The Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team plays today on the road for their first away games of the season.
The Crimson Bears (1-4, 0-2 MAC) play at 3:30 p.m. against Chugiak (3-3 CIC) in the first round of the Big Lake Lions Christmas Classic in the Big Lake Lions Recreation Center in Houston.
The Mustangs, the reigning state champions, defeated JDHS twice last season. JDHS skated to an 8-1 loss in January in Eagle River to the Mustangs. A month later, the Crimson Bears fell to Chugiak in a 7-2 loss in the first round of the state tournament.
The winner of the Thursday afternoon matchup will advance to play either Hutchinson (Fairbanks) or host Houston in the second round. All teams in the tournament are guaranteed three games.
The Crimson Bears are well acquainted with both their potential second-round opponents, the Hawks of Fairbanks (Hutchinson) or the Hawks of Houston. JDHS hosted both teams last season at the Treadwell Arena and fared well against each. JDHS defeated Hutchinson 6-1 and 11-0 in November and overtook Houston 8-2 and 3-0 two months later.
JDHS is coming off three straight home losses to the defending Mid Alaska Conference champions West Valley Wolfpack last weekend.
In those three games, the Crimson Bears were outshot approximately 3-to-1. Even though JDHS struggled to match West Valley’s shot totals, they were only outscored 15-to-9.
JDHS head coach Luke Adams wants more shots out of his team moving forward.
“Our kids just have to understand that they’re going to have a better opportunity to score if they shoot the puck, even if it’s not the best shot setup,” Adams said after a 3-2 loss to the Wolfpack on Friday. “We’ve talked about (shooting the puck more), but it’s hard to get pucks on net, especially when you’re playing real skilled teams.”
JDHS senior captains Joseph Monsef and Jacob Dale have been the team’s biggest offensive threats so far this season. The two are tied for a team-high three goals this season.
Monsef, Dale and the rest of the senior class were just freshmen the last time JDHS played in the Christmas Classic. The 2014-15 Crimson Bears lost to Colony JV, Colony varsity and Wasilla that year.
The cohesiveness of the tournament competition left an impression on now-senior Kane Ginter, who assisted on a Cole Barelli goal in Saturday morning’s 6-5 loss to West Valley. That loss won’t count toward JDHS’ conference record.
“I believe seeing how other teams have worked together helped us figure out how to do that better,” Ginter said by cellphone Wednesday. “We’ve not always done that too well.”
On the other side of the eight-team bracket are Wasilla and Monroe Catholic, who play today at 1:30 p.m., and Palmer and Kenai, who face off at 11 a.m.
Sophomore goaltender Cody Mitchell, the starter in three of JDHS’ five games so far, will likely tend net today for the Crimson Bears.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Empire Sports on Twitter (@akempiresports) and Facebook (@JuneauSports) to know what’s happening in Juneau sports.