The Kenai River Brown Bears topped the Minnesota Magicians 5-1 on Saturday in Richfield, Minnesota, to earn a weekend split.
The Bears move to 3-5 in the North American Hockey League, good for third place in the Midwest Division. The Magicians, at 4-2, are in second place.
Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant thought it was a big victory for his team to cap a 2-4 road trip. The next six games for the Bears are in Soldotna.
“It’s a big win going into a three-week homestand with a bye week,” Beauparlant said. “It goes a long way in getting things off on the right foot.”
Defenseman Tyler Andrews, who leads the Brown Bears with nine points, got the lone goal of the first period on assists from Maurin Bouvet and Matt Rudin.
Beauparlant said Andrews and Gustav Berglund, who had a pair of assists, continue to do a good job leading the team.
In the second period, Jack Murphy, on an assist from
Danny O’Donnell, and Tanner Schachle, on assists from Jack Gessert and Jacob Gerson, put the Bears up 3-0.
Murphy, who played for the Magicians last season but was not protected, got credit for the game-winner.
With 7:01 in the second, Brandon Loven scored for the Magicians for a 3-1 game.
“I think we played a complete hockey game from the net on out,” Beauparlant said. “That was for 50 to 55 minutes. There was a six- to seven-minute stretch when it was 3-1 where we kid of got on our heels, but we weathered the storm.
“That gave us the confidence going into the third to close the game out.”
Gessert had a pair of goals in the third period, with Berglund getting a pair of assists and Jack Nickels and Rudin adding assists.
“I liked how Jack (Gessert) competed around the net to finish,” Beauparlant said. “He scored a big power-play goal to make it 4-1.”
The coach also was happy with the debut of goaltender Josh Creelman, who had 32 saves to the 24 of Minnesota netminder Vaughan Ahrens.
“I think he made the saves he needed to make,” Beauparlant said of Creelman. “He made two really spectacular saves post to post.”
Beauparlant also was happy with the way the penalty kill bounced back, keeping the Magicians scoreless in three tries after Minnesota went 2 for 3 Friday.
The Bears lost a special teams special Friday night.
In a game that featured ties at 1, 2, 3 and 4, plus four power-play goals and three short-handed goals, the Magicians notched a 6-4 victory.
“It was just the nature of the game,” Beauparlant said of all the strikes on special teams. “It was up and down, and an exciting hockey game.
“When you have both teams wrapped up in that, that’s when those opportunities present themselves.”
Things started innocently enough Friday, with a Loven goal giving Minnesota a 1-0 lead after the first period.
Then came a back-and-forth second period when seven goals were scored, six on special teams.
After Bouvet tied the game at 1 on a short-handed goal, Tony Uglem came right back on the power play for a 2-1 lead.
Sam Carlson, assisted by Berglund and Andrews, tied it at 2 on the power play, but Jack Christensen scored short-handed for a 3-2 lead.
Gessert, assisted by Berglund and Andrews, tied it at 3, but Kane Durment scored at even strength for a 4-3 lead.
Andrews then scored short-handed, assisted by Christopher Usov and Bouvet, for a 4-4 game headed into the final period.
“We had the opportunity for a few more in the second period, but then again they had opportunities too,” Beauparlant said.
The Bears outshot the Magicians 15-11 in the final frame, but a power-play goal by Marc Michaelis and an even-strength strike from Durment proved to be the difference.
“We didn’t manage the puck well, and that led to a penalty and the fifth goal,” Beauparlant said. “Once they were up a goal, we didn’t do a good job staying with the game plan.”
Zach Quinn had 26 saves for the Bears, while Ahrens had 41 for the Magicians.
“Quinn wasn’t sharp and it cost us a bit,” Beauparlant said.
Kenai River was 2 for 6 on the power play, while Minnesota was 2 for 3. Beauparlant said Andrews and Berglund were solid on defense, while Carlson and Bouvet earned plaudits on offense.
Notes: With the Tier I United States Hockey League trimming down its rosters, the Bears have added several players.
Creelman has been added, while Sean Healy has been released. Also, Gessert and Nathan Colwell have returned to the team after being cut by USHL squads.
Making the final cut in the USHL is Kenai Central product Zack Zulkanycz, who will play for the Dubuque (Iowa) Fighting Saints.
The Bears have to be down to 23 players by Oct. 1.
“It’s going to be a difficult decision,” Beauparlant said. “A lot of players put themselves in the forefront tonight.”
Also, Kenai River forward and Wasilla product Schachle is on the NHL Central Scouting “C” list, meaning he is thought to be a fourth-, fifth- or sixth-round possibility in this summer’s NHL draft.
Magicians 6, Brown Bears 4
Kenai River 0 4 0 —4
Minnesota 1 3 2 —6
First period — 1. Minnesota, Loven (Christensen, Durment), 11:43. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 8:00; Minnesota 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Bouvet (un.), sh, 1:45; 3. Minnesota, Uglem (Becker, Colford), pp, 3:22; 4. Kenai River, Carlson (Berglund, Andrews), pp, 4:48; 5. Minnesota, Christensen (Brierly), sh, 11:44; 6. Kenai River, Gessert (Berglund, Andrews), pp, 14:05; 7. Minnesota, Durment (Colford, Uglem), 15:21; 8. Kenai River, Andrews (Usov, Bouvet), sh, 15:49. Penalties — Minnesota 4 for 8:00.
Third period — 9. Minnesota, Michaelis (Becker), pp, 7:43; 10. Minnesota, Durment (Michaelis, Delaney), 14:07. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-21-15—45; Minnesota 9-12-11—32.
Goalies — Kenai River, Quinn (32 shots, 26 saves); Minnesota (45 shots, 41 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 2 for 6; Minnesota 2 for 3.
Brown Bears 5, Magicians 1
Kenai River 1 2 2 —5
Minnesota 0 1 0 —1
First period — 1. Kenai River, Andrews (Bouvet, Rudin), 15:52. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2; Minnesota 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Murphy (O’Donnell), 2:35; 3. Kenai River, Schachle (Gerson, Gessert), 4:19; 4. Minnesota, Loven (Heppner, O’Brien), 12:59. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Gessert (Berglund, Nickels), sh, 13:37; 6. Kenai River, Gessert (Rudin, Berglund), 16:05. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Minnesota 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-9-11—29; Minnesota 11-13-9—33.
Goalies — Kenai River, Creelman (33 shots, 32 saves); Minnesota, Ahrens (29 shots, 24 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 4, Minnesota 0 for 3.