The West Anchorage Eagles defeated Juneau-Douglas High School 6-1 in the first round of the ASAA First National Cup hockey state championships.
The game between the runner-ups in the Cook Inlet and Mid-Alaska Conferences was the first of four to take place Thursday at the Curtis Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla.
JDHS goaltender Cody Mitchell saved 18 shots in one and a half periods of work. Freshman Dawson Hickok saved 17 shots in relief.
West goaltender Connor Batman made 15 saves in the win.
“They definitely put the pressure on early and they were just pretty persistent,” JDHS junior defenseman Blake Bixby said.
Sawyer Courrier scored two goals late in the first period and the Eagles led 3-0 by the end of the frame.
Courrier quickly spun around from a stationary position in front of Mitchell and put the puck past the Juneau goaltender with 6:48 left in the period.
Just over a minute later, the Eagles forced a turnover in the JDHS end and Chase Schwamm scored in close on Mitchell. The rally continued with 5:18 left in the period when Courrier gathered a loose puck in the slot for his second of the game.
JDHS head coach Luke Adams said his seniors encouraged the team in the first intermission not to give up.
“It kept everybody focused so it’s always good to have that (leadership) in the course of a game like that when things aren’t going your way,” Adams said.
The message seemed to get across and JDHS controlled the first three minutes of the second period. Junior Bill Bosse scored on his own rebound after his one-timer 10 feet in front of Batman was stopped.
The Eagles regained a three-goal advantage just two minutes later though. Bryce Welch fired a slap shot from the left point through traffic that found the upper reaches of the net. Gavin Thaggard added another goal less than two minutes later.
Following the Eagles’ fifth goal, Hickok replaced Mitchell in net.
Hickok would only give up one goal over the final 24 minutes of the game.
“We had a good effort,” Adams said. “It’s the state tournament and we’re playing teams that have a lot of experience. West has won state the past two out of three years so that’s just a different caliber of team we’ve seen all season. Credit to them — they’re good and they made a lot of good plays when they needed to.”
The highest JDHS can finish now in the state tournament is fourth place. The Crimson Bears return to the ice in Wasilla Friday at 2:30 p.m. against the loser of Thursday night’s Wasilla-Service game.
“This is a really resilient group and that’s one of our strengths right now. There wasn’t any finger pointing in the locker room today and we still have another shot tomorrow to get a win,” Adams said.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.