Glacier Bears hockey heads to national tournament
In their first year as a Competition team, the Eagle River Glacier Hockey Association’s Alaska Glacier Bears won the U16 Tier II state title. Now, the Bears are heading to the national tournament in Green Bay, Wis., on March 28 through April 1 to see how they stack up against the Lower 48.
“They’re very excited,” head coach Scott Hulse said. “It’s an opportunity and experience for the players they’ve never had.”
Hulse said the Bears will open the tournament against a team from Indiana. They’ll also face the best from Virginia and North Carolina.
“It’s gonna be an exciting and interesting trip,” Hulse said. “We have no idea what the competition is like down there. Hopefully, we are competitive and have a chance to win some games.”
After deciding to make the move from the House level to Comp, the Glacier Bears won five straight postseason games and capped off their season with a 6-2 victory in the state title game against the Anchorage North Stars on March 12 at Ben Boeke Arena. The team’s success in its first year as a Comp squad didn’t surprise Hulse.
“They’ve been a very successful House team in the past,” he said. “They’ve always been very competitive.”
The Glacier Bears’ success stems from their versatile defensemen who can also add an offensive spark, Hulse said.
“We utilize our players in many different positions,” he said. “We have an awesome defensive group of players that can play both.”
Hulse said his blueliners are encouraged to join the rush when the opportunity presents itself.
“We take our defense and push them forward once in a while,” he said. “They’re more our dominant players. That really helps out.”
While the Bears racked 34 goals in the state tournament, it was stellar defense — the team allowed just seven goals against in five games — that earned them a trip to nationals, Hulse said.
“If you don’t have defense and you can’t get it out of your zone, you’re hurting,” he said.
Skating as one unit will be crucial for success at nationals, Hulse said.
“The main thing is we have to play as a team,” he said.
With players from three rival high schools on the team, that could prove challenging — but not for the Glacier Bears.
The team’s Eagle River, Chugiak and East High players don’t let their prep allegiances interfere with the Comp team, Hulse said.
“There’s no rivalries there when the guys come together,” he said. “They kid each other, but they don’t hold grudges at all.”
Regardless of the outcome, the Bears’ trip to nationals will be a positive experience, Hulse said.
“No matter what we do — win, lose or tie — they’ll come out winners,” he said.