The good news is the Crimson Bears are headed to the Mid-Alaska Conference hockey championships in their first elligible season next weekend in North Pole. The bad news is that they will be playing top-ranked Lathrop - undefeated MAC record and all.
The Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team (14-8 overall, 2-6 MAC) entered this week's regular season-ending four-game road trip with a chance to move up to the third seed if they managed a split against West Valley. The Wolf Pack made sure that didn't happen Friday, handing the Bears an 8-0 loss. With fourth place already in their pockets, JDHS then took a stiff loss to North Pole 5-0 on Saturday.
"Positioning wasn't a big deal to us. Lathrop and North Pole are both tough top seeds," JDHS coach Dave McKenna said. "It's tough not playing at this level all year, but we did show signs of improvement. That discrepency in skill is still huge despite those individual and team improvements."
The Bears entered Saturday night's loss to North Pole with an eye towards combatting the Patriots' forecheck, and McKenna came away pleased with the overall effort.
"We got them several times when we were on the power play, but they had a good kill unit," McKenna said. "Those special teams and the penalty kill were just too much for us."
Sophomore goalie Matt Noreen continued his stellar play on the road trip despite facing 37 shots from the Patriots. Noreen picked up 32 saves, but JDHS got off just 13 shots of their own - still well above their recentaverage.
"We were able to get more shots by just trying to move the puck to the far side of the ice and gettting the action out of our own end," McKenna said. "That's where they had us tied in the first game."
West Valley 8, JDHS 0
Once again, it was a sophomore goalie - this time Garrett Cheeseman - who provided a bright spot for the Crimson Bears as he fended off 26 of the 34 shots he faced in the loss. JDHS managed eight shots of their own.
"We made strides to make things more difficult, but North Pole just has a lot of firepower to throw at you," McKenna said. "We played a good physical game and generated a few opportutnites from our forechecking."
McKenna pointed to the improved, physical play of a line consisting of sophomore Trevor Held, junior Zane Chapman and senior John Carlson as another bright spot for his squad.
"That group was really physical all weekend. They showed a lot of heart out there on the ice and led by example," McKenna said. "It's improtant for us to slow down these other teams. If we give them room to generate speed, they will and they're hard to stop."
The Crimson Bears watched a University of Alaska-Fairbanks hockey game as a team Saturday night before returning this morning.
"The whole trip up here and the buildup - shooting for third instead of fourth - adds to intensity and lets us know where we stand," McKenna said. "We watched some youth teams (in Fairbanks) practicing some things more complex than what we're focusing on. It just shows you this is a great hockey town and there's no quick fixes. These kids are up to it, though."