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Bears, Steel to face off in 3-game series

The Kenai River Brown Bears host the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel today, Friday and Saturday in North American Hockey League action at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. today and at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The Brown Bears sit at first place in the Midwest Division with an 11-4-1-0 record, while the Steel are in fourth place at 9-6-0-0. The teams will be matching up for the first time this season.

Kenai River comes into the series fresh off a two-game sweep of the Wisconsin Windigo at the sports complex, giving the Bears six wins in their last eight games.

The Steel started their trip to Alaska last weekend in Fairbanks, losing 5-0 on Friday before claiming a 5-2 Saturday victory. The Ice Dogs are tied for second in the Midwest Division with the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets. The Steel have also had success this season against Janesville, winning three times in four tries.

Kenai River has scored 49 goals and given up 39 goals in 16 games this season, while the Steel have scored 49 and yielded 36 in 15 games.

The Bears have two players near the top of the league scoring totals. Anchorage’s Bryce Monrean, who is committed to play Division I hockey at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is tied for sixth in the league with 16 points, coming on seven goals and eight assists. Ryan Finch is tied for 12th in the league with 14 points coming on eight goals and six assists.

For the Steel, Kade Nielsen, who will play Division I hockey at Minnesota State University, is tied for fourth in the league with 17 points coming on 12 goals and five assists. Nielsen’s 12 goals are tied for the league lead. Matthew Brille, who will play Division I hockey at Brown University, is tied for sixth in the league with 16 points, coming on six goals and 10 assists.

The teams also boast strong goaltending. Kenai River’s Bryant Marks, a Wasilla product who will play Division I hockey at the University of Alaska Anchorage, is fifth in the league with a 1.80 goals-against average and third in the league with a .942 save percentage.

Also for the Bears, Nils Wallstrom is tied for 13th in the league with a .927 save percentage and has already won the Midwest Division Star of the Week twice.

For Chippewa, Carter Wishart, 17, is tied for 16th in the league in save percentage at .924 and is 14th in goals against at 2.17. Also tending net for the Steel is Adam Gajan of Poprad, Slovakia. Gajan is one of six current NAHL players named this week on the National Hockey League’s “Prospects to Watch” list.

These will be games five, six and seven of a 15-game homestand for the Bears, by far the season’s longest.

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