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Bears top Jr. Blues as Ebbott notches hat trick

The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues 4-2 on Thursday in North American Hockey League play at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Jackson Ebbott had a hat trick, and Dylan Contreras had three assists, for the Bears as they improved to 2-3 on the current homestand. The Jr. Blues had a four-game winning streak come to an end.

The same two teams play at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the sports complex.

The Bears, a 7-7-1-0, move into a tie at 15 points for fourth place in the Midwest Division with the Wisconsin Windigo.

The Minnesota Wilderness lead the division with 18, while the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets have 18 and the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel have 16.

Below the Bears and Windigo, the Anchorage Wolverines have 14, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have 12 and the Jr. Blues (4-9-2) have 10.

Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said it was nice to bounce back from a 5-0 loss to the Windigo on Saturday.

Conor Sullivan had 10 saves for the Bears, while JJ Cataldo stopped 23 for the Jr. Blues.

“I thought top to bottom it was a step in the right direction,” Shaw said. “The players played well and Sully made the big-time saves when we needed them.”

Ebbott scored twice in the first period, once on the power play on assists from Roope Tuomioksa and Contreras, and once on assists from Joe Manning and Contreras. The Bears led 2-0 headed to the second period.

Drew Berres got Springfield on the board with a power-play goal in the second, but the Bears had a 4-1 lead headed to the third.

Ebbott completed his hat trick on the power play on assists from Tuomioksa and Contreras, and Carter Gillen scored on assists from Owen Hanson and Andy Larson.

Shaw said the Bears are looking for big things from Ebbott, who is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds.

“He’s a very smart two-way center with a good frame,” Shaw said. “He’s very smart defensively with the added bonus of a good shot.”

Springfield’s Anthony Ruklic scored on the power play in the third period. Shaw said the Bears did not do a good enough job getting pucks out of the zone on the penalty kill.

The coach has been looking for consistency all season from the Bears. Friday and Saturday will be a chance to take steps in that direction.

“Tonight no longer matters,” Shaw said. “It’s all about tomorrow night. We’ll see what we’re made of when tomorrow comes.”

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