The season-long struggle continued for the Kenai River Brown Bears Friday on the road against the New Jersey Titans.
New Jersey broke open a close game in Middletown, NJ, in the second period to win 7-1 and send Kenai River to its 24th straight loss without scoring a single point. By comparison, the next longest losing streak by any NAHL team this season has been nine games.
The last Brown Bears win came on the road Sept. 18 in a 4-3 overtime win in Janesville, Wisconsin. That victory represents the only two points scored by the Bears this season, which leaves them last in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division with a 1-26-0 record.
Kenai River assistant coach Andrew Whiteside acknowledged the team’s frustration of 24 games without a single point, but added that the Bears have stuck together and have continued to make strides of progress.
“I think we’re close,” Whiteside said. “We’ve continued to harp on the positives, and the first period (Friday) was great.
“It’s a tough time and the guys could be pointing fingers, but everyone is in this together.”
Friday’s game was decided within a matter of seconds in the middle period.
After an opening goal by Cameron Cook — taken in traffic on a slick assist from Jake Hartje — was equalled on the Titans power play by Keegan Miller just minutes later midway through the first period, the Titans score three second-period goals in a span of 32 seconds. Adam Hascic tallied the go-ahead score with 3 minutes, 31 seconds, left in the period, and Jesse Farabee notched an insurance goal just seven seconds later. Tony DeVito iced the game with 2:59 remaining with a strike that put the Titans up 4-1. Farabee and DeVito each scored again in the third period to put the game away.
After being outshot 15-11 in the first period and skating off the ice in a tie, the Bears were pelted in the second frame, being outshot 23-5 and outscored 3-0.
Overall, New Jersey scored twice on five power play advantages. Whiteside said Kenai’s plan of attack worked well in the first period, but quickly broke down in the second.
“Once the second (period) hit we got away from our gameplan and had a couple lapses that ultimately killed us,” Whiteside said. “It’s a downfall of ours.”
Kenai River defender Jake Hartje returned to action without missing a game, just five days after suffering what looked to be a serious injury late in Sunday’s loss to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Hartje was checked into the boards from behind and lay motionless on the ice before being carted off and brought to Central Peninsula Hospital as a precaution.
Whiteside said the entire Kenai River organization was happy to have him back.
“That’s definitely a huge relief for us, with him coming off great games against Fairbanks, we took a deep breath of relief,” Whiteside said. “He contributes a little bit of a veteran presence on the blue line, and we joke that he’s a marathon runner because he takes back-to-back shifts all the time.”
Brown Bears defenseman Jeff Fasegha, who was also hurt Sunday, did not play Friday and Whiteside classified him as day to day with an upper body injury.
The Bears and Titans play again Saturday at 3:30 p.m. AST.
Bears notes: Former Brown Bears forward and Anchorage native Alex Jackstadt scored the first goal of his college career in Anchorage on Friday in the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ 2-1 victory over the University of Alaska Anchorage.
With his team trailing 1-0 in the second period, the Seawolves freshman earned a penalty shot and beat UAF’s Jesse Jenks. Brown Bears fans will be surprised to learn Jackstadt did not go backhand five-hole. Instead, he faked twice and ripped a wrister over Jenks’ pad.
Titans 7, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 1 0 0 —1
New Jersey 1 3 3 —7
1st period — 1. Kenai River, Cook (McArthur, Hartje), 9:32; 2. New Jersey, Miller (Durham, Gazzillo), pp, 12:26. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; New Jersey 1 for 2:00.
2nd period — 3. New Jersey, Hascic (Ostling, Durham), 16:29; 4. New Jersey, Farabee (Hamilton), 16:36; 5. New Jersey, DeVito (Egan, Becker), 17:01. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
3rd period — 6. New Jersey, DeVito (Hascic, Cusanelli), pp, 3:52; 7. New Jersey, Hallford (Brady, Gazzillo), 9:58; 8. New Jersey, Farabee (Cusanelli, Hamilton), 19:36. Penalties — Kenai River 5 for 32:00; New Jersey 7 for 36:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 11-5-16—32; New Jersey 15-23-10—48.
Goalies — Kenai River, Baker (48 shots, 41 saves); New Jersey, Wright (32 shots, 31 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 4; New Jersey 2 for 5.