The Kenai River Brown Bears returned to their temporary home at the Breezy Point Hockey Center in Minnesota to defeat the Minnesota Wilderness 5-4 on Tuesday in North American Hockey League play.
Kenai River took 3-0 and 4-1 leads in moving into a tie for first place in the Midwest Division. The Brown Bears are 12-12-1-1 for 26 points. The Minnesota Magicians and Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets also have 26 points, but the Magicians have played just 17 games, while the Jets have 20.
Kenai River, playing a fifth game in seven days, jumped out early Tuesday and held on to pick up points for the fourth straight game.
“It was nice getting points in the last four games of the five-game stretch,” Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said. “I think we gave up a few points, but at the end of the day it’s kind of a crazy stretch you don’t see in junior hockey.
“We’re happy to have a day off and at least get a little break.”
In the first period, Morgan Winters scored on the power play and Peter Morgan scored at even strength as Kenai River took a 2-0 lead to the locker room.
Just 24 seconds into the second period, Eagle River’s Brandon Lajoie had Kenai River up 3-0.
After a Minnesota goal, David Vieten put Kenai River up 4-1 with 9:15 left in the second.
“I thought we were just working hard, forcing turnovers and being good in transition,” Murdock said. “We were fortunate to capitalize on some of those forced turnovers, which we didn’t do in some of those other games.”
The Wilderness cut the gap to 4-2 heading into the third. Just 2:02 into the third period, Minnesota had the game all tied up. The Wilderness were 3 for 5 on the power play.
“We got into a little penalty trouble and our kill wasn’t working that well,” Murdock said.
But less than two minutes later, Adam Szubert put the Bears up 5-4.
“That gave us that little bump that allowed us to finish out the game,” Murdock said. “I think the guys were starting to run out of gas.”
Luke Pavicich, who made 33 saves, closed the door the rest of the way. Jacob Zacharewicz stopped 32 for the Wilderness.
“He gives us a chance to win every game and that’s all we can ask of him,” Murdock said of Pavicich.
Kenai River continues a busy stretch of games with Saturday and Sunday games in Breezy Point against Janesville. The Saturday game is at 5 p.m. AKST, while Sunday the puck drops at 2 p.m. AKST.
Brown Bears 5, Wilderness 4
Minnesota 0 2 2 —4
Kenai River 2 2 1 —5
First period — 1. Kenai River, Winters (Szubert, Morgan), pp, 9:50; 2. Kenai River, Morgan (Winters, Szubert), 12:46. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 6:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Brandon Lajoie (Thrun, Hill), 0:24; 4. Minnesota, Metz (Thoreson, Wolthers), pp, 6:35; 5. Kenai River, Vieten (Veri, McCormack), 10:45; 6. Minnesota, Traeger (Sartor, Bohlin), 11:18. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 7. Minnesota, Thoreson (Galatz, Wolthers), pp, 0:29; 8. Minnesota, Rasmussen (Lawson, Badal), pp, 2:02; 9. Minnesota, Szubert (Vieten, Veri), 3:51. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 11-13-13—37; Kenai River 13-13-11—37.
Goalies — Minnesota, Zacharewicz (37 shots, 32 saves); Kenai River, Pavicich (37 shots, 33 saves).
Power plays — Minnesota 3 for 5; Kenai River 1 for 3.