The visiting Kenai River Brown Bears opened the season by defeating the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel 6-1 on Saturday in North American Hockey League play.
Dylan Conteras had a hat trick to lead the Bears. Contreras was acquired in a trade from the Corpus Christi (Texas) IceRays in the offseason. He is now in his third year in the NAHL and had his first hat trick in the league.
“We knew he had a ton of upside, and that was part of me going after him to try and bring him in, especially with his foot speed,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “He played a well-rounded game. Hopefully, he’ll keep building.”
Shaw also liked the debut of goalie Conor Sullivan, who had 43 saves. Shaw isn’t sure the shot count should have been that high, but he said Sullivan was solid.
“He was fantastic,” Shaw said. “The goal was a fluky goal we scored on ourselves, and that was the only goal he gave up.”
Carter Wishart had 20 saves for the Steel.
Contreras put the Bears up 1-0 after the first 20 minutes with an unassisted goal.
In the second period, Blake Norris, on assists from Rylan Yates and Hayden Walters, and Dylan Contreras, on assists from Cade Baker and Kotaro Tsutsumi, put the Bears up 3-0 with 7:26 left.
Joe Kelly scored unassisted to make it 3-1 headed to the third.
Shaw said the Bears did a good job withstanding a push by the Steel to start the final period. Nick Stevens, assisted by Walters and Yates, made it 4-1 with 8:03 left.
Walters scored on the empty net with 2:42 left, then Contreras finished off his hat trick with help from Tsutsumi and Walters.
The Bears start play in the NAHL Showcase in Minnesota on Wednesday at 8 a.m. AKDT against the Oklahoma Warriors, who won the Robertson Cup last season.