Everything about the Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team’s senior night seemed big: the standing room only crowd, the laminated prints of the seniors adorning the walls and even the custom player buttons being sold in the Treadwell Arena lobby.
For a senior class that never did things halfway, it was a fitting way to recognize their final high school hockey game in Juneau which took place Saturday night.
“All they wanted was to play high school hockey,” JDHS coach Luke Adams said. “They watched people do it before them, and they’re just passionate about the program.”
The on-ice result showed just that.
Four seniors — Ronan Lynch, Bill Bosse, Tyler Weldon, Greyson Liebelt — scored to carry JDHS to a 7-3 victory over Homer. Just about all 12 seniors recorded assists in the win, including Owen Squires, Cully Corrigan, Kyler Alderfer, Finn Yerkes and Dalton Hoy, junior Cody Mitchell stopped 26 of 29 shots in net. Homer’s Hunter Warren turned aside 20 of 27.
“Emotions were super high,”senior Blake Bixby said. “It was definitely an unforgettable night, and we just had to leave it all on the ice. It’s pretty sad it’s the last time doing this.”
JDHS scored three goals in the first five minutes of the game, showcasing its teamwork on goals just 21 seconds apart from each other. On the first goal, Hoy passed to Squires, whose shot created a rebound for Ronan Lynch to bury.
“That was a good, important goal because I think the team that would score the first goal in the game was going to win,” Squires said.
Moments later, Bosse set up sophomore Chance Turinsky for a 2-0 lead. JDHS added two more goals by the first intermission — but so too did Homer — to make it 4-2 at the first intermission.
Defenseman Ethan Welch puts in a goal to put JDHS ahead of Homer 3-0 with 11:56 left in the first period. pic.twitter.com/HB22JYQCQw
JDHS called for back-to-back penalties 52 seconds apart in the second period, and Ethan Pitzman’s powerplay goal made it 4-3. But Homer could get no closer while Bosse, Weldon and Liebelt piled on more goals over the remaining period and a half.
Homer’s Ethan Pitzman scores on the power play with 10:18 left in second. JDHS still leads 4-3. pic.twitter.com/nTOlrJ4PY4
Homer came into the weekend just one game behind JDHS in the Railbelt Conference standings, and was fresh off a 6-3 victory over Soldotna, the team responsible for two of the Crimson Bears’ five losses this season. But the team has had to weather several injuries, according to coach Steve Nevak, leaving them not as deep as they were earlier in the year.
“We were running two lines and it was just too much,” Nevak said. “Juneau — give it to them — they were big. They dump the puck, they chase (the puck), they play hard. They were the first to the puck every play it seemed. We ain’t going to win when we’re allowing that.”
The JDHS varsity — who will rest against Tri Valley this week — finishes out the regular season a perfect 6-0 at home. Their focus now lies on the Division II state championships next Thursday through Saturday at the Curtis Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla. It will be Juneau, Homer and three other teams’ first stab at the Division II crown following the recent reclassification of teams.
“Congratulations to their seniors,” Nevak said. “What an awesome senior night. That’s the senior night that you want.”