, they’re always really good to us, they’re a great program, they treat everybody really well.”
Houston is 18 miles northwest of Wasilla on the George Parks Highway.
Welcome to Treadwell
There are four more homestands in store for fans after this weekend. Mid-Alaska Conference opponents West Valley (Dec. 1-2) and North Pole (Jan. 19-20) will make the long haul from the Interior to Juneau in the coming weeks. Reigning Greatland Conference champion Monroe Catholic opens the New Year in the Capital City with Jan. 4 and Jan. 5 contests against JDHS. Colony plays in Juneau Dec. 15-16.
Nov. 17 Kenai
Nov. 18 Kenai
Dec. 1 West Valley*
Dec. 2 West Valley*
Dec. 7-9 Big Lake Lions Christmas Classic (Houston)
Dec. 15 Colony
Dec. 16 Colony
Jan. 4 Monroe Catholic
Jan. 5 Monroe Catholic
Jan. 11 at Lathrop*
Jan. 12 at Lathrop*
Jan. 13 at Monroe Catholic
Jan. 19 North Pole
Jan. 20 North Pole
Feb. 1-3 Mid-Alaska Conference Tournament (Fairbanks)
Feb. 8-10 ASAA First National Cup Hockey State Championships (Wasilla)
*Denotes conference game
All home games played at Treadwell Arena; Ticket prices $8 students, $3 students
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.