Sacha Guillemain and Michael Spethmann helped rescue the Kenai River Brown Bears from another weekend sweep at the hands of their rivals Saturday with a 3-2 overtime win over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs at the Big Dipper Arena.
Friday, the Ice Dogs defeated the Brown Bears 6-1, but Guillemain converted on a penalty shot with 3 minutes, 59 seconds, left in Saturday’s contest to force overtime.
Spethmann netted the game-winner just 1:08 into the extra period to secure the North American Hockey League win.
“It’s a big-time win for us, it was two teams that really wanted points tonight,” said Kenai River coach Josh Petrich.
With the win, Kenai River snapped a six-game losing streak, four of those coming against Fairbanks (by a combined score of 24-6 to boot).
Fairbanks leads the NAHL Midwest Division at 15-5-3-2, while Kenai River (9-16-1-0) leapfrogged Coulee Region (Wisconsin) into fifth place in the division.
The Bears also cut into Fairbanks’ Ravn Cup lead, the seasonlong battle between the two teams, slicing the season deficit to 5-2.
“It was a really big deal,” Petrich said. “We talked about it as a team, it’s going to take a team effort, the coaches aren’t going to be the only ones to do it.
“As a family, a group, they got the job done tonight.”
Luke Radetic got Saturday night going with his 16th goal of the year just 1:37 into the game, putting the Bears up first for a second straight night.
But, just like Friday, Fairbanks had an answer as Hunter Wendt poked one in midway through the first.
The Ice Dogs went up 2-1 halfway through the second period on a Daniel Haider goal, but the excitement would ramp up in the dying minutes of the contest.
Fairbanks was charged with handling the puck in the crease after a slew of players crashed the net, which awarded the Brown Bears with a chance to tie it up, and Guillemain did not waste it.
“Sacha was on the ice and wanted it, so we gave it to him,” Petrich said.
In the overtime frame, Petrich said Cam McDonald made a big play by holding the puck long enough for the team’s second set of forwards to make their move. McDonald got the puck to Gil Garcia, who skated into the Fairbanks zone and quickly peeled back to find Spethmann, who slotted home the winning strike.
Bears goaltender Gavin Enright finished the night with 31 saves.
Kenai River assistant coach Nick Sova said Friday’s loss resulted from undisciplined play and missed opportunities.
The Bears got on the board first on a goal by Luke Radetic, assisted by Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik, but then three of the next four goals for the Ice Dogs came on the power play as the home side took control.
“We were pretty undisciplined tonight,” Sova said. “We took some penalties I didn’t think we needed to take and they capitalized on their scoring chances.”
Sova said the Bears failed to convert when given opportunities to get back in the game. Kenai River missed three breakaways and three two-on-ones in the second period.
“We need to go at least 50 percent on those,” Sova said of the great chances. “It’s tough to win games when you’re only scoring a goal.”
Enright made 37 saves for the Bears, while Logan Neaton stopped 18 for the Ice Dogs.
Skylar Gutierrez, a 16-year-old forward from Anchorage, played for the Brown Bears on Friday as an affiliate player. Sova said Gutierrez has a big body and used it well to drive the net and create a few scoring chances.
Editor’s note: Skylar Gutierrez’s hometown has been corrected from a previous version of this story. The Clarion regrets the error.
Ice Dogs 6, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 1 0 0 — 1
Fairbanks 2 2 2 — 6
First period — 1. Kenai River, Radetic (Krajnik), sh, 2:59. 2. Fairbanks, Blueger (Vanska), pp, 3:25; 3. Fairbanks, Blueger (Vanska), 17:05. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 4. Fairbanks, Schachle (Vanska, Stampohar), pp, 4:03; 5. Fairbanks, Ruffin (Wendt, Murray), pp, 10:27. Penalties — Kenai River 5 for 10:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 6. Fairbanks, Wilson (un.), 7:27; 7. Fairbanks, Johnston (Haider), 18:02. Penalties — Kenai River 6 for 33:00; Fairbanks 5 for 21:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 5-9-5—19; Fairbanks 15-14-14—43.
Goalies — Kenai River, Enright (43 shots, 37 saves); Fairbanks, Neaton (19 shots, 18 saves).
Brown Bears 3, Ice Dogs 2
Kenai River 1 0 1 1 —3
Fairbanks 1 1 0 0 —2
First period — 1. Kenai River, Radetic (Posner, Spethmann), 1:37; 2. Fairbanks, Wendt (Willets, Schachle), 6:29. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Fairbanks, Haider (Wendt, Mayhew), 7:53. Penalties — none.
Third period – 4. Kenai River, Guillemain (none), PS, 16:01. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 5. Kenai River, Spethmann (Garcia, Scahill), 1:08. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 5-8-8-2—23; Fairbanks 13-12-8-0—33.
Goalies — Kenai River, Enright (33 shots, 31 saves); Fairbanks, Benson (23 shots, 20 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 0; Fairbanks 0 for 3.