It doesn’t take long to get a sense of just how much twins Jaeger and Stein Dostal think about hockey.
“Our backchecking — like when the other team gets the puck and we go back for it — I think that’s really good,” Jaeger said when asked to describe the Juneau Capitals 12U team. “But we need to work on a couple things like getting it out of our zone when it’s right in front of our net.”
The Dostal twins are co-captains of the new Capitals Tier AA team, the first of its kind from Juneau. For over a decade, the Juneau Douglas Ice Association, the governing body for youth hockey in Juneau, has fielded teams of various age levels to play in state tournaments in the “house” or “recreational” divisions. The Capitals will be the first team from Juneau to play in one of two “comp” divisions in the state. The move to the Tier AA status has been several years in the making, according to Capitals head coach Dave Kovach.
“We’ve reached the point where I think all things lined up with this particular group,” Kovach said. “We definitely have the talent and we have the support from families and community members to make this get off the ground.”
Kovach’s team has been virtually unbeatable in the last two years, winning back-to-back state championships. The Capitals were undefeated in the 10U Tier A state championships two seasons ago and won all but one game in the 12U Tier A state championships last season. The teams they opposed in those tournaments didn’t take very kindly to Juneau’s dominance.
“We were just starting to make enemies because they didn’t belong in the (Tier) A level anyone,” Capitals manager Kim Dostal said. “So we just really decided to push for this team and it wasn’t easy. There were a lot of naysayers, a lot of people that think Juneau shouldn’t have a comp team. But they weren’t there with us for these tournaments where people were calling us cheaters.”
Former JDIA president Matt Boline could see the long-ranging benefits the team would reap from playing a new batch of teams.
“For the long-term development of the athletes, it was just important that they compete at a level that’s appropriate for their abilities,” Boline said.
In April, the Alaska State Hockey Association voted unanimously to allow the Capitals entry into the Tier AA league. Boline said the other seven comp teams from around the state were ecstatic about the move.
“They were really excited to have some new blood to be in the league,” Boline said. “Because in Anchorage, they just play each other all the time and they don’t get to see a lot of these outside kids. A lot of these kids do go on to play high school hockey and know nothing about Juneau. So this is a really cool thing.”
The squad is now getting set for its first of four road trips. The Capitals take on the Kenai Ice Hawks, and Alaska Oilers (Anchorage) in the Termination Dust Tournament this weekend in Anchorage. The team will host the Alaska Blue Devils during the last week of January. Each team in the league has to play a minimum of 14 games — two against every other team in the league.
The state tournament is March 8-11 in Fairbanks.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.