In the last game of the inaugural season for the Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team on Saturday, the Crimson Bears came up short on the scoreboard but scored a resounding victory as a first-year program.
The Crimson Bears fell to visiting Hutchison 5-1 at Treadwell Arena, but showed that hockey won't be a novelty in Juneau. On Friday, JDHS fell to the Hawks 3-2.
"Juneau is gonna be a hotbed of hockey," said Hutchinson head coach Roger McKinnon. "They are definitely on the right course. ... Juneau will soon have a strong hockey program, no doubt."
Playing before another sold out crowd, the Bears and Hawks skated in a fast paced and furious game with both teams consistently applying offensive pressure.
The Bears came out strong, skating stride for stride with Hutchinson in the first period and getting immediate looks at the net.
Hutchison opened up the scoring when defenseman Lester Erhart passed from the far right corner to a wide-open Michael Walker for a one-timer goal.
Juneau-Douglas answered back 41 seconds later as Riley Hall took the puck after a face-off in the Hawk zone and scored unassisted.
JDHS goaltender Kelsey Preston stopped 6 of 7 shots in a 1-1 first period.
Hutchison's second goal, coming at the 12:52 mark of the second period, came off a rebound following a slapshot by the Hawks' Aaron Leslie. The puck went directly to the waiting stick of Matt Cross, who beat new goaltender Alex Vick to put Hutchison up 2-1.
Vick turned aside two good scoring chances on a Hutchison power play as the score remained 2-1 after two periods.
With Hutchison goaltender William Bowman turning aside several point blank shots, the third period saw the Hawks pull away.
The Hawks scored three goals in the period to seal the win.
This game, however, was about more than the final score for Juneau-Douglas. The game culminated the first season in Crimson Bear hockey history.
"This first year was definitely a success, we've got warm fuzzies everywhere." said JDHS coach Steve Foster. "We did far better than our expectations this season, we won a couple of games, and that wasn't in the cards when I signed on to do this.
"Next year I see stars and stripes everywhere for this program."
On Friday, Juneau-Douglas fell behind 3-0 with less than 15 minutes to play but staged a spirited rally.
JDHS (2-8) rallied for two goals in the third period but couldn't overcome the deficit.
Hutchison scored twice in the first five minutes of play to take control.
"We lost it in the first period," said JDHS head coach Steve Foster. "In the first five minutes really. After that we played a really decent game."
Both teams settled down as the game turned into a hard-hitting and penalty-plagued affair.
Solid play by goalies Preston and Bowman soon helped stabilize the score at 2-0, as each player recorded 23 saves apiece.
"She kept us in the game with some really nice saves on breakaways." said JDHS assistant coach Tom Rutecki on Friday. "She saved our bacon."
Despite solid scoring chances by Hutchison, and numerous power plays by the Bears, neither team would score again until the third period.
Much as they had done in their two early goals to open the game, the Hawks struck early, scoring 24 seconds into the final period.
This time, however, the Bears responded and turned around the game's momentum.
Juneau-Douglas' Andrew Ainsworth soon skated free into the far left corner and hit Hall with a perfect pass in front of the Hawks' net. Hall punched the puck into the left side of the goal to put the Bears on the board with 14:43 to play.
Less than two minutes later the duo would hook up again.
Following a face-off in the Hawks' zone, Hall passed to Ainsworth who quickly skated through two Hawks and fired the puck past a diving Bowman to bring the Bears to within one with 12:30 left to play.
Playing with renewed confidence and energy, the Bears flew around the ice, desperate to recover the goal they had given away to start the period.
Juneau-Douglas had two power plays in the final 11 minutes but couldn't capitalize.
"We haven't had a close game all season, a game where the third period was up for grabs," Rutecki said. "This was truly a building block for next year."