The Kenai River Brown Bears ended their weekend at the North American Hockey League Showcase Tournament with a 7-1 blowout coming at the sticks of the Topeka (Kansas) Roadrunners, Saturday in Blaine, Minnesota.
The loss left the Brown Bears with a 1-3 record at the tournament, which has become on of the NAHL’s most prestigious events on the schedule and is used as a way to get players exposure to coaches and scouts.
Kenai River (2-4) is last in the NAHL Midwest division, but only two points out of the lead. Topeka (6-0) currently leads the South division with a perfect season.
“It was a tale of two teams,” said Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant. “One is very experienced, and one is still finding its way. We just kind of stood around watching (Topeka) in the first five minutes, and when you do that against a veteral club with returning players and good structure in place, you’re going to see things like that happen.”
Saturday, the Roadrunners didn’t waste any time scoring as they tallied three goals in the first 3 minutes, 30 seconds of the game. Jasen Fernsler notched the opening score just 85 seconds into the action, and was joined by Jack Kelly at the 2:31 mark and Sly Sutter just 59 seconds later.
Fernsler ended the night with two goals and two assists, and has notched seven points in three games at the tournament.
Topeka ended the first period with a 17-7 shots on goal advantage, and came out just as strong in the second frame with a power play goal by Mike Gornall. The Roadrunners were 2 for 5 on power plays in the game.
The Bears finally got on the board with a goal from Matt Wikman, who had help from Maurin Bouvet and Manfred Ehlers. Bouvet tallied three points over Friday and Saturday’s contests.
“We competed hard from that point forward,” Beauparlant said. “But we still had difficulty capitalizing on opportunities.”
After scoring, the Bears were presented with a power-play opportunity, but failed to make any more headway in their attempt to rally back.
Joseph Hall scored a fifth Topeka goal with under two minutes left in the second period, and Fernsler and Sly Sutter added two more goals in the third, Sutter’s coming on a power play.
Sean Healy took the loss in goal for Kenai River, stopping 32 of 39 shots sent his way.
With the Showcase wrapped up for 2014, Beauparlant said he thought his back end performed well over the four days, with players like Tyler Andrews and Gustav Berglund holding strong on the defensive ice. Up front, Beauparlant said Logan Wendling, Nick Klishko and Rudin provided a noticeable offensive spark.
“I thought we were doing things well like using speed to take pucks to the net, controlling the puck on the walls,” Beauparlant said. “I think our 1-3 record could’ve been 2-2, so we’re a little disappointed we didn’t get to that.”
Beauparlant said a 3-2 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas on Thursday was the one that slipped away from Kenai River.
“The showcase is always interesting because we never know what we have when we get there,” Beauparlant said. “We usually find out what we’re made of here.”
Kenai River 4, Amarillo 3, OT
After giving up a 3-goal lead in the third period, the Kenai River Brown Bears came through with a clutch 4-3 overtime victory over the Amarillo (Texas) Bulls on day 3 of the North American Hockey League Showcase Tournament, Friday in Blaine, Minnesota.
Matt Rudin’s gamewinning goal 1 minute, 14 seconds, into overtime gave the Brown Bears their first win of the tournament, ending a game that saw Kenai River score three goals in the first 15 minutes, but then give up three in the third period.
“It was a complete game, just a solid performance throughout,” Beauparlant said. “Losing that lead, it had nothing to do with our performance, but it was a lesson learned from the guys.”
Maurin Bouvet got the scoring going just four minutes in with a power play shot with an assist from Nick Klishko. Bouvet ended the game with two points, and Klishko had a pair of assists as well.
Logan Wendling added a second goal midway through the period, and Gustav Berglund notched a third Bears goal with just over 5 minutes remaining in the frame. Berglund has had a point in three of the last four games.
However, the momentum swiftly turned when the third period began. It only took 21 seconds for Charlie Combs to put the puck past Kenai River goalie Zach Quinn. Combs then added a second goal just over four minutes later.
Thomas Fazio slotted in the tying score with 1:39 remaining in regulation. Also, Riley Christiansen assisted on all three goals.
“It was just our inexperience,” Beauparlant said of the late collapse. “We’re still learning how to close out games, and it’s just a learning process.”
Fortunately for the Brown Bears, the late drama did not end up the deciding factor, as Rudin converted on only his second shot of the game. Rudin collected an Amarillo turnover inside the Kenai River blue line, took the puck wide behind the net and wrapped it in to give the Bears the win.
“He’s just been a solid, consistent playmaker,” Beauparlant said.
The Bears also produced a stingy penalty kill, shutting out the Bulls on all eight of their power plays.
Quinn ended the day in goal with 31 saves on 34 shots.
The Brown Bears travel to Richfield, Minnesota, to play the Minnesota Magicians Friday and Saturday.
Roadrunners 7, Brown Bears 1
Topeka 3 2 2 —7
Kenai River 0 1 0 —1
1st Period — 1. Topeka, Fernsler (Rzavsky), 1:25; 2. Topeka, Kelly (Lutz, Fitzgerald), 2:31; 3. Topeka, Sutter (Brown), 3:30. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
2nd Period — 4. Topeka, Gornall (Fernsler), PP, 2:36; 5. Kenai River, Wikman (Bouvet, Ehlers), 6:42; 6. Topeka, Hall (Lutz), 18:13. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Topeka 1 for 2:00.
3rd Period — 7. Topeka, Fernsler (Brickley), 1:13; 8. Topeka, Sutter (Fernsler, Gornall), PP, 8:52. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Topeka 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 7-10-6—23; Topeka 17-10-12—39.
Goalies — Kenai River, Healy (39 shots, 32 saves); Topeka, Vogler (23 shots, 22 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 4; Topeka 2 for 5.
Brown Bears 4, Bulls 3, OT
Kenai River 3 0 0 1 —4
Amarillo 0 0 3 0 —3
1st Period — 1. Kenai River, Bouvet (Klishko), PP, 4:00; 2. Kenai River, Wendling (Klishko), 9:48; 3. Kenai River, Berglund (Bouvet), 14:50. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Amarillo 5 for 18:00.
2nd Period — No scoring. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 16:00; Amarillo 4 for 16:00.
3rd Period — 4. Amarillo, Combs (Christensen, Rakhmatov), :21; 5. Amarillo, Combs (Fazio, Christensen), 4:36; 6. Amarillo, Fazio (Christensen), 18:21. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Amarillo 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 7. Kenai River, Rudin (unassisted), 1:14.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-11-11-2—33; Amarillo 11-12-11-0—34.
Goalies — Kenai River, Quinn (34 shots, 31 saves); Amarillo, Weatherly (33 shots, 29 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 8; Amarillo 0 for 8.