Rarely does a coach gush so emphatically about their team after a loss as Juneau-Douglas high school hockey coach Luke Adams did Saturday.
The Crimson Bears (7-10, 3-2 Mid-Alaska) fell to West Valley High School (10-11, 6-0 Mid-Alaska) 2-1 in the Mid-Alaska conference championship game. Hours afterward, in summarizing the game, Adams said, “I don’t really know how to put it to words, how proud we are of the kids.”
JDHS has never beaten the Wolfpack since playing in its inaugural season 11 years ago. In December, West Valley beat JDHS to 5-1 and 8-4 in Fairbanks.
“Tonight we saw an absolute relentless team effort,” Adams said. “Kids started to believe in that they deserved to be there and they could compete with West Valley.”
Following a first period goal by West Valley’s Dylan Savereide, JDHS goalie Cody Mitchell stopped all 7 shots in the second period.
The score at 1-0, the Crimson Bears turned up the pressure in the third period, testing the Wolfpack’s Keel Simon with 10 shots.
West Valley would go up 2-0 though with under six minutes to play.
“They got the game-winner on a play that we didn’t get the bounce, and that’s the way the game works,” Adams said of the goal credited to junior Kaden Monzingo.
Juneau-Douglas’ Jacob Dale responded less than two minutes later with a goal of his own. Seniors Quin Gist and Ryan Liebelt assisted on the play.
But the Wolfpack retained their one-goal lead for the rest of the game.
After the final buzzer, three JDHS skaters were named to the all-conference team, which included Gist, Cameron Smith and Billy Bosse.
As the conference runner-up, the Crimson Bears will face Cook Inlet Conference powerhouse Chugiak in the first round of this weekend’s Alaska Sports Activities Association 4A hockey championships.
Barring an unlikely state championship-run (JDHS lost 1-9, 1-8 in last year’s tournament), Saturday’s game will be the Crimson Bears bright spot of the season.
“It was a different day, it was one of those days that evevates our program moving forward,” Adams said. “It gives us some good momentum not only for the state tournament but for all these kids that are going to stay around and be a part of this program for a time to come.”
The Crimson Bears face Chugiak Thursday, Feb. 9 at 2:30 p.m. The game can be livestreamed through a link provided at asaa.org/activities/hockey.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the JDHS goalie was Kyle Farley-Robinson. The goalie was Cody Mitchell. This article has been updated to reflect the change. The Empire regrets the error.
Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com.