With a Fairbanks playoff trip in sight, the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears hockey team will take on Delta Junction in what will be their final two home games of the season.
The players on the ice this weekend may not be quite as familiar to most, as coach Dave McKenna intends to rest some of his players for at least one of the games.
"We will probably sit a line of varsity the first night, rest it up and see how it goes," he said. "Depending on how it goes Friday night, we'll make adjustments - either trying to strengthen or soften our team up a little bit and get some kids more experience.
"It's always difficult because you don't want to look past a team, but you want to get the right experience for guys that need it right now."
McKenna said Friday night he will most likely sit the line that includes Nick Mow, Chris Budbill and Bill Holbrook, with the possibility of resting others on Saturday night. However, fatigue is not the only reason McKenna plans to sit some of his players.
"(Fatigue) is part of it, and it also depends on pace of play. It's really difficult to go from a slower-paced game to a fast-paced game," he said. "We've been trying to set a really fast tempo at practice and you know, one game is good to stay fresh, but two games - if they happen to be at a slower pace - I don't feel works completely in our advantage."
As far as what he expects from Delta Junction, McKenna said from what he knows about them it should be a good matchup.
"I think they have a pretty strong team. It's been hard for me to get results and make contacts with people, but they've had some close games with Hutchison, who we saw down in Homer earlier in the year," he said. "But in the past they've been a bunch of strong kids that play a good, physical game, so we can't take them lightly."
With the strong possibility that some of the regular players will be sitting this weekend, McKenna said it will be a good opportunity for some of the younger kids.
"After playing West Valley, we realized we need to find a way to generate more shots and a little bit more speed on offense, so we've been working on playing less of a linear game - straight up and down the ice - and a little bit more of a lane-changing game where we can buy a little time to get shots and also generate some speed in the process," he said. "I just want to see some good, creative play outside of our defensive end and good, disciplined defensive play in our own end."
While a playoff spot is not guaranteed at this point with Houston traveling to Fairbanks this weekend for three league games, McKenna feels confident in his team's outlook and does not expect much to change based on previous outcomes this season for Houston against teams from Fairbanks.
"I hate to put my foot in my mouth by looking past any team, but we have to play (this weekend) like we're going to be there (playoffs). Otherwise, it would be too late to be prepared," he said. "We've been planning to go to the playoffs, but it's not 100 percent set in stone, unfortunately, until the night before we have to leave."
McKenna said if the team does indeed make the playoffs, he anticipates having to play West Valley, a team that swept a two-game series from the Bears less than two weeks ago.
The final home series of the season for the Crimson Bears (8-10, 2-6) will begin Friday at 8 p.m. at Treadwell Arena, with a 7 p.m. start time scheduled for Saturday.
Matthew Tynan can be reached at ph. # 523-2267 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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