The Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team doesn’t have to look far for a scouting report on this weekend’s opponent.
One of their own, junior defenseman Ethan Welch, played the last two seasons on the Palmer Moose.
“They got a lot of big guys,” Welch said after dry-land practice on Wednesday at JDHS. “This year, it seems like they’ve figured out playing the body more. Watching them play last weekend (at the Palmer Showdown Tournament), there was a lot more hitting than there was last year.”
Welch plays with the same physicality as his old team, and could play a key role helping his new one secure their first victory of the season. JDHS takes Palmer at 8 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Treadwell Arena. Junior varsity plays at 4:15 p.m. Friday and 9:45 p.m. on Saturday.
“We know that Palmer has a pretty high-powered offense, and we’re going to need to be good defensively to stay in that game,” JDHS coach Luke Adams said. “Also, making sure all five players are hustling back to defend our net to support our goaltenders.
Palmer is the first of three Railbelt Conference teams making visits to Juneau. Houston High School near Wasilla makes the trip in two weeks (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) and Homer comes down Jan. 18-19. JDHS will play the remaining three conference teams of Soldotna, Kenai Central and Redington on the road.
All will be important games — the Crimson Bears must finish with one of the three best conference records to earn a berth to the Jan. 31-Feb. 2 state tournament in Wasilla. Missing the state tournament for the first time in four years would be a sour ending for the team’s 13 seniors.
“It will really help us push up our competitiveness,” said senior Dalton Hoy, who scored the team’s only goal last Friday against Dimond. “I think historically we’ve been a lot more competitive at regions and maybe a little less so at home.”
Adams said the new set-up makes reaching the state tournament more challenging. Everyone in the conference will be tough, he said. Homer is coming off a sparkling 17-6 season. Kenai and Houston both picked up wins against Juneau last year.
“A lot that hustle play, gritty play, is going to be really important in all these conference matchups,” Adams said.
Palmer, like JDHS, was winless last weekend. As hosts of the Palmer Showdown Tournament, the Moose fell to Wasilla, West Anchorage and Dimond. JDHS was similarly pressed for offense in three tournament losses, and losing offensive weapon Bill Bosse to injury won’t make things any easier. Bosse is out three to six weeks as he mends a broken jaw suffered in last Friday’s loss.
The Crimson Bears will look to someone else to rally around in the meantime. And Welch could be that guy.
“He brings a contagious energy to the team that the kids are able to feed off of,” Adams said. “That’s been really cool to see.”
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Emipre Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.