The visiting Kenai River Brown Bears had a two-game winning streak snapped with a 5-1 loss to the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel on Friday in North American Hockey League play.
The loss knocks Kenai River into fifth place — one spot out of the playoffs — in the tight Midwest Division.
The Minnesota Wilderness lead with 51 points, while the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have 50, the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets have 47 and the Wisconsin Windigo have 46.
Kenai River, at 21-19-1-1, is fifth at 44, the Anchorage Wolverines are sixth at 42, the Steel (18-18-1-1) are seventh with 38 and the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues are eighth with 37.
The Bears have 18 games left on their schedule.
“Every night is a playoff game now,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “We’re going to have to fight in every single one of them.”
The Bears swept the Windigo last weekend by winning the special teams battle, getting opportunistic goals and getting great goaltending.
“I think in the first period in particular, we were a half step behind on everything,” Shaw said. “We didn’t win the special teams battle.”
Kenai River was 1 for 7 on the power play, while the Steel were 2 for 4.
Nils Wallstrom stopped 22 for the Bears, while Adam Gajan saved 29 for Chippewa.
“They had good goaltending and we couldn’t keep them out when we needed to,” Shaw said.
Chippewa’s Sam Rice had a hat trick before the Bears even scored. Rice had a goal in the first period and two in the second period. JJ. Grainda also scored in the second as Chippewa went to the third up 4-0.
With 6:39 left, Jack Anderson, assisted by Noah Holt, scored on the power play for Kenai River. But Grainda iced it with an empty-netter with 4:55 to play.
The same two teams play today at 4 p.m. AKST.
Steel 5, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 0 0 1 —1
Chippewa 1 3 1 —5
First period — 1. Chippewa, Rice (Trunda, Nielson), pp, 13:15. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Chippewa 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Chippewa, Rice (Grainda, Frandina), 4:03; 3. Chippewa, Grainda (Frandina, Trunda), pp, 13:55; 4. Chippewa, Rice (un.), 19:44. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Chippewa 3 for 14:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, J. Anderson (Holt), pp, 13:21; 6. Chippewa, Grainda (un.), en, 15:05. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Chippewa 4 for 8:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 7-11-12—30; Chippewa 9-12-6—27.
Goalies — Kenai River, Wallstrom (26 shots, 22 saves); Chippewa, Gajan (30 shots, 29 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 7; Chippewa 2 for 4.