The Juneau Capitals 12U’s could hang their heads high after Saturday afternoon’s 3-1 loss to the Alaska Blue Devils.
The Capitals, the first-ever Juneau youth hockey team to play in the elite Tier AA level, didn’t give up a single goal in the third period while finding a way to score themselves with 1:08 left to play.
Juneau goalies Mason Sooter and Caleb Friend teamed up to stop 21 of 24 shots while opposing netminder Liam Connolly made 13 saves on 14 shots.
The Blue Devils scored two unanswered goals to take a 2-0 lead early in the second period. Juneau swapped out Sooter for Friend in net, and the latter was beat by Ilkka Saarinen with just three seconds left in the frame.
Capitals coach Dave Kovach talked about not seeking out highlight-reel goals, and Stein Dostal heeded his coach’s commands. Dostal went hard to the net and scored with time winding down on the game.
“Our players just drove to the net with their sticks down and literally just wheeled it in, just banged away at the goalie,” Kovach said. “The other team of course took offense to that, but I’ll take it because those are the cheap ones that you got to get every now and then.”
The Alaska Blue Devils, from Eagle River, was the only league team the Capitals hadn’t already faced this season. The 12U Tier AA league also includes the All Stars (Anchorage), Oilers (Anchorage), Grizzlies (Fairbanks), Ice Hawks (Kenai), North Stars (Anchorage) and Valley Thunder (Wasilla).
The Alaska State Hockey Association, the state’s governing board of youth hockey, ascribes numerous tiers or levels for each of its age groups. In the 12U age group there are four tiers: Tier AA Major, Tier AA Minor, Tier A and Tier B.
The Capitals bumped up to AA to help continue the development of its players. According to one parent, the team was likened to “cheaters” due to the ease at which they vanquished their competition in the A level.
How quickly the tables turned this year.
The Saturday loss was the Capitals’ ninth of the season. At 3-9, Juneau is tied for the second fewest wins in the league.
“A win or a loss is not how we’re going to look at whether this season is working for us,” Kovach said. “We’re looking at, ‘Are they competing? Are the games close? Are they working hard and are they having fun and are they getting better as players?’”
“All of those recent things I think in today’s game we can check off,” he added.
The Capitals played two more games against the Blue Devils on Sunday, which will complete their regular season. The team will have a little over a month to prepare for the state tournament, played this year in Fairbanks.
JDHS JV loses to Tri Valley
A pair of freshmen scored in the Juneau-Douglas High School junior varsity hockey team’s 3-2 loss to Tri Valley Friday night at Treadwell Arena.
Dylan Murdoch scored a goal in the opening stanza before Reed Loree added another strike in the third period. Tri Valley received two goals from Demetrios Raisis and one from Hayden Lusby in the win.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.