The Kenai River Brown Bears renew their rivalry with the Anchorage Wolverines today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in North American Hockey League play at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Bears had a bye last weekend. Before the bye, on Nov. 18 and 19, Kenai River swept the Wolverines by 4-2 and 2-1 overtime scores.
The victories moved Kenai River’s record to 6-6-1 on the current 15-game homestand, by far the longest of the season.
After this two-game series, the Bears play their next 12 games on the road and don’t return to the sports complex until Jan. 27 against the Wisconsin Windigo.
Kenai River’s mid-November sweep of the Wolverines had moved the Brown Bears into a tie for first place in the Midwest Division, but after taking last weekend off Kenai River had fallen to third place in the tight eight-team division where just 13 points separate first and last place.
The Bears are 15-9-1-0 for 31 points, with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs leading the division with 33 and the Minnesota Wilderness in second at 32. The Wolverines, the Robertson Cup runners-up from a year ago, are in seventh place at 9-10-4-1, which gives them 23 points and leaves them seven points out of a playoff spot.
Last weekend, Anchorage traveled to Fairbanks and was able to get a split, losing 3-2 on Friday and winning 5-4 in overtime Saturday.
Despite currently being out of the playoffs, the Wolverines are doing just fine in the race for the Club 49 Cup. Anchorage has 10 points, while the Ice Dogs have nine and the Bears have four.
Both teams have rosters loaded with talent from Alaska, with Anchorage having 10 players from the state, and the Bears having five.
The Wolverines have had no problem putting up goals this season, with 73 putting them seventh in the league. However, Anchorage had given up 86 goals, the second worst total in the league.
Anchorage’s Jackson Reineke and Aiden Westin are tied for fifth in the league in scoring. Reineke has 13 goals and 13 assists, while Westin, who is from Anchorage and committed to Division I University of Alaska Fairbanks, has 11 goals and 15 assists.
Kenai River has scored 70 goals and given up 64, putting the Bears in the middle of the pack in both categories in the 29-team league.
The Bears’ Bryant Marks, who is from Wasilla and committed to Division I University of Alaska Anchorage, is fifth in the league in save percentage at .934 and ninth in goals-against average at 1.97.
A pair of promotions, combined with the Southcentral rivalry, could lead to a busy weekend at the sports complex. Friday, fans get in free with a donation of two-plus food items or a $5 food purchase. Donations go to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and the night is sponsored by Hilcorp.
Saturday, fans get in free with a donation or purchase of a $5 teen gift, with Big John’s serving as the sponsor.