The Kenai River Brown Bears took their shots, but couldn’t sneak anything by Aberdeen (South Dakota) goaltender Matt Vernon.
The Brown Bears were shut out 1-0 Thursday to the Aberdeen Wings at the North American Hockey League Showcase at the Schwann Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota.
The Bears couldn’t crack Vernon, who earned the shutout with a 24-save performance and earned praise from Bears head coach Josh Petrich.
“It was playoff hockey in September,” Petrich said, adding that he believes Aberdeen is one of the top teams in the league. “Goals are tough to come by in this league, and we’ve got to be patient and do things well.”
Since taking their first two games last weekend with 12 combined goals in two games, the Brown Bears have netted two goals in two games, and have dropped to 2-2-0-0 overall. The Brown Bears continue with a Friday contest against the defending NAHL champion Shreveport (Louisiana) Mudbugs at 11 a.m. AKDT and a Saturday meeting with the Brookings (South Dakota) Blizzard at 3:30 p.m.
Billed as the “Greatest Show on Ice,” the showcase allows NAHL players to receive exposure in front of professional, college and junior hockey scouts, and Petrich believes his players have thus far put on an impressive show, despite the 0-2 record this week.
“We’ve got a lot of guys drawing interest, and that’s good,” he said.
Kenai River goalie Kevin Lake stopped 18 of 19 shots for the Bears, and on offense, Petrich said each line produced chances with efficient play in the opposing zone.
Against a team like the Wings, a team that won the NAHL Central division last year with 39 wins and finished with the sixth-most points in the league, Petrich said that showed him a lot.
“It was a game of very few mistakes,” Petrich said. “There weren’t a lot of Grade A chances, both teams played really well and both teams look like good hockey teams.”
Nic Sicoly netted the lone goal of the game midway through the second period on a breakaway, getting the puck from Aberdeen teammate Joe Strada and finding a way around Lake for the 1-0 lead that proved to be the difference.
A day after allowing three power-play goals to the Bismarck (North Dakota) Bobcats, Petrich said the one even-play goal was a big step in the right direction.
“(Yesterday) was a 10:30 game in the morning, and when you play 59 games at normal times and there’s that one game at 10:30 or 11, we didn’t come out ready to go,” Petrich said. “We didn’t have the jump we had last weekend.”
Wings 1, Brown Bears 0
Aberdeen 0 1 0 —1
Kenai River 0 0 0 —0
First period — No scoring. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Aberdeen 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 1. Aberdeen, Sicoly (Strada), 11:36. Penalties — Aberdeen 2 for 4:00.
Third period — No scoring. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Shots — Kenai River 6-6-12—24. Aberdeen 9-5-5—19.
Goalies — Kenai River, Lake (19 shots, 18 saves); Aberdeen, Vernon (24 shots, 24 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 0; Aberdeen 0 for 0.