This weekend's hockey series between Juneau-Douglas High School and Homer should be special, but not just because it features the final home games of the year.
Mix in the final appearances of three key seniors, a Class 4A opponent and two teams who like to play up-tempo, physical hockey, and this weekend's series is shaping up to be epic.
JDHS (9-7) will take on the Mariners (3-15) at 8 p.m. tonight and 7 p.m. Saturday.
"I want it to be competitive," JDHS senior Evan Wood said. "I don't want any blowouts. They'll be good games. As long as it's good and fun and a lot of people show up to cheer us on, it'll be fun."
Seniors Wood, captain Kacy Carlson and goaltender Sam Post know what it's like when Treadwell Arena is rocking.
The trio played to sold out crowds in the past as fans painted their chests and banged on the glass during every hit. While Treadwell Arena isn't the biggest venue, Juneau's local fans leave an impression.
The Bears would love nothing more than a raucous farewell to the 2008 home portion of their season.
"The home crowd is pretty electrifying," Carlson said. "Everywhere else we've gone, it's never the same coming out that we've seen in our home stands. Teams have said things like, 'You really get a home crowd coming out.' When you're playing in the midst of a game you don't hear the crowd so much, but when you're sitting on the bench, you definitely notice it. It's exciting."
Fans should be treated to a physical affair. Juneau-Douglas and Homer played on Nov. 15 as the Mariners earned a 5-2 win. The score was tied 1-1 until Homer took control midway through the second period.
The Crimson Bears will be looking to establish their forechecking game and physical play throughout the contest. In two wins over Su Valley last week, JDHS forced the play and didn't allow the Rams time to cleanly break out of their zone.
While Homer brings a higher talent level as a Class 4A opponent, JDHS is finding its identity as a hockey team.
At the end of Tuesday's practice, Juneau-Douglas ran through a drill to keep its physicality going. Coach Dave McKenna would dump the puck into a corner from the blue line. Two players would then go after it - pushing, bumping and skating hard every step of the way.
"The last drill is something coach Luke Adams and I started as a way to better prepare the team for physical play and aggressive forechecking," McKenna said. "What I'm trying to get across to them is the harder you push yourself in practice, the better the whole team will be prepared. You're not doing the team or yourself any favors by not going 100 percent in practices."
Despite its 3-15 record, Homer boasts serious talent and a terrific goaltender in Luke Eckert.
JDHS must be aware of the Mariners' speed coming out of its defensive zone. Any mistake in open ice could lead to an offensive rush by Homer. A sound defensive game may help JDHS earn its first win over a Class 4A opponent.
"They're a much more dynamic team and they have one or two players that can really do it all," McKenna said. "They won't get slowed down by physical play and can put the puck in the net."
• Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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