The Juneau Douglas Ice Association youth hockey program broke new ground this weekend in Anchorage.
The JDIA Pee Wee Tier III team, comprised of 11- and 12-year-olds, reached the quarterfinal round of the Alaska State Pee Wee Tier III tournament on Sunday. This was the first time Juneau ever competed in Tier III, which is a major step up in competition from Tier IV.
After finishing 3-0 to win the American Conference and seal a top seed, Juneau fell to the Anchorage Mighty Moose 6-2 in Sunday's quarterfinal.
"It's awesome," said Juneau coach Lance Miller. "We really didn't know how we'd do. We hoped to be competitive and we really were. Winning the division we were in was awesome, so we went into the quarterfinal round at 3-0 and played a good game but we got beat."
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The Moose scored four straight goals before William Holbrook got Juneau on the board with a power-play goal 3:49 into the third period. Holbrook scored about 10 minutes later off a Jackson Lehnhart assist, but Anchorage held on to advance.
Goaltender Lenka Craigova' stopped 15 of 21 shots, while Juneau recorded 27 shots on goal.
To reach this far in a Tier III tournament signifies a big leap for Juneau hockey.
Youth hockey is divided into four tiers. Tier I and Tier II are reserved for competitive travel teams. Tier III and IV are known as house leagues, but Tier III teams travel to tournaments and feature strong competition.
"It's pretty competitive," Miller said. "Tier III is called pretty much a select Tier III, so all teams here have tryouts to make the team, they travel to other tournaments, they practice together at least three times a week as a team."
Unlike Anchorage and Fairbanks teams, however, Juneau's squad of 10 skaters and one goalie was assembled relatively late.
Despite the odds, Juneau showed it belonged.
The team outscored opponents 16-10 in preliminary play to win all three of its games.
Juneau beat the B&G Seawolves of Anchorage 5-4 Friday as Lehnhart scored his third goal and broke a 4-4 tie with 13 seconds left in regulation. Later that day, Juneau routed the Homer Glacier Kings 6-1
On Saturday, Juneau completed its perfect preliminary round by defeating the Delta Huskies 5-2. The game was a rematch of last year's Tier IV state title game won by Delta.
"The team did well," Miller said. "It's just learning about tournament play and playing different teams and different styles of play."