The Kenai River Brown Bears conjured up some more late-game magic Thursday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to move one point out of the North American Hockey League playoffs.
Hunter Newhouse scored with 31 seconds left to give the Brown Bears a 3-2 victory over the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets. This was after Carson Triggs scored with seven seconds left in overtime Saturday to defeat the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
“Every point matters for our group right now,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “We’re in the hunt in the big picture, but we’re focused day to day.
“Janesville’s a very skilled team that can really get up and go, and transition. We didn’t have our A-plus game, but we fought through it and gutted out a win. That’s playoff hockey.”
Kenai River (23-20-2-1) moves to fifth place in the Midwest Division with 49 points. The Jets (21-17-4-4) still are in position for the fourth playoff spot out of the Midwest with 50 points.
The Wisconsin Windigo are in first with 55, while Fairbanks and the Minnesota Wilderness have 53. The Anchorage Wolverines are in sixth with 48, while the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel are in seventh with 46.
The Jets stay in town to face the Brown Bears tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Shaw said Jack Anderson shot a puck wide and it bounced in off Newhouse for the game-winner. Bryce Monrean also assisted on the play.
“Right place, right time,” Shaw said.
Mack Keryluk gave Janesville a 1-0 lead after the first period, while Garett Drotts, assisted by Monrean, tied it headed to the third.
“It was a methodical game,” Shaw said. “There was not a lot of excitement, to be truthful, until the end. It was very exciting at the end.”
Shaw said he challenged the team to find another gear at the start of the third period and the Bears responded 3:40 into the period. Ben Monson scored on assists from Ryan Finch and Kotaro Tsutsumi.
Kenai River then found penalty trouble, fighting out of a five-on-three only to get scored on during the five-on-four. Grayden Daul had the power-play goal.
Nils Wallstrom saved 25 for the Bears, while Peter Sterling stopped 28 for the Jets.
Janesville had just played Tuesday in Fairbanks.
“Everybody is banged up and they’ve certainly had a long week,” Shaw said of the Jets. “They’re in the hunt and they need these games just as much as everybody else.”
Brown Bears 3, Jets 2
Janesville 1 0 1 —2
Kenai River 0 1 2 —3
First period — 1. Janesville, Keryluk (Wagener, Lundberg), 14:28. Penalties — Janesville 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Drotts (Monrean), 16:01. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 3. Kenai River, Monson (Finch, Tsutsumi), 3:40; 4. Janesville, Daul (Portillo, Orrico), pp, 8:17; 5. Kenai River, Newhouse (J. Anderson, Monrean). Penalties — Janesville 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Janesville 8-11-8—27; Kenai River 12-10-9—31.
Goalies — Janesville, Sterling (31 shots, 28 saves); Kenai River, Wallstrom (27 shots, 25 saves).
Power plays — Janesville 1 for 2; Kenai River 0 for 3.