With the Crimson Bears hockey team closing in on the halfway point - and most difficult part - of its schedule, Juneau-Douglas hopes this weekend's games will serve as a measuring stick for success this season.
The Hutchison Hawks will visit Treadwell Arena tonight for the first game of a two-game series, giving the Bears (4-3) a chance to avenge an early-season loss last year in the Homer tournament.
"It's a good step for us to play a team of this caliber as we head into conference play next weekend," JDHS coach Dave McKenna said. "It will be a good indicator of how far we have to improve by playoff time.
"All we can ask for is that the guys go out, give it a good effort and not leave anything on the bench, as they say."
The Bears were outshot by Hutchison 43-25 during the team's 2-1 loss to the Hawks last season. McKenna acknowledged Juneau-Douglas might have its hands full with a skilled team like the Hawks, but he said he's excited to get back on the ice after a successful week of practice. He also said it was nice to have a little break.
"The week off was a good chance just to get a little space from the day-to-day routine at practice," McKenna said. "It's been a grind since we started on that Anchorage trip, so just having an extra day of rest over the holiday weekend was great.
"You need those breathers every now and then," McKenna continued. "We have a long stretch of three tough weekends of hockey, so it was really important for us to come into it fresh."
As for what he's expecting on the ice from the Hawks, McKenna said he's expecting a well-rounded team.
"They like to break the puck up the middle of the ice and they had a really good power play," he said. "It's just the little things like that that tell you they're a good team. They keep you honest.
"It comes back to the things we've been working on in practice," he continued. "It's just the little things that make a difference."
Juneau-Douglas and Hutchison will face off at 8 p.m. today and will drop the puck at 7 p.m. Saturday.