The long dry spell that the Kenai River Brown Bears currently find themselves in continued Saturday night with a 5-0 loss at the hands of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
The Bears, who played the last game of a 13-game road trip, extended their North American Hockey League-leading losing skid to 12 straight games.
Fairbanks now has a 5-1 lead in the Ravn Alaska Cup, the season-long battle for supremacy between Alaska’s junior teams. Kenai River is 11-23-2 and four points behind the Minnesota Magicians in the race for the last playoff slot out of the Midwest Division.
In what has become a recurring theme, the Brown Bears were unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities while their opponents did exactly that.
“We played a pretty good hockey game, we just didn’t find a way to put the puck in the back of the net,” said Bears coach Geoff Beauparlant.
Ethan Somoza scored a pair of goals and chipped in an assist for Fairbanks, while teammate Chandler Madry tallied a goal and two assists.
But the biggest discrepancy came on special teams play. After giving up three power-play goals Friday night, the Bears allowed two more Saturday night.
“I thought we excecuted well, there were just a couple of fortunate bounces for them,” Beauparlant said. “We were getting opportunities on our power plays, we weren’t struggling. We were just unfortunate.”
Ice Dogs goalie Kevin Aldridge took the win in net, saving all 21 shots Kenai River sent his way. Evan Hauser took the loss for the Bears, stopping 26 of 31 shots. Beauparlant said the shots that slipped by Hauser had “no chance” of being saved.
Madry opened the scoring Saturday with a power-play strike before seven minutes were up in the first period, and Mitchell Baumann added another goal at the 12:28 mark. The Ice Dogs outshot the Bears 10-3 in the period.
While the shots evened out a bit in the second period, the scoring did not. Somoza scored with four minutes remaining in the frame on a power play to put Fairbanks up by three goals.
Somoza and Jacob Hetz added two more scores early in the third period to ice the game.
Beauparlant said he looks forward to returning to home ice with the team, which will play 14 of their next 16 games at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
“I think you have to stay enthusiastic,” Beauparlant said about the mood of the team. “We could be doing something less enjoyable. Message was stick together, work hard and enjoy the ride.”
Friday, the Bears kept it close through two periods, but Fairbanks scored three power-play goals in the third period for the comfortable 6-1 win in front of 2,242.
“It’s going to take going out and executing for 60 minutes,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “Forty minutes is not going to be good enough for any team we play.”
The Ice Dogs’ Ethan Somoza had the lone goal of the first period.
“To be down 1-0 on the road in that building, we felt like we were in a good spot,” Beauparlant said. “We played solid hockey and didn’t make any mistakes.”
In the second, John Zimmerman put the Ice Dogs up 2-0, but Evan Butcher, on assists from Ben Campbell and Alex Jackstadt, scored as the extra attacker after Fairbanks took a penalty.
But Josef Ingman scored before the end of the second period for a 3-1 Fairbanks lead.
“Then what happens has become a familiar song,” Beauparlant said. “I thought there were some questionable calls, not to say the referees determined the outcome, but it was a good hockey game and they kind of got overinvolved.
“We didn’t capitalize on our power plays and they scored on three of theirs.”
Fairbanks finished 3 for 8 on the power play, while the Bears were 0 for 4. Hans Gorowsky had two of the power-play goals, while Todd Burgess added the other.
Patrick Munson had 19 saves for Fairbanks, while Alec Derks made 33 saves for the Bears.
“I thought Alec played well in the net,” Beauparlant said. “He didn’t have a chance on any of them.”
Beauparlant said the line of Jackstadt, Maurin Bouvet and Nick Klishko also had a solid game.
The Bears host the Ice Dogs Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Ice Dogs 5, Brown Bears 0
Kenai River 0 0 0 —0
Fairbanks 2 1 2 —5
First period — 1. Fairbanks, Madry (Somoza, Mueller), PP, 6:53; 2. Fairbanks, Baumann (Kleven), 12:28. Penalties — Kenai River 7 for 33:00; Fairbanks 6 for 23:00.
Second period — 3. Fairbanks, Somoza (Burgess, Madry), PP, 16:00. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 4. Fairbanks, Somoza (Madry), 1:30; 5. Fairbanks, Hetz (Stridsberg), 4:45. Penalties — Fairbanks 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 3-11-7—21; Fairbanks 10-12-9—31.
Goalies — Kenai River, Hauser (31 shots, 26 saves); Fairbanks, Aldridge (21 shots, 21 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 6; Fairbanks 2 for 4.
Ice Dogs 6, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 0 1 0 —1
Fairbanks 1 2 3 —6
First period — 1. Fairbanks, Somoza (Hetz, Mueller), 8:52. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Fairbanks, Zimmerman (Tomberlin, R. Gorowsky), 11:28; 3. Kenai River, Butcher (Campbell), 13:32; 4. Fairbanks, Ingman (un.), 16:32. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 5. Fairbanks, Burgess (Hetz, Madry), pp, 2:59; 6. Fairbanks, H. Gorowsky (Somoza), pp, 7:20; 7. Fairbanks, H. Gorowksy (R. Gorowsky), pp, 13:05. Penalties — Kenai River 6 for 12:00; Fairbanks 4 for 16:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 8-8-4—20; Fairbanks 12-14-13—39.
Goalies — Fairbanks, Munson (20 shots, 19 saves); Kenai River, Derks (39 shots, 33 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 4; Fairbanks 3 for 8.