The Juneau-Douglas: Yadaa.at Kale hockey team defeated Soldotna 4-3 on Friday in Northern Lights Conference play at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna.
The same two teams play at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
The last time the Crimson Bears and Stars played before Friday, it was for the 2023 Division II state hockey title. Soldotna won that one 2-1.
Juneau took a 4-0 lead then held on to gain some measure of revenge Friday.
“It means a lot,” Juneau head coach Matt Boline said. “It’s our first conference game of the year. It’s a tough, tough barn to play in here.
“SoHi plays pretty hard at their home rink. And the Olympic ice always adds another element we don’t get to work on very often.”
Soldotna coach Anthony Zurfluh, whose team is 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the league, said his team hadn’t played a game since Oct. 28. The Stars were supposed to play in a three-game tournament last weekend, but couldn’t make the trip due to hazardous road conditions.
To top it off, SoHi is missing two players who are off playing AAA hockey this weekend. The Crimson Bears were missing one such player.
“They all just kind of worked hard and did their job,” Zurfluh said of the Bears. “That’s a team, I think when we get our Tier I guys back, I think we beat them.
“But that’s what I think. That’s not what I know.”
Thursday night, Juneau had defeated previously unbeaten Wasilla.
“That was kind of a primer for tonight,” Boline said. “This was a matchup we had circled on the calendar.
“It was a state championship game rematch, and they’ve quickly become a pretty big conference rival.”
Boline is in his second year as head coach, but was assistant coach for 15 years before that. He said youth hockey has made big strides in Juneau, and this current high school group is the first to have played on a comp team.
He also said the Crimson Bears had a high of 50 players try out this season.
“We’ve been changing the standards of what is acceptable for how to play hockey and how we behave on and off the ice,” Boline said.
With 2:22 left in the first period, Luke Bovitz scored unassisted for the Crimson Bears on the power play. Just 24 seconds later, Dylan Sowa fired a wrister past SoHi goalie Tanner Clyde.
Zurfluh said Clyde’s catching glove had a hole in it, allowing that goal to go in.
Juneau kept rolling in the second period, scoring a second and third goal on special teams.
Caden Johns, assisted by Sonny Monsef, scored short-handed with 13:38 left in the second period, then Bovitz scored on the power play with 2:43 left in the period for a 4-0 lead headed to the third period.
“I just told them that we need to get a little bit mean and we’ve got to get our jam on,” Zurfluh said of his message to his team before the third period. “We had to find what’s working for us, put our work boots on and get back to the easy system of just getting pucks to the net and getting nasty.”
With 12:11 left in the game, Daniel Heath got the Stars going when he scored a power-play goal with help from Andrew Arthur.
With 8:02 left, Chase Willis cut it to 4-2 on a Arthur helper. That immediately drew a Juneau timeout.
“We were just trying to tell them to buckle down and keep everything in front of them,” Boline said. “Don’t give in to the pressure and take a penalty when the other team is feeling a little chippy.”
The Crimson Bears did go to the box with 4:28 left, but killed off that penalty. SoHi pulled the goalie and Peyton Williams, assisted by Marshall Deraeve, scored with 25 seconds left.
Soldotna could not mount an attack after that.
Clyde made 23 saves for the Stars, while Mason Sooter stopped 22 for the Crimson Bears.
Boline gave credit to senior captain Camden Kovach and senior alternate captains Sooter and Johns.