The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks 2-1 on Thursday at the North American Hockey League Showcase at the Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota.
After scoring just one goal in losing their first three games of the season, Kenai River scored twice in getting the first victory of the season.
“It feels great,” Kenai River head coach Josh Dubinsky said of the first win. “It took a couple games later than we would have wanted, but we knew there would be a bit of an adjustment period.
“I thought, by far, they played their best game of the season today.”
One big positive sign for Dubinsky was veterans getting in the scoring column. Gramm McCormack, assisted by Cole Dubicki and Brendan Hill, scored on the power play midway through the first period for a 1-0 lead.
David Vieten, assisted by Hill and Dubicki, scored on the power play midway through the second period for the game-winner.
The Bears were 2 for 4 on the power play, while Johnstown was 1 for 6.
“Anytime you can win the special teams battle in a game, you give yourself a good chance to win the game,” Dubinsky said.
Special teams came up big in the third period, when the Bears killed off three penalties to clinch the win.
“We were good on the kill when we needed to be — crunch time up a goal in the third period,” Dubinsky said. “It was impressive to see.”
Dubinsky said goalies Bryant Marks and Nathan Dickey have been good all season, and Dickey was especially good Thursday in making 31 saves. Karsten Bourgoine had 17 saves for Johnstown.
Dubinsky said getting more shots on net has been a point of emphasis.
“I don’t think we’ve gotten nearly as many pucks on net as we need to, and obviously that translates to the face we haven’t scored as many goals,” the coach said.
The Brown Bears continue at the Showcase, playing the Maine Nordiques on Friday at 2:30 p.m. AKDT and the North Iowa Bulls on Saturday at 3 p.m. AKDT.
Brown Bears 2, Tomahawks 1
Johnstown 1 0 0 —1
Kenai River 1 1 0 —2
First period — 1. Kenai River, McCormack (Dubicki, Hill), pp, 9:34; 2. Johnstown, Geregach (Badal, Black), pp, 15:44. Penalties — Johnstown 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Vieten (Hill, Dubicki), pp, 11:36. Penalties — Johnstown 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — none. Penalties — Johnstown 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal — Johnstown 8-11-13—32; Kenai River 6-8-5—19.
Goalies — Johnstown, Bourgoine (19 shots, 17 saves); Kenai River, Dickey (32 shots, 31 saves).
Power plays — Johnstown 1 for 6; Kenai River 2 for 4.