The Kenai River Brown Bears split with the host Fairbanks Ice Dogs in North American Hockey League play Friday and Saturday.
The Bears won 5-3 for their third straight victory Friday before dropping an 8-4 decision Saturday.
With the victory, the Ice Dogs move to 26-13-1-1 and back into first in the Midwest Division. The Brown Bears are still in last in the division at 10-26-3-2. Fairbanks also still leads the Club 49 Cup with 21 points. Anchorage has 17, while the Bears have nine.
Kenai River stays on the road to face the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel on Friday and Saturday at 4 p.m. AKST.
Kenai River was 0-6 against the Ice Dogs coming into Friday. Jan. 14, the Bears had lost to the Dogs 10-1, but Kenai River came back and lost 5-3 the next night in a game interim head coach Taylor Shaw said his team could have won.
“That left a bad taste in our mouth,” Shaw said. “We came back last weekend and won back to back for the first time all year, then our guys went out and played tonight like they had something to prove.”
In the first period, Nolan Cunningham started the scoring for Fairbanks, but Barak Braslavski, assisted by Gramm McCormack and Ryan Finch, had it even by the end of the first. Braslavski got his first goal for the Bears in his fourth game with the team.
The Bears went ahead in the second when their league-leading power play scored. Cole Dubicki got the goal, with Bryce Monrean and Kevin Marx Noren assisting. Dakota MacIntosh evened the score for Fairbanks headed to the third period.
Shaw said Fairbanks pushed hard in the second period, and he called on his team to answer that push.
“If you really want to win you have to have commitment, be passionate and be accountable,” Shaw said. “Winning in this league doesn’t come easy, and winning in Fairbanks is even harder.”
Shaw said the Bears came out fired up in the third period and led 4-2 with 11:46 left in the game. Sean Henry scored on assists from Monrean and Dubicki, and Ryan Finch scored a power-play goal on assists from McCormack and Carter Green.
Kenai River was 2 for 4 on the power play, while Fairbanks was 1 for 2.
With 8:34 left, Brady Welsch scored on the power play for Fairbanks, but Henry iced it with an empty-netter.
Cole Wheaton stopped 23 for the Bears, while Kayden Hargraves stopped 29 for the Ice Dogs.
Saturday, the Ice Dogs got four goals in the first period, with Alexander Malinowski, Jack Ring, Welsch and Cameron Ricotta scoring.
Kenai River got a power-play goal from Dubicki, assisted by Marx Noren and Nick Stevens, and another goal from Finch, assisted by Luke Anderson and McCormack.
In the second, Ricotta and Ring scored to push the Fairbanks lead to 6-2.
Dubicki, assisted by Braslavski, and McCormack, assisted by Braslavski and Finch, scored in the third for the Bears, while Marcus Lund and Hale found the net for Fairbanks.
Dubicki continues to lead the league in points with 55 in 41 games, and he now is on a six-game point streak, with 15 points in those six games.
Tyler Krivtsov had 28 saves for the Ice Dogs, while Tommy Aitken made nine saves on 13 shots for the Bears, and Wheaton stopped 25 on 29 shots in relief.
Brown Bears 5, Ice Dogs 3
Kenai River 1 1 3 —5
Fairbanks 1 1 1 —3
First period — 1. Fairbanks, Cunningham (Ring), 1:04; 2. Kenai River, Braslavski (McCormack), 8:24. Penalties — Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Dubicki (Monrean, Marx Noren), pp, 8:36; 4. Fairbanks, MacIntosh (Lund, Dvorak), 15:07. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Henry (Monrean, Dubicki), 4:29; 6. Kenai River, Finch (McCormack, Green), pp, 8:14; 7. Fairbanks, Welsch (Conrad, Renfrew), pp, 11:26; 8. Kenai River, Henry (un.), en, 18:58. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 12-8-14—34; Fairbanks 10-6-10—26.
Goalies — Kenai River, Wheaton (26 shots, 23 saves); Fairbanks, Hargraves (33 shots, 29 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 2 for 4; Fairbanks 1 for 2.