The Kenai River Brown Bears won their fifth straight game, topping the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues 4-1 on Thursday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Bears move to 12-5-1-2 and into a tie for first place in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Springfield falls to 7-10-2-1 and remains tied for fourth place in the division.
The same two teams play at 7:30 p.m. at the sports complex on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Kenai River goalie Landon Pavlisin, who had 30 saves, was able to steer the Bears through a slow start. Springfield outshot Kenai River 14-8 in the first frame.
But the Bears went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal from Soldotna’s Preston Weeks with 3:43 left in the period. Cody Moline and Wasilla’s Porter Schachle had the assists.
From there, special teams played a big difference in the game. Just 2:30 into the second, Logan Ritchie scored short-handed for a 2-0 lead. Schachle, assisted by Peter Morgan and Moline, made it 3-0 a few minutes later.
Then, just 14 seconds into the third period, Max Helgeson, assisted by Michael Spinner and Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik, made it 4-0 with a power-play goal.
Caden Villegas had Springfield’s lone goal of the night just 17 seconds later.
Ryan Wilson made 25 saves for Springfield.
Brown Bears 4, Jr. Blues 1
Springfield 0 0 1— 1
Kenai River 1 2 1 — 4
First period — 1. Kenai River, Weeks (Moline, Schachle), 16:17. Penalties — none.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Ritchie (un.), sh, 2:30; 3. Kenai River, Schachle (Morgan, Moline), 4:20. Penalties — Springfield 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Helgeson (Spinner, Krajnik), pp, 0:14. 5. Springfield, Villegas (Marino, Swanson), 0:31. Penalties — Springfield 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Springfield 14-8-9—31; Kenai River 8-10-11—29.
Goalies — Springfield, Wilson (29 shots, 25 saves); Kenai River, Pavlisin (31 shots, 30 saves).
Power plays — Springfield 0 for 5; Kenai River 1 for 2.