The Crimson Bears hockey team got a hard check about the challenge they are facing entering the playoffs on Thursday, as they lost consecutive games to top-seed Houston High School by scores of 5-3 on Friday and 8-0 at Treadwell Arena on Saturday to end the regular season.
Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, the fourth seed among the eight teams in the Division II Hockey State Championships, is scheduled to play Kenai Central High School at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. The winner of that game is scheduled to play the winner of Thursday’s matchup between Houston and eighth-seeded Tri-Valley High School in a semifinal game at 4 p.m. Friday.
If Houston (18-3-1 overall, 8-0 conference) does prevail, Crimson Bears head coach Matt Boline said the past weekend shows why they’re the top seed.
“They’re a very, very good team,” he said Monday. “They have a number of very talented players that play on Team Alaska’s triple-A team, which is the only triple-A team in the state. I believe their team has more members of the triple-A team than any other team in the state. So you can you can imagine that they’re probably pretty good.”
“They’re fast and move the puck well, they’re well organized, they’ve played a lot of games in and outside of high schools together, and they have for a long time.”
JDHS, which has had its own dominating performances in compiling a 10-8-1 (7-3 conference) record during the regular season, fell behind by a 2-0 score within about the first four minutes of Friday’s game against Houston, which provided the visitors with the winning margin Houston lead 4-2 at the end of the second period and finished on top 5-3.
“Through most of the game Friday we did a really good job on countering them and adjusting to them,” Boline said.
Ian Moller, Luke Bovitz and Matthew Plang each scored goals for the Crimson Bears.
Saturday, however, was dominated by Houston as they scored three goals in the first period, one in the second and four in third. The visitors also outshot the Crimson Bears 35-15.
“Saturday was just a little bit more than we could take it seemed,” Boline said. “We lost a couple of players to injury during the game and that hurt us quite a bit. There also was a number of penalties too and so it was hard to get in our groove. And it was just like at the end of the day they’re a good team and it’s tough to keep up with them.”
JDHS went on the road to play Kenai the previous weekend and won both games by scores of 7-3. But Boline said that won’t be cause for his team to let up entering Thursday’s game.
“If they get enough space they can do some damage,” he said about Kenai. “So we even though know we did beat them pretty handily a couple of times we’re still going to have our guards up and be ready for them because if we sleep on Kenai then we’ll never get to play Houston again.”
The Crimson Bears advanced to the championship game of last year’s tournament, the best finish in the team’s history, losing to Soldotna 2-1. Bovine said his team faces a similar playoff scenario this year as JDHS first defeated Kenai and then had to top Houston in the semifinal a year ago.
“This team we have right now is one of the more talented teams we’ve had in a long time,” he said, “But I think the thing that stands out for me, and I think for the rest of the coaches as well, more than their talent is their character. Just a really high character group, their character as a whole. And it’s also full of a bunch of characters. So it makes for a pretty fun and pretty positive work environment.”
JDHS’ nine senior players were recognized on Friday, the team’s designated Senior Night, and Boline said having a number of players who’ve been top varsity contributors for three years is a definite advantage going into the postseason. This year’s captains are seniors Camden Kovach, Caden Johns and Mason Sooter, the latter a rare instance of a goalie being selected.
“I think we’ve only had a goalie where a letter one other time in our program history, so it’s not very common,” Boline said, noting such players generally have less engagement on the rink than other players during games. “But when you’ve got a guy like Mason it’s tough to not make him a captain because he is a pretty awesome leader and a good teammate.”
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at email@example.com or (907) 957-2306.