One night after a 6-1 victory over the Homer Mariners at Treadwell Arena, the Crimson Bears narrowly escaped with another win, this one 2-1, in what proved to be a slugfest until the final buzzer sounded.
After a scoreless first period, Juneau-Douglas’ (6-8, 2-4) Eric Verrelli capitalized on a perfect setup from Zane Chapman and Zander Hoke to score the first goal of the game at the 13:17-mark of the second period. Nick Mow scored four minutes later off a Bill Holbrook assist.
Coach Dave McKenna said Homer bounced back with a strong game after a lopsided victory on Friday.
“You have to give Homer credit for playing with a lot of heart and never letting up at all,” he said. “I thought it was a good game. We did have some lapses and their goalie played well, and we didn’t get the puck in the net like we did last night. I was happy with the effort.”
McKenna said the team has been working on breaking out on offense with cleaner passing and puck handling.
“We made strides, but they’re really just baby steps at this point in time,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ve really tried to play systematically on the offensive end when we’re forechecking. Some of our younger guys were some of our better players out there this weekend.
“With our losses, we’ve come together as a team. It’s nice to see balanced play and it’s nice to see the young kids step up when we really need them.”
Cole Carnahan said getting back to game action after such a long break was a good thing for the team, especially being at home.
“It was good to get back to it and see lots of fans come out,” he said. “That’s always nice and helps pump you up before the game.”
As for whether or not the team is playing its best hockey of the season, Carnahan said the Bears are playing well.
“We’ve definitely stepped it up. We had a slow start (to the season) and even with injuries, we’re still doing well,” he said. “I think we played a better game tonight, they (Homer) just got over their travel legs and were playing great hockey tonight. It was really physical and they just kept coming after us.”
Juneau-Douglas finished the game with 37 shots on goal to Homer’s 27. The two goalies shined in this game as the Crimson Bears’ Matt Noreen and the Mariners’ Luke Eckert saved 26 shots and 35 shots respectively.
Verrelli had two goals and one assist on the weekend while Homer’s Carson Duggar scored the only two goals Homer had on their road trip.
The Crimson Bears played tough hockey their first weekend back from a December hiatus and are starting to look comfortable on their home ice. Carnahan agreed.
“It’s great,” he said “There’s been too much traveling.”
Bears bounce Mariners in return to ice
Not even a 20-day layoff from action could affect the high-powered Juneau-Douglas offense on Friday night as the Crimson Bears rolled Homer 6-1 in their first hockey game since Dec. 19.
JDHS blew the game open during a three-goal second period and never looked back, not allowing a single goal until nearly 40 minutes into the game.
This matchup played out quite differently than their previous game between the two teams, in which Homer defeated the Bears 4-3 the weekend before Thanksgiving.
“We showed up more ready to play,” said JDHS coach Dave McKenna follwing the team’s win Friday night. “We’ve lost some seniors this year due to injuries and it’s taken a while for guys to realize that they can’t rely on someone else to carry the weight, so we’re playing more like a team.”
McKenna said the team had been preparing for a physical game, something they experienced while in Homer.
“For the most part, other than a few hits here and there, it wasn’t that physical of a game,” he said. “I think when we were (in Homer) their home crowd got them a little more pumped up to play physical hockey. Our kids did well and I feel like they were ready.”
As for whether or not he expected the margin of victory to be so big, McKenna said it was more competitive than the score indicated.
“It didn’t feel like it was a lopsided victory because they hung in tough the whole time, so I just tell them that the sign of a good team is one that can come back the second night and play just as tough,” he said. “So that’s where we’re hoping to get. I think we’ve done a better job than we have in years past, but we have had a few let downs. It’s always on the kids’ minds and learning how to focus comes with time and experience, but we’re getting there.”
• Matthew Tynan can be reached at 523-2267 or by e-mail at email@example.com.