The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate a third-period goal Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate a third-period goal Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Brown Bears get 2-game sweep of Wolverines

The Kenai River Brown Bears completed a two-game sweep of the Anchorage Wolverines with a 2-1 overtime victory Saturday in North American Hockey League action at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

The Bears trailed by a goal heading to the third period in each of the contests, yet still came away with four points to move into a tie for first place in the Midwest Division with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Kenai River is 15-9-1-0, while the Ice Dogs also have 31 points at 14-8-3-0.

“So we put together another good third period and then come out and get one right away in overtime,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “What a way for these guys to be able to go into Thanksgiving break.”

The Wolverines are tied for sixth place in the tight eight-team division. Just 11 points separate first from last place.

Kenai River now takes a break for Thanksgiving before finishing a 15-game homestand with Dec. 2 and 3 games against the Wolverines at 7:30 p.m. at the sports complex. The Bears are 6-6-1 on the current homestand.

The Bears also used the sweep to close the gap in the race for the Club 49 Cup. Anchorage leads with eight points, while the Ice Dogs have seven and Kenai River has five.

Caleb Huffman, who is from Anchorage, scored the winning goal just 13 seconds into overtime on an assist from Hunter Newhouse.

With Kenai River having five players from Southcentral, and Anchorage having nine, the night was full of interesting connections. Huffman played for three years in youth hockey with Keith Morris, Anchorage’s director of hockey operations, as his coach.

“There’s a ton of local guys on that team and me being from there, I’ve played with like half of them growing up for years,” Huffman said. “It’s a big one. It’s a big rivalry.”

The first two periods didn’t have consistent flow due to all the penalties called. Anchorage was 1 for 8 in the game on the power play, while the Bears were 0 for 6. All but two of the power plays came in the first two periods.

“I thought is was a huge win for group, a big character win,” Shaw said. “There wasn’t a lot of five-on-five in that game and our boys found a way to battle through it.”

Both goalies stood tall on all the power plays, with Kenai River’s Bryant Marks finishing with 28 saves and Eino Rissanen stopping 37 for Anchorage.

Kenai River entered the third period trailing 1-0. As has been their habit during this homestand, the Bears cranked up the pressure in the final 20 minutes and outshot the Wolverines 18-6.

Anchorage head coach Evan Trupp said his team has had a habit of creating interesting third periods this season. If the Wolverines have a lead, the other team often comes back. If Anchorage trails, the Wolverines often storm back.

“You’ve got to give them credit for fighting back,” Trupp said of the Bears. “We were good through the first two periods on both nights.

“I’m not sure what happens in the third period. It’s a mentality thing. It’s been kind of going on all year both ways.”

With 6:22 to play, Casper Conradsson Kelvgaard, assisted by Carson Triggs, tied it by getting to a loose puck in front of the net.

“We use a little saying all the time that the bears like to eat the trash in the trash cans,” Shaw said. “Our guys were little trash can bears right there, so it’s good to see.”

In three-on-three overtime, Huffman got possession of the puck off the faceoff and got it to Newhouse. Huffman took off up the center of the ice and nobody followed him, so Newhouse slid him a pass for a clean breakaway on Rissanen. Huffman beat Rissanen on his blocker side.

“I thought we had a great start today,” Huffman said. “Once the penalties started going back and forth, it just kills the flow of the game.

“I kind of wish they would have let us play a little more, but they did in the third and then it showed we were the better team.”

Kenai River’s comeback spoiled a potential dream evening for Anchorage defenseman Trent Powell, who was born and raised in Soldotna.

“I was pretty excited for this weekend,” Powell said. “I just came to play my best game, because a lot of people were coming to watch me.”

Powell, 18, stayed at Soldotna High School through his sophomore year, then he went to play with the New Jersey Avalanche Under-16 AAA team. He is committed to play Division I hockey at Long Island University.

In the first period, the Bears had just killed off a five-on-three power play when Aiden Westin, who is from Anchorage, got Powell the puck in the high slot. He waited for a screen and defeated Wasilla’s Marks, a former teammate with the Anchorage North Stars for two years.

Powell has three goals and four assists through 20 games.

“He’s been awesome for us,” Trupp said. “He’s just a good, young, talented kid, and a great guy in the locker room. Everyone loves him. He’s super skilled, and very smooth on the ice.”

Saturday

Brown Bears 2, Wolverines 1, OT

Anchorage 1 0 0 0 —1

Kenai River 0 0 1 1 —2

First period — 1. Anchorage, Powell (Westin), pp, 13:39. Penalties — Anchorage 5 for 18:00; Kenai River 6 for 12:00.

Second period — none. Penalties — Anchorage 4 for 8:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Third period — 2. Kenai River, Conradsson Kelvgaard (Triggs), 13:38. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Overtime — 3. Kenai River, Huffman (Newhouse), 0:13. Penalties — none.

Shots on goal — Anchorage 13-10-6-0—29; Kenai River 11-9-18-1—39.

Goalies — Anchorage, Rissanen (39 shots, 37 saves); Kenai River, Marks (29 shots, 28 saves).

Power plays — Anchorage 1 for 8; Kenai River 0 for 6.

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Noah Holt falls to the ice after a cross-check by Anchorage Wolverines defenseman Andy Ramsey (5) on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Noah Holt falls to the ice after a cross-check by Anchorage Wolverines defenseman Andy Ramsey (5) on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Noah Holt battles Anchorage Wolverines defenseman Trent Powell in front of Wolverines goalie Eino Rissanen on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. Powell was born and raised in Soldotna. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Noah Holt battles Anchorage Wolverines defenseman Trent Powell in front of Wolverines goalie Eino Rissanen on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. Powell was born and raised in Soldotna. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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