Bears topple Ice Dogs, move into sole possession of 4th place

The Kenai River Brown Bears moved into sole possession of the fourth playoff spot in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division with a 4-2 victory over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

“It’s a big win for us for many reasons, moving into sole possession of fourth place being the primary one,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “To take three of four points from the best team in the league right now is not an easy task.”

The Bears (28-22-8) picked up their 64th point with the victory, moving them ahead of the 62 points of the Coulee Region (Wis.) Chill. Kenai River has two games left, while Coulee Region has three games left.

The Bears also are one point behind third-place Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild. The Wild also have two games remaining.

The Bears improved to 3-11 this season against the Ice Dogs, and also finished 1-7 against the Dogs at the sports complex.

Fairbanks (43-14-1) saw a six-game winning streak snapped, and also a string of 13 games with at least a point.

Beauparlant said it was one of the team’s better weekends of hockey all season.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve peaked,” he said. “We’re just starting to figure it out as far as the major consistencies. That’s a positive sign if things work out and we get to keep playing after next weekend.”

Kenai River got the Saturday victory in front of 1,139 by starting fast and holding on in the third period.

Adam Kresl, playing in just his second game with the team after coming from the Salt Lake City Moose of the Western States Hockey League, scored 6:47 into the contest on assists from Gustav Berglund and Kenai Central product Zack Zulkanycz, who would finish the night with three assists.

With 5:49 left in the first period, Sebastian Fuchs scored on the power play, assisted by Alec Butcher and Frankie Spellman.

Fuchs has eight points in his last six games, while Butcher, the league’s leading scorer, has nine in his last six.

Kresl, who had 27 goals and 16 assists in 41 games for the Moose, struck again with 5:23 left, assisted by Zulkanycz and Jacob Wolter.

Beauparlant said Kresl got both his goals by going hard to the net, and credited linemates Zulkanycz and Wolter with getting the puck to the net for him.

“He fits in well,” Beauparlant said. “He plays the style we want to play. He’s worked hard and taken the opportunity and run with it.”

After a scoreless second period, Fairbanks had the lead down to 3-2 with 8:34 left in the third period on power-play goals from Tayler Munson and Brett Gervais, but Tyler Andrews, assisted by Zulkanycz and Spellman, scored on the empty net to ice the game.

“We got a little hesitant in the third period and allowed them to re-enter the game and grab a couple of goals,” Beauparlant said. “That’s what good teams do, but good teams also find a way to get it done at the end, and that’s what we did.”

Kris Oldham shut the door in net.

“He’s finding a way to win games in this league, and that’s not easy to do,” Beauparlant said. “Every time he’s been in a difficult situation he’s risen to the occasion, and that’s the sign of a strong, young goaltender.”

Beauparlant said RJ Salvato had his best game since arriving in a trade in early February. He said players like Matt Rudin, Jack Gessert and Tommy Dierl contributed to the total team effort.

The coach also added that Butcher came out of the game due to a precautionary measure after blocking a shot, and that he should be fine.

“The fan support was great this weekend,” Beauparlant said. “We had about 900 on Friday and close to 1,200 tonight. It’s been great all year and we can’t thank them enough for their support.”

On Friday, the Bears lost to the Ice Dogs 3-2 in a shootout in front of 898 fans.

“The effort, execution and focus was there the entire game,” Beauparlant said. “We had opportunities to win the game.

“We can’t look at it as a point lost. We have to look at it as a point earned.”

With the win, the Ice Dogs clinched the top overall seed in the Robertson Cup playoffs.

Due to a change in playoff format this year, the Ice Dogs have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Under the previous format, the Robertson Cup finals were held at a neutral site.

“Every game is the next most important game, but when the playoff format came out that was something we definitely set our sights on,” Ice Dogs coach Trevor Stewart said. “In our opinion, there is no better place to play than the Big Dipper.

“It’s a good incentive to keep playing.”

Two major reasons the Ice Dogs finish on top in the regular season were on display Friday — beating the Brown Bears and winning shootouts.

Fairbanks moved to 11-1-1 against Kenai River this year after the Friday win. The Ice Dogs also have won all six of their shootouts.

Goalie Kevin Aldridge, Friday’s winner, has triumphed in four of those shootouts.

The Bears fell to 4-5 in shootouts.

The last time the teams met before Friday, Fairbanks hung a 7-1 defeat on the Brown Bears in Fairbanks, but the Bears kept the Dogs from revving up the league’s top offense Friday. Both coaches called the chances about even.

Fairbanks struck first midway through the first period when Viktor Liljegren found Todd Burgess wide open in the slot.

But the Bears came back with two goals in 2 minutes, 11 seconds, to take the lead.

With just 13 seconds left in the first period, Judd Loewenstein made a nice play to find Butcher streaking up the side.

Butcher beat a man at the blue line and found Fuchs in front, who dumped the puck to Albin Karlsson for a goal.

Then early in the second, Butcher threw the puck in front and Vince Stefan was able to carve out a goal. Fuchs also got an assist.

But Fairbanks tied the game with 12:24 left in the second when a Doug Rose shot from the point found its way through two defenders and into the net.

“It bounced in off a skate,” Beauparlant said. “It was just bad luck.”

The Ice Dogs amped up the attack at the end of the second, but goalie Zach Quinn, who had 34 saves, had the answer. Quinn also was tested in the opening minute of the third, when he stopped a Munson breakaway.

“Munson made a move and Quinn stayed with him,” Beauparlant said. “That was huge because it kept things from going sour right away.”

In the shootout, Aldridge stopped all five Kenai River shooters, while the Ice Dogs solved Quinn on the fifth attempt, when Liljegren beat him with a forehand on the stick side.

Kenai River closes the regular season with games Friday and Saturday in Fairbanks, where the Dogs are 22-5-1 this season. One of the regulation losses and the overtime loss came to the Bears.

“We’ll be ready and I’m sure they’ll be ready,” Beauparlant said. “Our focus is getting two points Friday.”

Today, the Bears will hold their Feed the Bears dinner at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex from 4 to 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the Bears’ Den, or by calling the office at 262-7825.

 

Friday

Ice Dogs 3, Brown Bears 2, SO

Fairbanks 1 1 0 0 1 —3

Kenai River 1 1 0 0 0 —2

First period — 1. Fairbanks, Burgess (Liljegren, Munson), 9:34; 2. Kenai River, Karlsson (Butcher, Fuchs), 19:47. Penalties — Fairbanks 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 3. Kenai River, Stefan (Butcher, Fuchs), 1:58; 4. Fairbanks, Rose (Gervais, Wolter), pp, 7:36. Penalties — Fairbanks 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Third period — none. Penalties — Fairbanks 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Overtime — none. Penalties — none.

Shootout — Fairbanks 1 (Munson NG, Burgess NG, Lee NG, Olsson NG, Liljegren G); Kenai River 0 (Berglund NG, Karlsson NG, Fuchs NG, Butcher NG, Wolter NG).

Shots on goal — Fairbanks 12-14-8-2—36; Kenai River 10-11-5-1—27.

Goalies — Fairbanks, Aldridge (27 shots, 25 saves); Kenai River, Quinn (36 shots, 34 saves).

Power plays — Fairbanks 1 for 3; Kenai River 0 for 3.

Saturday

Brown Bears 4, Ice Dogs 2

Fairbanks 0 0 2 —2

Kenai River 3 0 1 —4

First period — 1. Kenai River, Kresl (Berglund, Zulkanycz), 6:47; 2. Kenai River, Fuchs (Butcher, Spellman), 14:11; 3. Kenai River, Kresl (Zulkanycz, Wolter), 14:37. Penalties — Fairbanks 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.

Second period — none. Penalties — Fairbanks 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 4 for 19:00.

Third period — 4. Fairbanks, Munson (Liljegren, Lagrone), pp, 0:42; 5. Fairbanks, Gervais (Rose, Lagrone), pp, 11:26; 6. Kenai River, Andrews (Zulkanycz, Spellman), en, 18:56. Penalties — Fairbanks 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.

Shots on goal — Fairbanks 11-13-9—33; Kenai River 16-9-5—30.

Goalies — Fairbanks, Munson (29 shots, 26 saves); Kenai River, Oldham (33 shots, 31 saves).

Power plays — Fairbanks 2 for 8; Kenai River 1 for 3.

More in Sports

Homer senior Madison Story swims the breaststroke in the girls 200-yard IM on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 during the Kenai Peninsula Swimming Championships at the Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer’s Story stars at state club meet

Homer senior Madison Story won two individual titles Saturday at the Alaska… Continue reading

Moose are seen eating on the shoulder of Kenai Spur Highway on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of the Office: Into the office

An ode to Kenai Spur Highway

A snowshoe hare in its white winter coat. (Photo by Colin Canterbury/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)
Refuge Notebook: The verge of winter

As the daylight hours seem to slip away, the temperatures are slowly… Continue reading

Soldotna High School head football coach Galen Brantley Jr. poses with former players Galen Brantley III and Aaron Faletoi. Brantley III and Faletoi helped Dickinson State in Dickinson, South Dakota, to an undefeated regular season. (Photo provided by Galen Brantley Jr.)
Brantley III, Faletoi help Dickinson State to undefeated regular season

Galen Brantley III and Aaron Faletoi, 2020 graduates of Soldotna High School,… Continue reading

Seward’s Lydia Jacoby races to victory in the girls 100-yard breaststroke final Oct. 27, 2018, at the Northern Lights Conference championship swim meet at Homer High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward’s Jacoby takes 2nd at national swim meet

Seward junior Lydia Jacoby, just 16, finished second in the 100-meter breaststroke… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Theo Thrun brings the puck up the ice on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, against the Minnesota Magicians at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears split weekend games with Steel

The Kenai River Brown Bears split a pair of North American Hockey… Continue reading

Kenai’s Rachael Pitsch swims the girls 500-yard freestyle on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 during the Kenai Peninsula Swimming Championships at the Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer girls, Kenai boys win swim meet

In their last competitive event of the season, the Homer girls swim… Continue reading

tease
CIA volleyball splits matches at Lumen

Staff report The Cook Inlet Academy volleyball team finished up its regular… Continue reading

wrestle
Ninilchik grad Vanderford moves to 10-0 in MMA

Austin Vanderford, a 2008 graduate of Ninilchik School, moved to 10-0 in… Continue reading

The author is seen here skiing a little easier at Trail Lake near Seward. (Photo provided by Kat Sorensen)
Tangled Up in Blue: Grooming the trail

During my first winter spent cross-country skiing in Soldotna, I often found… Continue reading

Basic Incident Command System organization chart. The ICS system has been used for many different types of incidents since its inception. (Chart from Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Refuge Notebook: Incident Command System adapts to record-setting wildfires

The August Complex Fire of 2020 on the Mendocino National Forest in… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Brandon Lajoie pulls up against the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears topple Steel again

The Kenai River Brown Bears moved to 2-0-0-0 in the North American… Continue reading