Tuesday’s afternoon and early evening called for a Cook Inlet Conference double feature inside the venerable hockey theater that is midtown Anchorage’s Ben Boeke Arena.

While some likely questioned the scheduling of those participating in the 4 p.m. opening act versus the teams in the 6:30 p.m. featured presentation, let’s not diminish Bartlett and the delirious drama it delivered for itself.

The Golden Bears broke through with a blockbuster performance, ending a 21-game losing skid with a 5-2 CIC victory over visiting Eagle River.

Prior to, Dimond and South renewed hostilities in the first of two scheduled league meetings. The Wolverines scored a 1-0 win – more to come in a bit.

Freshman Andy Rust scored twice while juniors Dylan Beals and Curtis Siems and senior Wyatt Rust each added two points as Bartlett notched its first victory since Jan. 20, 2022. That win came against East during the only season of the last four when the two eastside Anchorage School District programs didn’t co-op as a single team.

This season, Bartlett (aka BEAST for Bartlett and East) consists of about 17 total players. Eleven of the skaters attend Bartlett, and the program features a junior varsity squad for the first time in recent memory. It’s been a slow build towards something resembling respectability, and for at least one night, the Golden Bears earned some.

“It means everything,” said junior Landon Morton, who scored the eventual game-winner at 10 minutes, 13 seconds of the second period. “A full season after getting no wins, we get this one. It’s relieving. You come out some nights figuring you’re going to lose or maybe play in a close game. But 5-2, a big gap, that’s special.”

CIC League Standings

POINTS TEAM RECORD
6 West 3-0-0
6 Chugiak 3-1-0
4 South 2-0-0
2 Bartlett/East 1-1-0
2 Dimond 1-3-0
0 Service 0-1-0
0 Eagle River 0-4-0

For whatever reason, genuine purity can be hard to find in high school sports these days. Maybe some of us are too old fashioned, or at least way too old. That’s not to say Bartlett and Eagle River played up the Pollyanna angle. The teams threw some real hits and a few penalized players made way to the box voicing expletive-filled concerns to no one in particular.

But there was Bartlett coach Mike Vandenbos, wearing a Bartlett-themed blue and gold tie. A solid touch, indeed. The Golden Bears made sure to soak in the victorious moment and at game’s end posed for a team photo under the Boeke scoreboard.

Before the memory was captured, Bartlett bounced off the bench at the final buzzer to congratulate freshman goaltender Reece Morton. He made 11 saves in his first varsity and really meaningful minutes of any kind between the pipes.

No one bee-lined for Reece quite like big brother Landon did.

“First game ever playing goalie except for one JV game,” Landon Morton said. “I can’t really explain why I went for him so fast. I’m really protective of him.”

In its 63rd season, the CIC seems to be evolving into something different. The Alaska School Activities Association suspended its decades-long dual participation rule, which allows the most-skilled, comp-level talent to play high school when it’s seemingly convenient.

Beals is certainly one of those upper-echelon skaters and is back in the CIC ranks after playing Tier I comp only as a sophomore. Credit him with making a concerted effort to keep his Bartlett teammates involved in the action, regularly dishing off pucks or letting them do more puck-possession heavy lifting.

As the haves and have nots become more noticeable this CIC season, it’s a plus Bartlett (1-1-0 overall and CIC) and Eagle River (0-8-0, 0-4-0) have one another. Sophomore Russell Bell and junior Brenden Farmer scored for the Wolves and freshman goalie Rhon Pride was credited with 31 saves.

“When you’ve got a young team, I’ve got six freshmen out there who are good and going to be really good in a few years, you can’t take that age difference and experience away,” said second-year Eagle River coach Mike LaFlamme, who coached at Bartlett prior to the pandemic. “Our guys are all still learning.”

Bartlett next plays Dec. 5 versus West. Eagle River goes up against Service on Dec. 7.

SOUTH 1, DIMOND 0

Senior goaltender Cole Schmidt made 13 of his 21 saves in the second period and his team furnished him a single goal in the season’s first meeting of arguably the CIC’s most heated rivalry.

Senior CJ Heiner scored 1:53 into the second period off an assist from junior Chase Mascelli. The Wolverines improved to 2-0-0 overall and in the league.

Dimond senior Zoie Campbell turned aside 19 saves in the loss. The Lynx fell to 2-3-1, 1-3-0.

South plays Friday in a non-conference meeting at Colony. Dimond doesn’t skate again until Dec. 13 against West. The Eagles scored a 6-3 victory in the teams’ first meeting back on Oct. 28.

The Wolverines and Lynx close out the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule when they meet back at Boeke on Dec. 19.

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