Kenai River Brown Bears head coach Josh Petrich has a discussion with a referee at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears head coach Josh Petrich has a discussion with a referee at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Brown Bears, Petrich broke up amicably

To hear both sides tell it, former Kenai River Brown Bears head coach Josh Petrich and the organization broke up about as amicably as two sides can break up Sunday.

The Brown Bears announced Sunday that Petrich had resigned from the team, effective immediately, for personal reasons.

When contacted Sunday, Petrich said he received a call from the management Sunday and described the discussion as a “shock.” Petrich said both parties agreed to go opposite directions.

Chris Hedlund, associate general manager of the Bears, could not be reached Sunday night, but Monday talked about the departure of Petrich.

“We agreed to part on mutual terms and move forward definitely in a positive way,” said Hedlund, who was promoted to associate general manager about a month ago after spending 3 1-2 seasons with the team. “We agreed to disagree politely about a couple of things.”

Petrich and Hedlund are both choosing to keep those things private. Other than those few things, though, the two parties say they have respect for each other.

“Josh did a good job for our program,” Hedlund said. “He was well-liked in the area. We appreciated everything he did. We want to wish him the best in his hockey future — to him and his family.”

Hedlund said that Petrich did a lot of what he was hired to do after getting the job before the 2017-18 season. Two major things the coaches committee was looking for was a coach to boost community support and a coach that would make the Brown Bears the first choice for Alaska’s junior hockey players.

At the end of the 2016-17 season, the Bears were deactivated before a fan fundraising effort saved the team for 2017-18. Hedlund said Petrich did a good job capitalizing on the Save the Bears effort.

Currently, there are seven Alaska players on Kenai River’s roster, if Wasilla’s Porter Schachle, out for the rest of the season with an injury, is included.

Last season, Eagle River’s Cam McDonald played for the Brown Bears and was able to use that to secure a commitment to Division I power Providence College.

One thing that has not come are bunches of wins. The Brown Bears were 18-38-1-3 last season. This season, the team is 15-23-2-2 and 14 points out of the final playoff spot in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division.

Kenai River is in its 12th season and Petrich was the seventh head coach. Only one coach, Oliver David, finished over .500 with the Bears. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2013-14 season.

“I think wins are the next thing we have to achieve,” Hedlund said. “We’ve come a long way with some other steps, but that is our next step.”

Hedlund said the timing of Petrich’s departure should not be looked at as giving up on the season. Hedlund has confidence in interim head coach Dan Bogdan, who had been serving as assistant coach.

“I still think there’s an opportunity to make a run,” Hedlund said. “I’m excited to see where it goes. I’m excited to see what Dan can bring.”

After the season, Hedlund said Bogdan will be in a pool with all of the other potential candidates for the job.

Hedlund also said the players are focused on the remaining 18 games.

“All indications from the players is that they are taking it business as usual,” Hedlund said. “They’re focused on their game, trying to make the playoffs and win out the rest of the way.”

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