Kenai River Brown Bears forward Max Helgeson chases the puck along the boards against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Max Helgeson chases the puck along the boards against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Brown Bears lose in return to ice

The Kenai River Brown Bears returned to action Saturday for the first time since Nov. 14 with a 5-2 loss to the host Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel in North American Hockey League play.

The Brown Bears, who are temporarily based in Minnesota, had their season paused due to a spike in coronavirus cases in the state of Minnesota.

The pause also affected the Steel, who also paused after the Nov. 14 game against the Bears.

Chippewa was able to get in regular skating practices after getting back together this week, because rinks are open in Wisconsin. Rinks are not open in Minnesota until Monday, so the Bears did not have the same luxury.

The Steel also had Thursday and Friday games against the Minnesota Magicians — the first two games of the season for the Magicians — so Chippewa was able to get back up to game speed coming into the Kenai River game.

Brown Bears coach Kevin Murdock said the coaching staff knew the Steel would either be tired for Saturday’s game, or sharp due to the ice time. He said the latter was true.

“They played pretty well,” Murdock said of the Steel. “You could tell they were in game mode. They took advantage of the first few days back.”

Meanwhile, Murdock said his team had some players who hadn’t skated regularly in over a month. The coach said some players had been able to skate regularly. Without having watched the film, Murdock said during the game he felt like he could tell which players had skated more by how they were playing.

“The consistency through the lineup is what hurt us,” Murdock said. “Some of our guys played really well, and some of our guys struggled.”

Murdock also said the coaches had to feel out where the players were on the fly. The head coach said the team is not back to square one, but added it was apparent that some of the lessons of training camp need to be revisited.

“I think the guys are definitely happy to be back together playing again,” Murdock said. “They had to wait long enough to get the season started, then to have it shut down again a month into it wasn’t great.”

Wasilla’s Porter Schachle, assisted by Peter Morgan and Dylan Hadfield, started the scoring, but Chippewa had the game tied by the end of the first period.

The Steel then jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first 10 minutes of the second period before Morgan Winters, assisted by Adam Szubert and Anchorage’s Ryan Reid, cut it to 3-2.

Winters joined the team over the pause, coming from the United States Hockey League. Forward Gramm McCormack also joined the team. Murdock said the two acquisitions put the Bears at the limit of 27 players.

In the third period, the Steel scored twice to salt away the game.

Grant Boldt had 22 saves for the Steel, while Luke Pavicich stopped 25 for the Bears.

Kenai River now will be based in Breezy Point, Minnesota, where the rink opens Monday. The summer resort town is where the Bears had training camp.

“The nice part is it’s very hockey-oriented,” Murdock said of Breezy Point. “Everybody is together all the time and it allows us to put all the focus on hockey for the time being.”

The Brown Bears are now 3-2-0-0, while Chippewa is 2-5-0-0. Kenai River plays at the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets on Friday and Saturday. Janesville leads the Midwest Division, which includes the Bears, at 4-3-2-0.

The Midwest Division has been hit the hardest by the coronavirus thus far. Janesville leads the division in games played at nine, while every other division has a team that has played at least 20 games.

More in Sports

Soldotna’s Aiden Burcham controls the puck under pressure from Homer’s Brock Barth during a Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021 hockey game between the two schools at Kevin Bell Arena in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer hockey tops Kenai, loses to Soldotna

In their weekend of hockey in a shortened season, the Homer Mariners… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Peter Morgan makes a pass against the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Magicians sweeps Brown Bears

The Kenai River Brown Bears were swept by the host Minnesota Magicians… Continue reading

Nikiski's Drew Handley and Brady Bostic defend Kenai Central's Bridger Beck on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Hoops roundup: Kenai sweeps Nikiski

The host Kenai Central girls basketball team received 20 points from Emma… Continue reading

Soldotna's Quinn Cox gets first tracks as he skis to second place in the Soldotna Invite on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Laker, Boonstra ski to SoHi Invite titles

Kenai Central’s Jack Laker and Jayna Boonstra took the individual titles Saturday… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Erin Koziczkowski and Emma Beck trap Soldotna's Montana Fischer on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai, SoHi, Homer, Nikiski hoops start seasons

The Soldotna girls basketball team defeated Kenai Central 68-16 on Thursday in… Continue reading

Predaceous flatworms hide under leaves by day in a spring near Soldotna Airport on Dec. 21, 2017. At night they hunt for other invertebrates. (Photo by Matt Bowser/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Life in Kenai Peninsula freshwater springs

I like winter. I really do. The cold and the dark don’t… Continue reading

American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
Tangled Up in Blue: Speckled purple

I woke up in the morning to NPR on Wednesday morning highlighting… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Max Helgeson chases the puck along the boards against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears top Wilderness for 4th straight win

Staff report The Kenai River Brown Bears won their home away from… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Emily Moss takes the victory in the girls race at the Kenai Nordic Trails on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, at Kenai Golf Course. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak)
Kenai, SoHi ski teams take dual meets

Kenai Central’s Jack Laker and Emily Moss were the top skiers in… Continue reading

Most Read