The Juneau-Douglas Ice Association Peewee Black Bears, ages 12 and under, fell to the home team Fairbanks Phantoms 2-1 in overtime of the championship game March 22 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Ice Arena.
The Black Bears were trying to repeat as Alaska State Hockey Association Tier 3 Champions, the highest youth-hockey tier in the United States, but had to settle for runner-up this year.
They advanced to the finals by going 3-0 in the preliminary rounds and outscored their opponents 20-4 during their run to the title game. JDIA then posted convincing shutout wins against the Mat-Su Eagles, 7-0, in the quarterfinals, and the Homer Glacier Kings, 3-0, in the semifinals to advance to the championship game.
Head Coach Tom Ainsworth credited their success to superior team speed and unselfish play.
"We played amazingly well as a team throughout the four-day tournament," he said. "Everyone committed to working hard on defense, which led to turnovers, and that allowed us to transition to offense and take advantage of our player's speed and passing skills to get great scoring chances."
The Bears outshot their opponents 190-81 during the tournament.
"Everyone on the team contributed at least one goal or one assist during the tournament," Ainsworth said. "And our two goalies combined to stop 75 of 81 shots they faced. What a team effort."
The championship game fittingly matched the two best teams of the tournament. Fairbanks had also won its first five games of the weekend and had a large, raucous home crowd cheering for them every game.
Juneau quieted the crowd when Cahal Morehouse redirected a pass from Kaipo Tseu from the side of the goal crease to take a 1-0 lead with 2:35 remaining in the first period.
The goal held up through a scoreless second period despite quality offensive chances for both teams. Juneau survived being short-handed twice in the third period after two penalties were called against them.
Fairbanks called time out with 1:11 left in the game and pulled goalie Jimmy Culley for an extra skater, and after the ensuing faceoff in the Juneau zone, Dylan Steele tied the game with a shot that squeezed past several Juneau skaters and just past goalie Hunter Hickok's glove with 65 seconds remaining.
In the overtime period, teams played with only four skaters a side and Juneau had the first scoring chance. However, a tripping penalty against Juneau 1:38 into the extra period gave Fairbanks a 4-on-3 advantage. Twenty seconds later Logan Arpino carried the puck into the Juneau zone and snapped a shot from the top of the face off circle that barely beat Hickok just inside the left post for the winning goal.
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