On Oct. 22, the Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Wisconsin Windigo 5-0 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in North American Hockey League play.
The victory gave the Bears an 11-4-1-0 record and put them in first place in the Midwest Division, while the Windigo fell to 4-9-1-0 and were sitting in last.
A lot has changed between then and this Friday and Saturday at the sports complex, when the Bears will host the Windigo in 7:30 p.m games.
The Windigo have gone 17-4-0-1 since that Oct. 22 loss and currently sit in third place in the division at 21-13-1-1, good for 44 points. The Bears are 8-14-0-1 since that Oct. 22 game and are fifth in the division at 19-18-1-1, good for 40 points.
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs lead the division with 47 points, while the Minnesota Wilderness have 46 in second and the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets have 41 points for the fourth and final playoff spot out of the Midwest.
The Windigo come into the Brown Bears series riding a seven-game winning streak that started with a sweep of the Bears in Wisconsin on Dec. 30 and 31. Wisconsin picked up two more home wins against the Wilderness before scoring an impressive three-game sweep in Fairbanks last weekend.
The Bears are 1-6-0-1 since the break and have lost four straight since returning to Alaska to play at Fairbanks on Jan. 13.
“We’re still right in the battle and it just takes a couple wins to get back in the thick of things,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said Saturday after getting swept in Anchorage by the Wolverines. “It’s going to take everyone getting back on track.
“We’re excited to be back in front of our home fans next weekend.”
The Windigo added three players who currently have the highest points per game averages on the team about the time of the Oct. 22 loss.
Luke Levandowski played his first series with the Windigo against the Brown Bears in late October and has been tearing up the league since then. He has 18 goals and 11 assists in 24 games.
His 18 goals tie him for seventh in the league and put him just five behind the league lead, even though he has played at least seven fewer games than everybody in front of him on the list.
Levandowski was named the Midwest Division Star of the Week on Monday for scoring five goals in the three-game sweep of the Wilderness.
Will Schumacher also played his first games for the Windigo during the October trip to Alaska, and has eight goals and 17 assists in 25 games for the team.
Zachary Burfoot also joined the team during the October trip to Alaska and has five goals and 16 assists in 24 games.
The Bears are led in points by Garett Drotts, who has committed to Division I Augustana University. Drotts has 17 goals and 14 assists in 38 games.
The Windigo also are solid in net, with Gavin Moffatt second in the league in goals-against average at 1.58 and first in the league in save percentage at .949.
For the Bears, Nils Wallstrom is 37th in the league with a 2.92 goals-against average and 19th in save percentage at .918.
Kenai River is in Soldotna for two quick games before taking an equally quick trip to Wisconsin to face the Chippewa Steel on Feb. 3 and 4. Kenai River then returns to Alaska for a seven-game homestand.