The Kenai River Brown Bears finished the North American Hockey League Showcase at 0-3-1 with a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wilderness on Saturday in Blaine, Minnesota.
While not happy with the losses, Bears coach Jeff Worlton saw plenty of positives in the tournament, saying his squad was competitive in each game.
“We decided to go young and there are some growing pains,” he said. “But we are getting better.”
The Wilderness took a 2-0 lead on goals by Tim Nicksic and Connor Koviak. But with 14:29 left in the second period, Connor Inger scored for the Bears on the power play, assisted by Chad Lopez.
“It was a good shot. He beat the goalie clean,” Worlton said. “Our power play is coming together. We’re skilled enough to have success on the power play.”
Chase Sriprijittichai, assisted by Tanner Dufault, tied the game just 10 seconds into the third period. Worlton said that was another quick release that beat the goalie cleanly.
But with 11:23 to play, Worlton said a young defenseman misread the play, leading to a breakaway that Nicksic converted.
Worlton said goalie Bailey Seagraves was good on the play, but the puck rolled in off his shoulder. Seagraves made 27 saves, while Luke Kania had 39 for the Wilderness.
Friday, the Bears lost 5-2 loss to the Shreveport (Louisiana) Mudbugs.
The Mudbugs (2-1-0) scored three unanswered goals in the second half of the second period to take command of the game.
The Bears got on the board first when Evan Butcher, assisted by Alex Dingeldien and Sviataslau Kuchynski, scored 5 minutes, 2 seconds, into the game.
“Evan Butcher made a great individual play,” Worlton said. “He took it to the net and got a goal.
“He went in a hard area, paid the price and got rewarded.”
Steven Mather and former Brown Bears player Cameron Cook scored goals before the first period was out for a 2-1 Mudbugs lead. With 9:40 gone in the second period, Inger, assisted by Jonathan Marzec and Jordan Hank, racked a power-play goal for the Bears.
“It was a great effort by the three of them,” Worlton said. “It was a back-door goal and a timely goal to get us back into it.”
But the coach said bad penalties by the Bears quickly took Kenai River out of the game, as Frankie Melton scored twice on the power play and Erik Zohovs added another power-play tally before the end of the second period.
“We’ve only been skating 2 1/2 to 3 weeks, and we’ve got to improve on it, there’s no excuse,” Worlton said of the penalty kill. “But when you take three bad penalties, it’s karma. That’s how it works. It comes back to bite you in the butt.”
Connor Poczos made 40 saves for the Bears, while Cooper Seedott had 34 for the Mudbugs.
Worlton also announced Friday that Kyle Martin has been traded to the Northeast Generals of Attleboro, Massachusetts, for a third-round pick in the next NAHL draft.
The Bears play their home opener Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex against the New Jersey Titans.
Mudbugs 5, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 1 1 0 —2
Shreveport 2 3 0 —5
First period — 1. Butcher (Dingeldien, Kuchynski), 5:02; 2. Shreveport, Cook (Hallford, Procopio), 10:08; 3. Shreveport, Mather (Zeile), pp, 17:06. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00, Shreveport 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 4. Kenai River, Inger (Marzec, Hank), pp, 9:40; 5. Shreveport, Melton (Zohovs, Feduolov), pp, 10:33; 6. Shreveport, Melton (Feduolov), pp, 12:17; 7. Shreveport, Zohovs (Procopio, Evingson), pp, 18:36. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Shreveport 1 for 2:00.
Third period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Shreveport 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-18-9—36; Shreveport 19-17-9—45.
Goalies — Kenai River, Poczos (45 shots, 40 saves); Shreveport, Seedott (36 shots, 34 saves).
Wilderness 3, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 0 1 1 —2
Minnesota 1 1 1 —3
First period — 1. Minnesota, Nicksic (Esbjors), 4:07.
Second period — 2. Minnesota, Koviak (Olczyk), sh, 3:55; 3. Kenai River, Inger (Lopez), pp, 5:41.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Sriprijittichai (Dufault), 0:10; 5. Minnesota, Nicksic (Rostagno).
Shots on goal — Kenai River 13-14-14—41; Minnesota 6-12-8—26.
Goalies — Kenai River, Seagraves (26 shots, 23 saves); Minnesota, Kania (41 shots, 39 saves).