It was a game that had no end in sight other than perhaps a fourth overtime. That’s when Juneau Capitals teammates Karter Kohlhase and Brandon Campbell hatched a plan: Switch positions on a face off taken to the goalie’s left side.
Kohlhase lined up at center, beat his face off opponent with a quick shot on goal, then watched Campbell bury the rebound, giving Juneau’s 18-and-under A Division team a 4-3, triple overtime victory over the Alaska Avalanche.
“We planned it out in the locker room between the second and third over time,” Kohlhase said. “We were frustrated because none of our face offs worked to our desire, so we switched it up. I got my stick on it first to get off a shot and it worked out. Brandon was right there to punch it in.”
An exhausted Juneau Douglas Ice Association squad celebrated an Alaska State Hockey Association championship with 2 minutes, 35 second remaining in the third eight-minute overtime.
The two teams, meeting for the third time in the tournament, each having a win and loss to one another, played to a 3-3 tie through three 12-minute regulation periods. After two overtime periods failed to produce a winter, the teams went to their locker rooms for a break.
“Coach Mike (Bovitz) kept telling us during the intermission that he had faith in us; he knew we were going to win,” Campbell said. “He said someone has the game-winner on their stick. It happened to be me.”
For the tournament, Juneau posted a 5-1 record. It reached the single-elimination round with a 3-1 record during the round-robin phase.
Throughout the tournament, the Capitals relied on timely goaltending, a balanced offensive attack and a defensive effort that yielded 1.6 goals per game.
“Going into the tournament, we knew the Avalanche had what it took to give anyone a run for their money,” said Coach Jason Kohlhase, who, along with fellow coaches Kevin Hansen and Bovitz mentored the team. “Fundamentals and talent aside, we have long said that if the right Juneau team showed up, they would be a formidable opponent to compete against. It was a coin toss going into overtime.”
Goaltender Ian “Cookie” Murphy saved his best for last when he turned back 50 shots in the championship game, including 20 in during the three overtime periods.
“Throughout the game, I thought I had maybe 20 or 30 saves,” said Murphy, who stopped 135 shots while recording two shutouts in six games. “When I got the shot count after the game, it was a surprise. I was suddenly more tired afterwards. The adrenaline started to wear off.”
The Capitals opened the competition with a 3-0 victory over the Avs, getting goals from Campbell, Lake Bartlett and Caden Johns. They went on to win the second game, 5-1, over the Anchorage Heat behind a goal and three assists from Luke Bovitz. Also, scoring were Anna Dale, Campbell, Johns and Bartlett.
In a follow-up game versus the heat, Juneau recorded its second shutout, a 3-0 decision on goals from Campbell, Dale and Kohlhase. Juneau closed out the round robin with a 4-3 loss to the Avs, while getting goals from Kohlhase, Bartlett and Sonny Monsef.
The Capitals faced Hockey Club Fairbanks in the semifinal game, applying relentless pressure in a 3-2 victory. Dale recorded a goal, including the game-winner, and two assists, plus two goals from Kohlhase
As much as Juneau spread out the scoring through six games, it received support from defenseman Camden Kovach, Gabe Hansen, Ian Moller, Minta Schwartz and Bailey Hansen.
“We couldn’t be more proud of how these kids played as a team: selfless decisions, grit, determination, and all with a sense of urgency,” Kohlhase said. “ They gave it everything they had with every shift, leaving it all out there. It would be hard to script a better championship finish. ”
Getting to the overtime required overcoming two, one-goal deficits against the Avalanche. Dale quickly staked the Capitals to a 1-0 lead just seven seconds into the game, but the Avalanche struck back with two goals.
In the second period, Campbell tied the game with a goal right off the face off, then the Avalanche responded less than a minute later taking a 3-2 lead into the third period. Just as she did in the first period, Dale recorded a goal in the first minute of the third period to force a tie.
What ensued was an endurance battle that lasted 21 minutes, 25 seconds.
“The first overtime, you’re tired; you’ve already played an entire game of hockey, but the score is still even,” said Bartlett. “You’ve got to keep going. It becomes a load. The whole team got into a mindset where were going to play as long as it took. That’s what we did.”
Five years ago, three of the Capitals participated in another overtime during a 12U-B tournament in Fairbanks, which Juneau won 3-2 with a short-handed goal. Defenseman Gabe Hansen was on the ice for both game-winners.
“This game is probably the hardest game I’ve ever been in,” he said. “It just kept going. It never felt like we had the upper hand, but it never felt like we were back on our heels, either. It was so tight the whole time.
“We weren’t losing our composure. When you look at your teammates around you, they either look like they are about to win or about to lose. I felt like we had the win in us.
When that final goal went it, it was like thank God.”
After each game, tournament officials presented a Most Valuable Player award to a player from each team.
Once the Capitals clinched the title, Dale, with her two goals, heard her name called as the game’s MVP.
Rather than hang on to the commemorative puck, Dale skated toward Campbell, who stood with teammates on the blue line and said to her linemate, “This is yours. You deserve it.”