The Kenai River Brown Bears got their first win of the season in emphatic fashion Saturday at the North American Hockey League Showcase, taking down the Minnesota Wilderness 8-2 in Blaine, Minnesota.
The Bears are now 1-3-0-0 on the season, while the Wilderness are 0-4-0-0. Kenai River stays on the road to face the Springfield (Illinois) Blues on Friday and Saturday.
Kenai River head coach Josh Petrich won the Robertson Cup as an assistant coach in 2015 with the Wilderness, so his first NAHL victory was even more special.
“It’s a pretty special win,” Petrich said. “I really cherish the time I had in Cloquet, and nobody can ever take being a part of the championship team away.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to this game when the Showcase schedule came out. To have the boys play the way they did — 21 players going to battle for each other — was pretty special.”
The Bears jumped to a 4-0 lead in the blowout. Gil Garcia had a hat trick, getting each of his goals on the power play.
Petrich said Garcia has a great shot, and his power-play crew of Luke Radetic, Luke Posner, Cameron McDonald and Sacha Guillemain did a great job setting him up.
“A shooter is only as good as the guys getting him the puck,” Petrich said.
McDonald, of Eagle River, had four assists in the game.
“He’s got great vision and moves the puck quickly,” Petrich said of McDonald. “Those things get guys running and lead to success.”
Alex Klekotka, Radetic, Michael Spethmann and Posner added goals, while goalie Artur Pavliukov had 23 saves. Trevor Micucci stopped 39 for the Wilderness.
In Friday’s game, a Kenai River comeback attempt in the third period came up short.
“We had a couple bad goals early on,” Petrich said. “I’m proud of my team and the effort they gave. I thought they gave enough effort that they deserved to win the game, but it was a great lesson that’s it’s tough to win making mistakes in this league.”
Northeast grabbed a 3-1 lead after the first period, getting goals from Shawn Montgomery, Justin Jallen and Justin Kelley. Kenai River’s goal came from Emils Ezitis, assisted by Luke Radetic and Sacha Guillemain.
In the third period, Gil Garcia cut it to 3-2 when he scored on an assist from Preston Weeks. But Joseph Mancuso and Mike Egan scored for the Generals with 17:38 and 16:02 left in the game to stretch the lead to 5-2.
Radetic notched a power-play goal, on an assist from Michael Spethmann, with 3:36 to play, then Garcia, assisted by Weeks, cut the gap to just one with 1:56 to play. But the Bears would get no closer.
Marko Sturma had 32 saves for the Generals, while Colt Hanks stopped 29 for the Bears.
Generals 5, Brown Bears 4
Northeast 3 0 2 —5
Kenai River 1 0 3 —4
First period — 1. Northeast, Montgomery (un.), 11:37; 2. Northeast, Jallen (Mancuso, Rowland), 14:30; 3. Kenai River, Ezitis (Radetic, Guillemain), 15:32; 4. Northeast, Kelley (Rutigliano, Cohen), 19:18. Penalties — Northeast 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Northeast 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Garcia (Weeks), 0:44; 6. Northeast, Mancuso (un.), 2:22; 7. Northeast, Egan (Cohen, Wiesner), pp, 3:58; 8. Kenai River, Radetic (Spethmann), pp, 16:24; 9. Kenai River, Garcia (Weeks), 18:04. Penalties — Northeast 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal — Northeast 16-9-9—34; Kenai River 14-7-15—36.
Goalies — Northeast, Sturma (36 shots, 32 saves); Kenai River, Hanks (34 shots, 29 saves).
Power plays — Northeast 1 for 3; Kenai River 1 for 5.
Brown Bears 8, Wilderness 2
Kenai River 1 3 4 —8
Minnesota 0 1 1 —2
First period — 1. Kenai River, Luke Radetic (C. McDonald), 19:19. Penalties — none.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Klekotka (Sterne, Kaplan), 0:29; 3. Kenai River, Garcia (C. McDonald), pp, 9:14; 4. Kenai River, Garcia (Guillemain, C. McDonald), pp, 15:36; 5. Minnesota, Couet (Ford), pp, 17:30. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Minnesota 4 for 16:00.
Third period — 6. Kenai River, Wade (Griebenow), sh, 1:46; 7. Minnesota, Likourezos (Gotz), 2:48; 8. Garcia (Posner, C. McDonald), pp, 3:40; 9. Kenai River, Spethmann (Fedorek, Scahill), pp, 3:57; 10. Kenai River, Posner (Garcia), 7:54. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 19:00; Minnesota 4 for 19:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 12-16-19— 47; Minnesota 7-11-7— 25.
Goalies — Kenai River, Pavliukov (25 shots, 23 saves); Minnesota, Micucci (47 shots, 39 saves).