Bears face West Valley

Posted: Friday, February 05, 2010

It all comes down to this for the Juneau-Douglas hockey team.

For the better part of three months, the Crimson Bears have been building on what has been an overall successful season by a young, undermanned squad.

They have been hit hard by injuries to key players, yet several young reserves have stepped their games up to another level.

Now, it's playoff time, and first up for the Bears is the West Valley Wolfpack, a team that handled JDHS in their first two meetings three weeks ago in Juneau.

JDHS coach Dave McKenna thinks things will be different this time around.

"If there's one thing we learned (last weekend), it's that we're still very much at a phase in our development where we play best when we keep it simple," he said. "We have to go in there with a positive attitude and know that they were tough games against a very tough team.

"As soon as you let off the gas with a team like that, it comes right back at you."

He said the team has been working hard on fundamentals and that every time they play a skilled team like West Valley, it makes them realize their deficiencies in the passing and positioning games.

"We're trying to work on those while also keeping the focus simple and being upbeat for another opportunity to play against a really good team," he said.

Even though the game is being played in Fairbanks, West Valley's backyard, McKenna said it doesn't necessarily mean that home-ice advantage will be a deciding factor.

"It is a factor in the sense that we very well could have some travel legs, but we just try to work hard here which gives you confidence to know you are in shape," he said. "We have a really good fan base here, but it's surprising sometimes, even with the quality of play of those teams up there, that they don't have strong fan bases. So it doesn't really tilt the field that much in their advantage.

"There's a lot of good hockey teams to watch up there so I think that scatters there fan base."

McKenna said it is more fun to play there than intimidating, considering that the town is a hockey town and everybody is very much a fan of the sport. But to win, JDHS is going to have to play their best hockey of the season.

"We need a good night of goaltending, and Nick Mow, Chris Budbill and Bill Holbrook, who had a good night (Saturday) so we're hoping for more good play out of them," he said. "For West Valley it's hard to see the standouts until you see the score sheet because they all kind of look similar. You really can't hone in on any one of them because they're such a balanced offense."

In order to advance, the Bears must change a few things strategically to compete with the Wolfpack.

"For us, we have to take away a little bit of their comfort zone that we gave them last time. We have to take away the space and timing away a little quicker than what we did," he said. "We were pretty disciplined in terms of positioning in our end, but we weren't disruptive enough in terms of reacting quickly to passes we could intercept and making hits a little quicker.

"Once again, we're trying to keep it simple but up the intensity a little bit."

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