Bears go into holiday break with 2-game sweep

The visiting Kenai River Brown Bears went into their holiday break with a 5-1 victory for a two-game sweep of the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel on Friday in North American Hockey League action.

“It was certainly a feel-good moment for our group going into the break,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “It’ll help, for sure.”

For now, the Midwest Division has spaced out a bit and the Bears, at 18-12-1-0, are in second with 37 points, while the Minnesota Wilderness lead with 39 points. The Steel, at 16-12-1-1, are in third with 34, while the Fairbanks Ice Dogs are fourth with 33 points.

Kenai River returns to action Dec. 30 with a 4 p.m. game at the Wisconsin Windigo in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

The Bears were again short-handed, playing with just 11 forwards and six defensemen, when the norm is 12 and 7, or 13 and 6.

Shaw said the players were able to have success with the arrangement because they wanted to seize the new opportunity. Adding incentive was Chippewa taking two of three from the Bears at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex from Oct. 27 to 29. The Bears also were blown out in their last game before the Chippewa series by the Anchorage Wolverines.

The Brown Bears came out and took a 3-0 lead in the first period. Just 3:13 into the game, Ryan Finch scored on an assist from Hunter Newhouse.

With 3:03 left in the period, Kenai’s Parker Lockwood found the back of the net, assisted by Ashton Christman. Then with 1:16 left, Hayden Walters scored on assists from Lockwood and Christman.

After a scoreless second period, Kade Nielson cut it to 3-1 with a short-handed goal just 27 seconds into the third period.

With 6:43 left, Garett Drotts, assisted by Lockwood and Christman, moved the needle to 4-1. Casper Conradsson Kelvgaard then had an empty-netter to provide the final score.

Christman finished with three assists, while Lockwood had a goal and two assists. Shaw said both players used a hard, smart and simple game to get success. He added both players blocked a lot of shots, as did the entire Bears team.

Lockwood had a goal and three assists coming into the game before having his most productive game as an NAHL player.

“I think he’s found a nice rhythm to his game,” Shaw said. “He’s bought into his role. I’m happy for him.”

Nils Wallstrom made 37 saves for the Bears, while Carter Wishart stopped 16 for the Steel.


Brown Bears 5, Steel 1

Kenai River 3 0 2 —5

Chippewa 0 0 1 —1

First period — 1. Kenai River, Finch (Newhouse), 3:13; 2. Kenai River, Lockwood (Christman), 16:57; 3. Kenai River, Walters (Lockwood, Christman), 18:44. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Second period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Chippewa 2 for 4:00.

Third period — 4. Chippewa, Nielsen (un.), sh, 0:27; 5. Kenai River, Drotts (Lockwood, Christman), 13:17; 6. Kenai River, Conradsson Kelvgaard (un.), en, 18:29. Penalties — none.

Shots on goal — Kenai River 10-3-8—21; Chippewa 11-14-13—38.

Goalies — Kenai River, Wallstrom (38 shots, 37 saves); Chippewa, Wishart (20 shots, 16 saves).

Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 2; Chippewa 0 for 2.

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