The Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team put its superior size to good use in a 7-0 Railbelt Conference win over Houston on Friday night at Treadwell Arena.
Facing a smaller Hawks team, the Crimson Bears crowded goaltender Josh Smolden’s net beginning in the second period, doing their best to throw off the junior who made nine saves in the first period. The tactic worked quite well — the majority of the Crimson Bears’ seven goals were shot with players in Smolden’s grill.
“It kind of puts them on the line and their body and getting hit,” JDHS coach Luke Adams said. “Eventually we made a few sacrifices, got hit by a few pucks and one went in. After that, we were able to get a couple more. It was more the kids adjusting to the situation and urgency of the moment.”
JDHS improved to 3-3 on the season and 3-0 in the Railbelt Conference. Houston fell to 0-3 and 0-1 in the Railbelt.
Perhaps the prettiest goal of all of them arrived with 8:50 remaining in the second period. After assisting on the first goal of the game, forward Finn Yerkes redirected a blast from defenseman Greyson Liebelt for the second goal. Yerkes said it was the best goal he’s ever scored in his life.
“I got right in front of the goalie, just got in the right spot,” Yerkes said. “I saw (the puck) coming and it was going wide of the net and so I basically just pulled it in and it curved in and went in.”
Josh Frisby scored the next goal just over two minutes later. Frisby picked up the puck after it ringed off the post and shot it past Smolden.
Liebelt, Cully Corrigan, Owen Squires and Kyler Alderfer scored the remaining four goals. Corrigan was also the man behind the Crimson Bears’ first goal. Yerkes, Corrigan, Liebelt, Bill Bosse and Tyler Weldon all had assists in the win.
Houston coach Lane Styers said the Crimson Bears’ physical play made an imprint on the game. All but three of his players are brand new to the varsity level and still adjusting to playing at a higher level than they’re used to.
“We have a long of young guys, they’re scared, they’re throwing the puck (away) more,” Styers said. “Once you get past the point where it doesn’t hurt super bad to get hit, as long as you stay on the boards and have a little more confidence, then it helps. It’s tough for some of our young guys that haven’t played this pace of hockey yet.”
Junior Cody Mitchell and sophomore Dawson Hickok teamed up for the shutout. Mitchell made seven saves in the first and second periods and Hickok made three saves in the third period. Smolden saved 32 shots total.
JDHS went for the series sweep on Saturday night. The Crimson Bears have two more home series left on the season. JDHS hosts the Homer Mariners Jan. 18-19 and the Tri-Valley Warriors Jan. 25-26.
The red-and-black hit the road for four conference games against Kenai and Soldotna in two weeks.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.