Having a senior-heavy team can be a huge advantage in high school sports because it usually means that the group has both experience and chemistry. However, it also means that the coaching staff will inevitably need to rebuild from the ground up for the ensuing season.
Thanks to its junior varsity program, the Dimond boys varsity hockey team has been able to avoid that eventuality after losing 11 players from last year’s state championship team.
The reigning Division I Alaska state champions have been able to keep the pipeline of gifted players flowing to their varsity ranks with a wealth of young talent.
“I wouldn’t say we’re rebuilding, we’re just reloading,” Dimond head coach Dennis Sorenson said. “We’ve always had a good JV program that just feeds into our varsity.”
The Lynx are off to an undefeated start to the 2022-2023 season with a 3-0-1 record through their first four games. Since tying with Chugiak 2-2 on Nov. 4, they have outscored their last two opponents by a combined 18-1.
On Tuesday night at the Ben Boeke Ice Arena, they recovered from a sluggish start against Eagle River and went on to blow out the Wolves 11-0.
“I thought we played well after the first 10 minutes,” Sorenson said. “We had a slow start tonight. I don’t know if it was because we didn’t respect our opponent or just weren’t prepared with the non-school day today.”
ASD schools were closed on Tuesday while their facilities were being used as voting locations for the 2022 elections.
“Maybe they all slept in too late and weren’t prepared to start but once we got going, we got on a roll and it was a nice game,” Sorenson said.
He credited the team’s ability to pass the puck as key to the quick turnaround against the Wolves.
“It starts with (Chris) Horton and (Dallas) Young on defense and once they start moving the puck, we just got rolling,” Sorenson said.
The Lynx had seven different players record a goal and three score more than once. Senior AJ Pflugh led the team in scoring with three goals including two in the opening period
“All of us were just working together just making everything happen,” Pflugh said.
Sorenson said Pflugh has had slow start to the season after being one of their main offensive contributors as a sophomore. But he’s showing more of that promise as the season has progressed.
“He got two early goals tonight that put him on a roll,” he said.
While Eagle River’s goalies were under siege for most of the night, Lynx goaltender Zoie Campbell didn’t see a ton of action but when she did, was lights out on her way to earning a shutout.
“It’s kind of hard to stay focused during a game when you aren’t doing that much action but you always got to watch the play and see what’s going on,” Campbell said.
Pflugh believes it’s the duty of the few returners from last year’s team to help bring the others along to be major contributors.
“They have to make a name for themselves and it’ll be fun to see how it plays out this year,” Pflugh said.
He is confident that the Lynx will have a competitive team this year but isn’t looking too far ahead or assuming that they’ll cruise to another state title.
“No one knows who is going to win it for sure but we’ll definitely be fighting for it this year,” Pflugh said.
Dimond has a tough week ahead as the Lynx will be heading out to the Mat-Su Valley to take on some of the top teams in the state at the Palmer tournament. Among the teams in attendance will be Palmer, last year’s Division I state runner-up, Wasilla, and reigning Division II state champion Houston.
“Houston is the best DII team in the state and they have a bunch of new kids in their program,” Sorenson said. “They’re going to be tough to beat.”