Kenai River Brown Bears forward Brandon Lajoie (arm raised) celebrates his first-period goal Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, against the Maine Nordiques at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Brandon Lajoie (arm raised) celebrates his first-period goal Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, against the Maine Nordiques at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Brown Bears cap Steel series with victory

The Kenai River Brown Bears finished 1-2 in a three-game series against the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel, finishing the series with a 3-2 win Saturday at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota.

The Bears were playing in Blaine because they are on their way to Alaska for the first time this season. Kenai River hosts the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on April 16 and 17 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

The Bears will have eight games at their Soldotna home before finishing the regular season with a pair of games on the road against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.

Kenai River fans will get a in-person look at the Bears trying to wrap up their first postseason berth since the 2013-14 season. Last season, the Bears were rapidly closing in on a playoff spot when the season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bears currently have the fourth and final playoff spot out of the Midwest Division with a 16-20-1-1 record, good for 34 points. The Steel are chasing that final playoff spot, with a 10-19-2-2 record, good for 24 points.

The Steel will have plenty of opportunities to make up that gap. Not only do the Steel play five more games down the stretch, but they also get three more games against Kenai River.

“It puts some weight on our shoulders to do ourselves a favor if we want to make the playoffs,” Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said.

The coach said he hopes returning home for the first time all season will buoy the efforts.

“Hopefully getting back up there and getting in a more normal routine with a home locker room and home ice will help carry us over the final 10 games of the season,” Murdock said.

Saturday, Laudon Poellinger got the Bears started with a goal in the first period, but the Steel scored in the second so the teams went to the third tied at 1.

With 6:33 left in the game, Lucas Wahlin put the Bears ahead. Wahlin now has eight goals in his last seven games, giving him 14 goals in 37 games this season.

“It was a rebound garbage goal,” Murdock said. “He had to battle through sticks and bodies and took a beating in the process.”

Shayne Tomlinson then put Kenai River up 3-1 with 4:38 to play before Chippewa cut the gap to 3-2 with 2:27 left. The goal, Tomlinson’s first with the Brown Bears, would prove to be the game-winner. The chance was created when Tomlinson’s linemate created a turnover.

“It was a really nice, confident, move, especially considering he hadn’t had a goal in the league,” Murdock said.

Luke Pavicich stopped 22 for the Bears, while Berk Berkeliev saved 22 for the Steel. Murdock said Pavicich bounced back from a few third-period goals Friday the goalie would probably like back.

Friday, Chippewa defeated Kenai River 6-2. The Steel jumped out 2-0 after the first two periods.

Poellinger cut it to 2-1 just 20 seconds into the third period, but Chippewa bumped the advantage to 4-1 with 17:59 left in the game.

Anchorage’s Max Helgeson scored midway through the third period, but the Steel closed out the game with two more goals.

Berkeliev made 22 saves for the Steel, while Pavicich stopped 27 for the Bears.

Friday

Steel 6, Brown Bears 2

Chippewa 1 1 4 —6

Kenai River 0 0 2 —2

First period — 1. Chippewa, Baker (Hansson, Oyler), pp, 11:37. Penalties — Chippewa 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 2. Chippewa, Benz (Kerchoff, Janda), 11:54. Penalties — Chippewa 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Third period — 3. Kenai River, Poellinger (Tomlinson, Helgeson), 0:20; 4. Chippewa, Brown (Oyler), 1:01; 5. Chippewa, Janda (Brown, Hansson), pp, 2:01; 6. Kenai River, Helgeson (Szubert, Dodge), pp, 9:59; 7. Chippewa, Hansson (Kerchoff, Benz), 14:21; 8. Chippewa, Kerchoff (Hansson, Fenton), en, 19:06. Penalties — Chippewa 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Shots on goal — Chippewa 10-11-12—33; Kenai River 7-7-10—24.

Goalies — Chippewa, Berkeliev (24 shots, 22 saves); Kenai River, Pavicich (32 shots, 27 saves).

Saturday

Brown Bears 3, Steel 2

Chippewa 0 1 1 —2

Kenai River 1 0 2 —3

First period — 1. Kenai River, Poellinger (Tomlinson, Helgeson), 15:44. Penalties — Chippewa 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 2. Chippewa, Cox (Benz, Tanos), pp, 13:01. Penalties — Chippewa 1 for 2:00.

Third period — 3. Kenai River, Wahlin (Morgan, McNamara), 13:27; 4. Kenai River, Tomlinson (Poellinger, Helgeson), 15:22; 5. Chippewa, Brown (Baker), 17:33. Penalties — Chippewa 4 for 11:00; Kenai River 3 for 9:00.

Shots on goal — Chippewa 8-7-9—24; Kenai River 9-7-9—25.

Goalies — Chippewa, Berkeliev (25 shots, 22 saves); Kenai River, Pavicich (24 shots, 22 saves).

More in Sports

Soldotna’s Jordan Strausbaugh, Erika Arthur and Ellie Burns prepare for the stretch run in the 800-meter run at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, April 16, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai-Soldotna track results posted

The results from Friday’s track meet between Kenai Central and Soldotna in… Continue reading

tease
Homer wrestlers host Kenai, Nikiski, Grace

Staff report Homer’s wrestling team hosted Kenai Central, Nikiski and Grace Christian… Continue reading

Winnipeg Jets center Nate Thompson (11) during an NHL hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Toronto, Canada. (AP Photo/Peter Power)
Thompson becomes 3rd Alaskan to play in 800 games

By JEFF HELMINIAK Peninsula Clarion Nate Thompson became the third Alaskan to… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Emilee Wilson leads Soldotna's Erika Arthur and Jordan Strausbaugh during the 800-meter run during a dual meet Friday, April 16, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Snow clears just enough for SoHi-Kenai track dual

Sure, the track was limited to five lanes by a ring of… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Karley Harden attacks the Nikiski net Thursday, April 15, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Central soccer sweeps Nikiski

After waiting two years due to the coronavirus pandemic and a few… Continue reading

StoryWalk along the Keen-Eye Trail. (Photo by Michelle Ostrowski/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Read a book, spend time in nature with StoryWalk

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The… Continue reading

Thursday, March 18, 2021, file photo shows syringes filled with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a pop up site in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Tangled Up in Blue: Second dose

A few weeks removed from my second dose of the Moderna COVID-19… Continue reading

Caleb O'Hara works to a major decision of Kenai Central's Talon Whicker at 125 pounds Tuesday, April 13, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Matchups for area wrestlers continue

Kenai Peninsula wrestlers Tuesday continued with a series of meets designed to… Continue reading

Soldotna's Ezekiel Miller controls Kenai Central's Owen Whicker at 130 pounds Friday, April 9, 2021, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Miller won by major decision, 11-1. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Wrestling: SoHi hosts Kenai; Nikiski hosts Seward, Homer

Kenai Peninsula wrestlers continued to compete in unscored dual meets Friday. The… Continue reading

Most Read