After getting swept on their home ice by the Wenatchee (Washington) Wild last weekend, the Bears defeated the host Wild 3-2 in a shootout Friday to start a 13-game road trip.
The Bears are 0-2 against Wenatchee in Soldotna, but have three wins in four tries at the Town Toyota Center, which drew 3,105 fans Friday.
Kenai River moves to 11-13-0 and into a tie with the Minnesota Magicians for fourth place in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division. Wenatchee is 9-9-5 and in fifth in the South Division. The Wild now lead the league with five overtime losses.
“We came out and executed right from the drop of the puck,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “We had good energy and positive energy, and executed our game plan from the get-go.”
Just 3 minutes, 17 seconds, into the game, Jack Gessert and Evan Butcher broke out in a two-on-one break, with Butcher finishing for a 1-0 lead.
Then, with just six seconds left in the first period, Gustav Berglund connected on the power play, assisted by Maurin Bouvet and Ben Campbell.
“It was a good faceoff win,” Beauparlant said. “We were really good on faceoffs and that set the tone for us. We were over 60 percent on the draw.
“They did a nice job of winning the draw back and getting the puck to the net quickly.”
The Wild came out strong in the second period, outshooting the Bears 14-5 en route to a 37-30 advantage for the game.
“They did some good things in the second period that put us on our heels, but we were able to get back to what was working,” Beauparlant said.
Colin Burston got the Wild to 2-1 with a goal in the second.
Then with just 10 seconds left in the third period, David Powlowski scored with the extra attacker on the ice to send the game to overtime.
The Bears had no reason to panic because on Nov. 2 in Wenatchee, the Wild had scored with 51 seconds left in the game to tie it, but ended up losing 2-1 in a shootout.
Josh Creelman, who made 35 saves, was in net on Nov. 2 and he recovered again Friday.
“That’s the generation we’re in,” Beauparlant said. “It’s immediate satisfaction and we were able to put it behind us and play a solid overtime.”
Creelman stopped all four shooters in the shootout, while Nick Klishko and Maurin Bouvet scored for the Bears.
The Bears are now 3-0 in shootouts and 1-0 in overtimes. Creelman has the victory in all three shootouts.
Klishko had the game-winner in his first game back after about a month off due to injury.
“It was a total team effort,” Beauparlant said. “They did the little things like blocking shots and taking pucks into the tough areas.”
Anchorage’s Michael Bullion had 28 saves for the Wild.
The Wild and Bears meet again at 6:05 p.m. AST Saturday.
Brown Bears 3, Wild 2, SO
Kenai River 2 0 0 0 1 —3
Wenatchee 0 1 1 0 0 —2
First period — 1. Kenai River, Butcher (Gessert), 3:17; 2. Kenai River, Berglund (Bouvet, Campbell), pp, 19:54. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Wenatchee 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Wenatchee, Burston (Cuckovich, Coyne), 6:56. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Wenatchee 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 4. Wenatchee, Powlowski (Bondarenko), ea, 19:50. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — none.
Shootout — Kenai River 2 (Campbell NG, Ehlers NG, Klishko G, Bouvet G); Wenatchee 0 (Powlowski NG, Ahlgren NG, Conzo NG, Harris NG).
Shots on goal — Kenai River 15-5-5-5—30; Wenatchee 13-14-7-3—37.
Goalies — Kenai River, Creelman (37 shots, 35 saves); Wenatchee, Bullion (30 shots, 28 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 3; Wenatchee 0 for 4.