Life is pretty good for the Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team.
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The Crimson Bears have tripled their win total from last year and it's just midway through the season. JDHS (6-4) will look to continue its good fortune this weekend as it hosts Su Valley (4-4) for two games at Treadwell Arena. Tonight's faceoff is 8 p.m., while Saturday's game starts at 7 p.m.
"We've got a good thing going right now," JDHS coach Steve Foster said. "They're happy. They're skating well and we're going over some stuff we've never done before and they're soaking it up really well."
Ten games into the season with 11 more to go, the Crimson Bears have advanced significantly from their inaugural season in 2005. JDHS has scored 45 goals and allowed 35, not counting two forfeit victories over Kenny Lake on Nov. 17-18.
JDHS hockey vs. Su Valley
Who: Crimson Bears (6-4) vs Rams (4-4).
When: 8 p.m. tonight, 7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Treadwell Arena.
What's at stake? This weekend is the first meeting between Juneau-Douglas and Su Valley.
More importantly, however, is how the team has played this season. The Crimson Bears have limited turnovers and opposing odd-man rushes by protecting the puck and keeping it in the offensive zone.
By doing that, JDHS has been able to dictate the flow of the game and impose its will on opponents.
In fact, JDHS has been improving so much that Foster and assistant Luke Adams are installing new systems for his team.
"I wanted to get the team to a point where they could pass and skate well enough so they can cover themselves when we incorporate the system," Foster said. "Systems can leave you exposed whereas heads-up hockey is safe. If you're not aware, you can get goals scored on you fast."
Foster said his system is based on the Soviet teams of the 1970s and 80s.
"The system is incorporating, basically, the 1980s Russian style of playing," Foster said. "Which means there's no center or two wings - there are three forwards and the defensemen are interchangeable with the forwards as the forwards are themselves. The five people on the ice I'm depending on to be smart, fast and diligent. They're comfortable with that."
On the ice, a number of Crimson Bears are enjoying breakout seasons.
Forward Albert Svensson leads the team with six goals and six assists while Nate Hickok has six goals. Ian Nankervis has five goals and four assists while one of the team's preeminent playmakers - Andrew Ainsworth - has four goals and six assists thus far this season.
This weekend's contests against the Rams should serve as a good midterm exam for the Bears.
Su Valley split a pair of two-game series with Tri-Valley twice this season and beat Nikiski twice this season. Juneau-Douglas split with the Viking Warriors on Dec. 8-9 and shutout the Bulldogs 6-0 to open the season on Nov. 8.
The Crimson Bears will travel to Fairbanks after this weekend to take on Hutchison, North Pole and Monroe Catholic on Jan. 4-6. Those three games represent a significant step up in competition for the Crimson Bears. The Patriots (8-4) currently lead the Class 4A Mid-Alaska Conference, while the Rams (5-3) rank second in the Class 2A/3A Greatland Conference.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.