Brown Bears claw back to .500

  • By Staff Report
  • Sunday, October 1, 2017 12:28am
  • Sports

After starting the season 0-3, the Kenai River Brown Bears stormed back to .500 on the season with a sweep of the host Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues on Friday and Saturday in North American Hockey League play.

The Bears won 2-1 in a shootout Friday and 8-3 Saturday.

“I always tell the guys a good team knows how to close out games,” Kenai River head coach Josh Petrich said Friday. “It’s important to get that extra point on the road.”

The Bears are now 3-3-0-0 and sit in fourth in the Midwest Division, while Springfield, at 3-3-0-1, is in third. The Bears stay on the road for games at the Minot (North Dakota) Minotauros on Friday and Saturday.

Saturday, the Bears carried a 4-3 lead into the final period, then erupted for four goals in the final 20 minutes, including three on the power play.

“The word we’ve got to use right now is culture — the culture right now is very positive,” Petrich said. “It’s a really close-knit group of guys in the locker room. They all enjoy being around each other.”

The coach said Saturday was a complete effort, with all four lines, all six defensemen and goalie Artur Pavliukov playing well. The coach said David Kaplan and Kenai Central product Ross Hanson notching goals shows how complete the effort was.

After Kaplan started the scoring in the first, Springfield came back with two goals, but Luke Posner got the Bears even headed to the second period.

Eagle River’s Sutton McDonald and Posner put the Bears ahead 4-2 before Springfield cut it to 4-3.

“We’re never satisfied,” Petrich said. “I thought they were the better team the first half of the game, but we had the lead.”

Petrich said the game turned when Springfield took a five-minute major in the third and Gil Garcia and Luke Radetic scored to make it 6-3, plus the penalty allowed the Bears to drain time off the clock. Radetic would score another power play goal, with Hanson the last to light the lamp.

“The last three games, first and foremost, our special teams have been huge,” Petrich said.

Pavliukov made 43 saves for Kenai River, while Michael Corson and Jurja Ovecka combined for 47 saves for Springfield.

Friday, Petrich said the game was dead even, with each team taking three penalties and registering a second-period, power-play goal.

The Bears got on the board first with 14 minutes, 38 seconds, left in the second period, when Emils Ezitis scoring on assists from Markuss Komuls and Alex Klekotka. Petrich said the goal came from quick passing from all the players on the power-play unit.

“Being 1 for 3 on the power play, I’ll take that every night,” Petrich said.

Petrich said the Bears were great on their first and third penalty kills of the night, but Nikita Kozyrev got loose with 3:59 left in the second to tie it.

“The kid who scored for them is a superskilled kid,” Petrich said. “We talked about controlling him before the game, but he got loose and made us pay.”

Many Kenai River players had never experienced the three-on-three overtime before, but Petrich said they were up to the task, thanks to a huge save from Pavliukov.

“He was awesome tonight,” Petrich said. “Without him, we don’t get the W. No one wins it, but one guy can lose it for you and Artur was rock-solid.”

In the shootout, both Garcia of the Bears and Aiden Beck of the Blues were denied in the first round. In the second round, the Bears’ Radetic and the Blues’ Kozyrev lit the lamp. Ezitis scored in the third round, and Pavliukov salted away the victory by stopping Jeff Skinner.

Bears notes: Komuls, a defenseman, was playing in his first game for the Bears after being acquired for an asset from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. Komuls is from Latvia, but he has been in the U.S. for over three years so does not count as an import player.

The Bears have released Colt Hanks and Jordin Holmes to get down to 24 players. The roster must be down to 23 by Oct. 5.

“People always say that if you don’t have tough decisions, you don’t have a good team,” Petrich said. “I’m really happy with the depth and competition in-house.”

Friday

Brown Bears 2, Jr. Blues 1

Kenai River 0 1 0 0 1 —2

Springfield 0 1 0 0 0 —1

First period — none. Penalties — none.

Second period — 1. Kenai River, Ezitis (Komuls, Klekotka), pp, 5:22. 2. Springfield, Kozyrev (Stewart, Muzzillo), pp, 16:01. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Springfield 1 for 2:00.

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

Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 3, Springfield 1 for 3.

Saturday

Brown Bears 8, Jr. Blues 3

Kenai River 2 2 4 —8

Springfield 2 1 0 — 3

First period — 1. Kenai River, Kaplan (Klekotka), 3:28; 2. Springfield, Hollenstein (Brainin, Smyth), 7:58; 3. Springfield, Kozyrev (Walter, Muzzillo), 14:43; 4. Kenai River, Posner (un.), 17:03. Penalties — none.

Second period — 5. Kenai River, S. McDonald (un.), 1:17; 6. Kenai River, Posner (Garcia), 3:41; 7. Springfield, Stewart (Matsinger, Muzzillo), 13:42. Penalties — Kenai River 5 for 10:00; Springfield 2 for 4:00.

Third period — 8. Kenai River, Garcia (Radetic, Posner), pp, 7:26; 9. Kenai River, Radetic (Garcia, Posner), pp, 10:41; 10. Kenai River, Radetic (Posner, Guillemain), pp, 13:29; 11. Kenai River, Hanson (Allegrini, Ezitis), 14:39. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Springfield 2 for 22:00.

Shots on goal — Kenai River 23-18-24—65; Springfield 12-21-13—46.

Goalies — Kenai River, Pavliukov (46 shots, 43 saves); Springfield, Corson (25 shots, 22 saves), Ovecka (40 shots, 35 saves).

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