Trying desperately just to earn points, the Kenai River Brown Bears found trouble Friday night in the form of Casey Linkenwald and Trevor Recktenwald.
The Brown Bears suffered a 5-3 loss to the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks, Friday night at the Cambria County War Memorial ice rink, with Linkenwald and Reckentenwald teaming up on three of them. After scoring the first goal of the night, Linkenheld completed a hat trick with a pair of goals early in the second period. Recktenwald assisted on all three of them.
The loss extends the Brown Bears’ losing streak to nine straight games, the current longest in the league and the second-longest this season. The drought began Nov. 28.
Kenai River (11-20-2) sits last in the North American Hockey League Midwest division, two points out of a playoff spot behind the fourth-place Minnesota Magicians. The Minnesota Wilderness (20-8-4) lead the Midwest with 44 points, ahead of Fairbanks and Coulee Region, both of which have 43.
Once again, the Bears were left to dig out of a hole early in the game, as Johnstown scored a trio of goals in the opening period, even though Kenai River outshot the Tomahawks 16-9.
Linkenheld opened the scoring with a shot nine minutes, 20 seconds in, and was soon joined by Luke Lynch and Cam Bleck.
Wasilla product Tanner Schachle scored an equalizer for the Brown Bears midway through the first period, and Ben Campbell sent the puck into the net on a power play opportunity in the second frame.
The crucial swing of momentum came in the first period, when Lynch and Bleck scored just 27 seconds apart to break a 1-1 tie and distance the Tomahawks by two goals.
With the game essentially locked up, Matt Rudin scored a goal for the Bears with 1:20 remaining, getting help from Campbell and Joseph Kaszupski.
Kenai River goalie Evan Hauser — who was acquired by the Bears on Tuesday — took the loss in net with 23 saves on 28 shots.
Bears fans can still take solace in that the current losing streak is not the team’s longest. Kenai River strung together 21 consecutive losses — including playoff games — in the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Tomahawks 5, Brown Bears 3
Kenai River 1 1 1 —3
Johnstown 3 2 0 —5
1st period — 1. Johnstown, Linkenheld (Recktenwald, Drabin), 9:20; 2. Kenai River, Schachle (Butcher), 10:57; 3. Johnstown, Lynch (Romano, Buncis), 15:03; 4. Johnstown, Bleck (Zech, Barnes), 15:30. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Johnstown 2 for 4:00.
2nd period — 5. Johnstown, Linkenheld (Recktenwald), 2:06; 6. Johnstown, Linkenheld (Spencer, Recktenwald), 4:28; 7. Kenai River, Campbell (Andrews), PP, 9:20. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 19:00; Johnstown 5 for 21:00.
3rd period — 8. Kenai River, Rudin (Campbell, Kaszupski), 18:40. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Johnstown 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 16-15-10—41; Johnstown 9-12-7—28.
Goalies — Kenai River, Hauser (28 shots, 23 saves); Johnstown, Gwillim (41 shots, 38 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 5; Johnstown 0 for 3.