The Kenai River Brown Bears were swept on the road by the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues in North American Hockey League play, losing 4-2 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday.
“A Jekyll and Hide team that didn’t show up for all but the last 20 minutes of tonight’s game,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said Saturday. “For a game and a half, we didn’t play hockey.”
Consistency has been a problem for the Brown Bears this season. They were coming off a sweep of the Anchorage Wolverines.
“We’ve got to really look into the locker room and figure out what we have,” Shaw said. “At Game 30, we can’t keep doing this.”
At Game 30, looking at the standings with an eye toward returning to the playoffs also becomes important.
At 12-16-2-0, Kenai River is seventh in the eight-team Midwest Division with 26 points. The Jr. Blues are in last at 9-15-2-1, good for 21 points.
The fourth and final playoff spot belongs to the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel at 32 points, while the Minnesota Wilderness lead the division with 39 points.
Friday, the Bears fell behind when Dom Schroder lit the lamp for the Jr. Blues.
With 3:02 left in the first, Hayden Walters scored on the power-play on assists from Landon MacDonald and Joe Manning to tie the game.
In the second period, Zach Howard put Springfield up. With 5:53 left in the period, Kenai River again answered on the power play, with Andy Larson scoring on Kotaro Tsutsumi and Walters assists.
With 3:30 left in the game, Dylan Glinski of the Jr. Blues scored short-handed for the game-winner. With 1:11 left, Landry Schmuck sealed it with a short-handed empty-netter.
JJ Cataldo stopped 40 pucks for Springfield, while Conor Sullivan had 38 saves for Kenai River.
Saturday, the Jr. Blues jumped to a 3-0 lead with 6:48 left in the second period on goals from Jake Peterson, Hadley Hudak and Aidan Dyer.
Kenai River mounted a comeback. With 2:40 left in the second period, Nick Stevens scored on the power-play on Luke Hause and Roope Tuomioksa assists.
With 16:38 left in the game, Tiziano Pauchard scored with help from Dylan Contreras and John Ross, but Kenai River could not find the equalizer despite winning the shot count in the final period 13-5.
Cataldo had 29 saves for the Jr. Blues, while Marks Slavinskis-Repe stopped 21 for Kenai River.
Kenai River stays on the road to face the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets at 4:05 p.m. AKST on Friday and Saturday.