Nine games and three weeks into the season, the Homer High Mariner hockey team are 5-4. Two of their three wins were achieved at home in Kevin Bell Arena at the End of the Road Shootout on Nov. 18 and 19.
The team is starting off on a different foot than last year. Last year’s team was goal shy, whereas even when the Mariners lose, they get a goal or four in for good measure. The Mariners are also under new leadership, with Homer High School alum and former Mariner hockey player Justin Adams as their head coach.
“The biggest challenge is the kids’ mindset — knowing that they haven’t been very successful in the past and showing them that they’re capable of being as good as they want to be,” Adams said. “It’s just about pushing them, getting on the ice everyday, ensure they are getting better and not letting them play down to opponents.”
Adams returns to Homer to live full time after alternating between commercial fishing out of Homer in the summers and coaching junior hockey teams in the Lower 48 in the winter.
“I knew they were looking for a coach and I wasn’t doing anything much this winter,” Adams said. “It’s an easy way to give back to the community. The game has given me a lot and I’d love to pass it on to these kids.”
Adams signed with a junior hockey team in Eugene, Ore., after graduating from Homer High and then played at the college level at Franklin Pierce University. After college, Adams went on to coach junior teams in Washington and Colorado before coming back to settle down in Homer with his wife, Christina.
Overall, the Mariner team is pretty even in skill, and has more underclassmen than upperclassmen. Seven freshmen, six sophomores, eight juniors and three seniors make up the roster.
“There’s no major difference from top to bottom, which is nice. We play everybody, which in the long run will benefit us,” Adams said. “A lot of teams just play one or two lines and by the end of the season that might be an issue for a team that has to face four lines so it’s … a good benefit for us that every player can contribute in every game.”
Adams noted after the first game of the season that he was impressed by the work his defense, comprised of Douglas Dean, Charlie Menke, Brenna McCarron, Tucker Weston, Spencer Warren, Connor Rodrick, put in on the ice.
Dean said the team has a lot of talent, but they are still working to come together as a team. Garrett Butcher’s view on the team was similar, that everyone needs to synchronize and work hard on the ice as a unit and lean into their new coach’s teaching.
“We’re not moving our feet when we can and a lot of time there’s only one guy working hard on the ice and if everyone’s working hard, you’re winning games, but we’re trying to rely on one person with the puck,” Butcher said. “(Adams) definitely knows what he’s talking about and we need to buy into what he’s saying.”
Anna Frost can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.