The Juneau Capitals after winning the 12-and-under Class A Alaska State Hockey Association state championship. (Steve Quinn / For the Juneau Empire)

The Juneau Capitals after winning the 12-and-under Class A Alaska State Hockey Association state championship. (Steve Quinn / For the Juneau Empire)

Juneau Capitals win six straight to claim 12U-A state hockey title

Backed by a powerful offensive lineup, strong defensive play and timely goaltending, the Juneau Capitals 12-and-under Class A team ran off six straight victories en route to winning the Alaska State Hockey Association state championship.

The state tournament took place March 15-17 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex and featured a field of 12 teams, including the Anchorage Comets, which defeated Juneau in a championship game in an earlier mid-season tournament.

Juneau outscored its opponents, 50-9 and the Capitals never gave up more than three goals in any game.

It clinched the title with an 8-2 victory over the Alaska Grizzlies in a rematch of Game 2, also won by Juneau, 11-1.

In the championship, Mack Host led the team with five goals, including an unassisted shorthanded effort that help put the game out of reach. Also scoring were Andrew Troxel, Manu Adams and Santiago Hoff.

“Teams regularly look to a few players to carry the offensive load, and that was the case here, but every player on this team made critical contributions,” said head coach Randy Host, who was joined on the bench by assistants Alec Venechuk, Jonas Lamb and Valeria Martinez.

“The whole team came into this tournament very focused and determined,” Host said. “They played with a lot of grit and energy, and you could see it in every game.”

The Capitals, part of the Juneau Douglas Ice Association, opened the tournament with a 6-1 victory over Kenai, thanks to a balanced scoring attack featuring goals by Mack Host (2), and Mitch Host, Troxel, Porter Love and Mikhail Venechuk with one each. Backed by goalie Oskar Nelson the Capitals also killed off four penalties.

Juneau came back that day for a second game, this one against the Grizzlies, again yielding only one goal while producing 11. Scoring were Mack Host, Troxel, Venechuk, and Adams with two each, and Mitch Host, Paxton Willoughby and Calen Sooter with one each.

Juneau closed out pool play against the Anchorage Comets for a rematch of the Turkey Shoot Tournament title game, which Anchorage won.

The Comets held a 3-2 edge in the second period, but the Capitals ran off five straight goals while holding their opponents scoreless in the third period. Mack Host led the team with four goals; Venechuk, Adams and Landon Love also scored.

“The Comets were out playing us, but the team really buckled down and made smart plays with the puck in the third period,” Randy Host said. “These smart plays created some scoring chances that we were able to convert into a series of goals gave our team confidence for the remaining games.”

Juneau carried a 3-0 record into the quarterfinal versus Delta, and they produced a 13-1 victory behind goals by Venechuk (five), Sooter, Troxel, Mack Host, Hoff, Adams, Willoughby, Landon Love and Rowan Taintor.

This set up another rematch versus the Comets, the toughest opponent of the tournament, this time for a semifinals matchup. The Capitals held the Comets scoreless until the third period. By then they took a 4-0 lead on goals by Troxel (two), Mack Host and Venechuck. Mack Host scored the fifth goal, this time shorthanded.

The top four 12UA teams advanced to the semifinal round on the third day of play on March 17. The Capitals’ first game was a rematch with their toughest opponent of the tournament, the Anchorage Comets. All three lines of the Capitals team played a solid defensive game and shut down the Comets with a 5-1 win.

The Capitals held opponents to four goals in the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game collectively.

“Our defensive unit — Brook Taintor, Porter Love, Max Hayes and Oscar Lamb played outstanding by limiting the scoring opportunities afforded in games that were must win in order for us to advance,” Randy Host said. “Getting critical saves from Oskar Nelson only fortified our defense.

Three sets of siblings on the team included two sister-brother pairs — Porter and Landon Love, Brook and Rowan Taintor — and the Host brothers, Mitch and Mack.

Mikhail Venechuk together with the two Host brothers were the strongest forward line of the tournament, as demonstrated by occupying the top three slots for individual points standings (goals and assists) for the tournament.

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