It felt like it could be another long night for the Crimson Bears hockey team - until the fourth quarter, that is.
Facing a 1-0 deficit against Hutchison after two periods, Juneau-Douglas senior defenseman Taylor Lehnhart started a flurry of scores for the homestanding Bears, and the defense held strong through the final period to preserve a 3-1 victory Saturday night at Treadwell Arena.
Lehnhart spotted up outside the right drop circle and fired a shot past Hawks goalie Hayden Nilson to tie the game less than 45 seconds into the third frame.
But Lehnhart wasn't finished. He found another open look from the exact same spot on the ice less than three minutes later, and this time his shot glanced off the stick of senior forward Bill Holbrook and over Nilson's shoulder to give the Bears a 2-1 lead, one they never relinquished.
"In the lockerroom we talked about picking it up more. We were talking a lot more and were a lot more upbeat," Lehnhart said. "Then coach walked in, grabbed the trash can and put our sticks in the trash can.
"He told us to go out there and get garbage goals, and that made us laugh. It got us more upbeat," he continued. "Everybody's intensity was just higher after that."
Whatever Bears coach Dave McKenna pulled out of the coaches' handbook of inspirational messages, it seemed to work. Juneau-Douglas fired 14 shots on goal after posting just eight shots in the first two periods combined, and the overall energy on the ice was noticeably higher after the second intermission.
"We got into a dogfight tonight, and I guess we found out how much fight we had in us," Bears assistant coach Matt Boline said. "(Friday) night, we turned it on with two minutes left in the second period, and we came back out in the third and didn't maintain that. Tonight it was the exact opposite."
Boline said the Bears maintained the desired intensity level for the rest of the game and the result speaks for itself. It wasn't just the offense that picked up, however. After allowing 15 shots on goal in the opening two frames, the Bears' defense locked down on the Hawks' effort at a comeback, limiting the visiting team to just five shots in the third period.
As for the message in the lockerroom during the second intermission, Boline said it was nothing special.
"We didn't have to make any adjustments. We just had to remind them what they had to do and what they know they need to do," he said. "We didn't say a whole lot to them. We couldn't tell them anything they don't know already at this point."
After Holbrook's score put the Bears up 2-1, Matthew Whistler was able to cap off the scoring and put the game away with his fifth goal of the season to make it 3-1 off assists from Dillon Tomaro and Zach Bicknell.
Garrett Cheeseman was back in goal for the Bears on Saturday night after sitting out Friday's game. His presence on the ice was welcomed as he stopped 19 of 20 Hutchison shots on goal, the lone goal coming at the end of the first period from the Hawks' J.R. Boots.
Juneau-Douglas comeback win was crucial after a heartbreaking loss in sudden-death overtime the night before and a conference foe coming to town next weekend. The win put the Bears at 5-4 on the season as they open Mid-Alaska Conference play against Lathrop on Friday and Saturday.
Bears fall in overtime
Sometimes things just don't go your way on the ice, and that certainly was the case for the Crimson Bears on Friday night.
Despite outshooting visiting Hutchison 30-28 and storming out to a 3-1 lead after the first period, Juneau-Douglas couldn't quite get its rhythm back in the final two periods as the Hawks came back strong to win 4-3 in extra time.
Hutchison's Brian Aarhus got a good look at goal a little more than two minutes into the overtime period and fired a shot past Bears goalkeeper Colter Pritchard to end it in sudden-death fashion.
Bears senior Eric Verrelli said the effort was there, things just didn't quite go as planned for JDHS.
"Passes just weren't connecting like we had planned them, but we were skating hard," he said. "We were following our gameplan, the intensity was good, but I don't know. We just couldn't get it to bounce our way."
Juneau-Douglas was able to get a significant amount of pressure on the Hawks' defense, but the team was unable to put the puck in the net after its first three scores.
The best opportunity came late in the second period when the Bears fired shot after shot on goal on their way to 12 shots in the frame, but JDHS could not capitalize and the momentum did not carry over.
"The guys just dug deep at the end of the second period and found some motivation, Bears assistant coach Matt Boline said. "Unfortunately, the buzzer can be your friend and sometimes it's not. This time the buzzer worked against us because we had to reboot in the third period. That just didn't happen."
Zach Bicknell, Bill Holbrook and Matthew Whistler accounted for the Bears' three early goals, and Colter Pritchard - who was under heavy fire for most of the game - finished with 24 saves on 28 shots.
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