The Kenai River Brown Bears picked up three points in a Friday and Saturday split against the host Wenatchee (Washington) Wild.
“It’s one of the toughest places to play in the league,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “To come in and earn three points like we did, not having (Tyler) Andrews and Adam (Kresl), that makes a huge difference.
“The guys really left it all out there. They were completely out of gas. That’s what we expect every night.”
The Bears moved into sole possession of fourth place in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division.
Kenai River is 11-13-1, good for 23 points, while the last-place Minnesota Magicians have 22 points.
Wenatchee is 10-9-5 and in fifth place in the South Division.
After getting swept on their home ice by the Wild last weekend, the Bears won 3-2 in a shootout Friday to start a 13-game road trip, then lost 4-3 in overtime Saturday.
The Bears are 0-2 against Wenatchee in Soldotna, but have three wins in five tries at the Town Toyota Center, which drew 3,105 fans Friday and 3,378 on Saturday.
Friday, the Bears put the weekend sweep quickly behind them.
“We came out and executed right from the drop of the puck,” 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 moved to 3-0 in shootouts, with Creelman nabbing 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.
Saturday, the Bears took their first loss in five forays into extra time this season as Wenatchee’s Mike Coyne notched a hat trick, including the game-winner in overtime.
Wenatchee outshot Kenai River 18-8 in the first en route to a 41-25 advantage for the game, but it was the Bears scoring the opening period’s only goal when Bouvet connected on assists from Butcher and Gessert.
Beauparlant said the penalty kill was key all weekend, but especially in the first period Saturday.
“We came out with some good jump, but then penalties kicked in, and a couple of bad ones, in my opinion,” Beauparlant said.
In the second period, Coyne scored short-handed and unassisted, but the Bears came back on that same power play for a 2-1 lead when Gessert scored on assists from Campbell and Joey Kaszupski.
The Wild were running a teddy bear toss promotion, and after the first Wild goal it took 10 minutes to clean the bears off the ice. Beauparlant said the break helped his team refocus.
Butcher put the Bears up 3-1 to start the third period on assists by Berglund and Austin Chavez. Beauparlant said a good pinch by Berglund was the key to the goal. But Coyne and Jake Ahlgren would score midway through the third period to even the game.
Coyne then scored 2:32 into overtime.
“We called timeout after the tying goal in the third period and I thought we finished with a solid 10 minutes,” Beauparlant said. “Even in the overtime, I thought we were playing well.”
Creelman had 37 saves for the Bears, while Bullion turned aside 22 for the Wild.
The Bears travel to Wisconsin for 4 p.m. AST games Wednesday, Friday and Saturday against the Coulee Region Chill, who are in third place in the Midwest Division — five points ahead of the Bears.
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.
Wild 4, Brown Bears 3, OT
Kenai River 1 1 1 0 —3
Wenatchee 0 1 2 1 —4
First period — 1. Kenai River, Bouvet (Butcher, Gessert), 4:48. Penalties — Kenai River 6 for 23:00; Wenatchee 3 for 18:00.
Secod period — 2. Wenatchee, Coyne (un.), sh, 16:21; 3. Kenai River, Gessert (Campbell, Kaszupski), pp, 17:16. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Wenatchee 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Butcher (Berglund, Chavez), 1:28; 5. Wenatchee, Coyne (Bryant, Burston), 8:31; 6. Wenatchee, Ahlgren (Gotelaere, Bailey), 10:04. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Wenatchee 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 7. Wenatchee, Coyne (Cuckovich), 2:32.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 8-7-10-0—25; Wenatchee 18-10-12-1—41.
Goalies — Kenai River, Creelman (41 shots, 37 saves); Wenatchee, Bullion (25 shots, 22 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 4; Wenatchee 0 for 6.