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The Juneau-Douglas High School ice hockey team mobbed goaltender Kelsey Preston on Friday night, as the crowd roared in approval.
The Crimson Bears may not have won a championship, but they did something very special. Juneau-Douglas earned its first victory in program history Friday with an emphatic 12-4 triumph over visiting Nikiski at Treadwell Arena.
JDHS (2-4) followed up Friday's performance by earning its first shutout win, defeating the Bulldogs 6-0.
"It's an affirmation that they have learned how to play hockey," JDHS coach Steve Foster said Saturday. "For the kids themselves, they get to go to school with their heads held up. They can say they won."
Friday's crowd, including a crew of students in full red body paint, counted down the final seconds, as the Crimson Bears ripped off their helmets in celebration.
After losing their first four games by an average of 7.5 goals, Juneau-Douglas dominated Friday's contest from beginning to end. JDHS outshot the Bulldogs 41-29 in the win.
"It's kind of weird," JDHS sophomore winger Andrew Ainsworth said Friday. "It's kind of surreal because we haven't really won yet. It's nice to get a win. I thought we would. I knew we'd get one during the season, but it's nice to finally happen."
Friday's rout proved a true team win, as 12 different Crimson Bears recorded points in the effort.
Leading the way was the undersized line of Nolin Ainsworth, Colton Good and Josh Mayer - dubbed "The Mighty Mite Line" by Foster.
The line accounted for six points, including two goals each by Nolin Ainsworth and Good.
Juneau-Douglas established itself as an improved offensive force early in the contest.
After Nikiski's Nick Calderwood gave the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead, Nolin Ainsworth scored off an assist from Good just 15 seconds later.
Juneau-Douglas took its first ever lead late in the first period. Dane Harlamert scored to put the Bears ahead 3-2 after the first period.
"We've played in some see-saw games this year and each time it's been a matter of keeping our heads in it and keeping the pressure up rather than letting up after drawing first blood," Nikiski coach Mario Berg said. "It's something we'll continue to work on."
The Bears showed great patience on the offensive end by working the puck into the corners and feeding passes in front of the crease. The forwards also passed to the points and defensemen, opening up ice and creating scoring opportunities.
"We've really been focusing on passing and breakouts," JDHS center Tyler Lyden said. "I think we're finally starting to get the breakout passes down and that's a real key to what we did tonight."
Juneau extended its lead to 5-3 after two periods before blowing the game open in the third.
With victory in their grasp, the Crimson Bears exploded for seven goals in the final 17 minutes. The period also included a rush where Juneau scored four goals in 58 seconds.
"I don't know, we were just going crazy," Andrew Ainsworth said. "The crowd was there, and I guess everyone was just really feeling it."
Andrew Ainsworth scored two goals in the third, including a nifty wristshot past Zulkanycz for his second tally.
"He's been the most patient, and it's a trait I need out there," Foster said of the sophomore. "He has a good shot in the face of an attack."
Nolin Ainsworth led the way with two goals and an assist, while Svensson, Lyden and Andrew Ainsworth scored two goals. Evan Wood and T.J. Preston had a goal and an assist, Riley Hall and Kacy Carlson posted two assists while John Carlson and Chris Klawonn posted assists in the win.
Preston stopped 25 of 29 shots to earn the win.
On Saturday, Juneau-Douglas established two more program firsts.
The Crimson Bears earned their first shutout victory and Svensson recorded the first hat trick by a Juneau-Douglas player.
Defensively, JDHS limited Nikiski to just 14 shots on net. Preston made four saves in the first period before being relieved by Alex Vick. Vick stopped 10 shots in the second and third periods. Juneau-Douglas also had 36 shots on goal.
"The defense did a fine job," Foster said. "They really stepped up."
Juneau-Douglas seized control immediately as Harlamert scored just 1:32 into the first period. Svensson also scored as the Crimson Bears established a 2-0 lead.
Lyden added a his third goal of the weekend in the second period, pushing Juneau's advantage to 3-0.
In the third period, Svensson scored twice to complete the hat trick and Andrew Ainsworth added a tally to complete the scoring.
Andrew Ainsworth had two assists while Preston, James Gamez, Harlamert and Wood contributed assists.
JDHS plays host to Houston next weekend at Treadwell Arena.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org