The Kenai River Brown Bears are glad to be coming home.
The Brown Bears were swept Friday and Saturday by the host Bismarck (North Dakota) Bobcats in North American Hockey League play. The Bears lost 3-2 on Friday in front of 801 and 4-3 on Saturday in front of 850.
The Bears end their 10-game, season-opening road trip at 4-6-0-0 and sit in fifth place in the Midwest Division, while Bismarck is at 5-5-0-0 and third in the Central Division.
“I’m done with this road trip,” Kenai River head coach Josh Petrich said. “I can’t wait to get home Tuesday and back to work Wednesday.”
After the Bears nearly folded at the end of last season, the home opener 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex promises to have extra energy. But awaiting the Brown Bears will be the Shreveport (Louisiana) Mudbugs, who sit atop the South Division with a 9-3-0-0 record.
“If we play like we did this weekend, it will not be pretty,” Petrich said.
The coach said Bismarck is a high-pressure, hard-working team, and the Bobcats outworked the Brown Bears.
“It was a great lesson,” Petrich said. “If you get outworked on the road, or at home, you can’t expect to win games.”
Saturday, Tanner Breidenbach scored with just 1 minute, 9 seconds, remaining to break a 3-3 tie. Before the game-winner, Kenai’s league-leading power play had a five-on-three in the third period, but wasn’t able to score. The Bears were 0 for 5 on the power play.
After Zach Van Sant put Bismarck up in the first period, Michael Spethmann and David Kaplan had the Bears up 2-1 by the close of the first.
But goals by Breidenbach and Noah Bormann had Bismarck up 3-2 in the second. But with 1:07 left in the second, Kenai Central product Ross Hanson tied things up.
Gavin Enright had 22 saves for the Bears, while Vladimir Cibulka stopped 31 for the Bobcats.
Friday, Matej Murin and Jared Resseguie were the two major thorns in the side of the Bears. Murin had a hat trick, while Resseguie had three assists.
Murin had goals late in the first period and early in the second period before Kenai River’s league-leading power play struck again. Gil Garcia scored his league-leading eighth goal on assists from Sacha Guillemain and Eagle River’s Cameron McDonald. The Bears lead the league with 16 power-play goals.
But Murin came right back with a goal before the close of the second period for a 3-1 lead. Spethmann scored unassisted with 16 minutes, 17 seconds, left in the game, but Kenai River could not find the equalizer.
Artur Pavliukov had 20 saves on 23 shots for the Bears, while Gavin Enright stopped all 11 shots he saw in relief. Ryan Ullan had 30 saves for Bismarck.
“It was two pretty good games for the fans and I think we are just as good as them,” Petrich said. “It hurts not getting points. I’m looking forward to 13 games in front of the best fans and community in the league. I can’t wait.”
Brown Bears 3, Bobcats 2
Kenai River 0 1 1 — 2
Bismarck 1 2 0 — 3
First period — 1. Bismarck, Murin (Resseguie), 18:18. Penalties — none.
Second period — 2. Bismarck, Murin (Mahan, Resseguie), 0:41; 2. Kenai River, Garcia (Guillemain, C. McDonald), pp, 10:38; 3. Bismarck, Murin (Resseguie), 15:59. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Bismarck 3 for 14:00.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Spethmann (un.), 3:43. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Bismarck 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 8-11-13—32; Bismarck 10-13-11—34.
Goalies — Kenai River, Pavliukov (23 shots, 20 saves), Enright (11 shots, 11 saves); Bismarck, Ullan (32 shots, 30 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 3; Bismarck 0 for 4.
Bobcats 4, Brown Bears 3
Kenai River 2 1 0 — 3
Bismarck 1 2 1 — 4
First period — 1. Bismarck, Van Sant (un.), 1:51; 2. Kenai River, Spethmann (un.), 4:58; 3. Kenai River, Kaplan (Hanson, Griebenow), 11:07. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 29:00; Bismarck 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 4. Bismarck, Breidenbach (Johnson), pp, 1:44; 5. Bismarck, Bormann (Millen), 18:28; 6. Kenai River, Hanson (Kaplan, Griebenow), 18:53. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 22:00; Bismarck 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 7. Bismarck, Breidenbach (Millen), 18:51. Penalties — Bismarck 2 for 7:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 14-11-9—34; Bismarck 7-12-7—26.
Goalies — Kenai River, Enright (26 shots, 22 saves); Bismarck, Cibulka (34 shots, 31 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 5; Bismarck 1 for 3.