The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Wisconsin Windigo 3-2 on Friday in North American Hockey League play at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Bears snapped a four-game losing streak, while the Windigo saw a seven-game winning streak end.
The Brown Bears improve to 20-18-1-1 and are in fifth place in the Midwest Division, just one point out of the fourth and final playoff spot out of the division. The Windigo are 21-14-1-1, good for 44 points and third in the division.
Kenai River has a chance to move into a tie with the Windigo tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the sports complex when the teams conclude the two-game series.
Brown Bears head coach Taylor Shaw said that when he and his staff looked at things like time of possession, shots taken and shots on net, and takeaways, his team’s play didn’t look that bad lately. But Shaw said the team was not capitalizing on opportunities and winning the special teams battle, and that led to losses.
“We had to keep doing some of the little things right and clean up some of the rest,” Shaw said.
Kotaro Tsutsumi, assisted by Hunter Newhouse and Luke Anderson, put the Bears up 1-0 after the first period.
Just 50 seconds into the second period, Luke Levandowski continued his hot streak for the Windigo with a goal, but Hayden Walters, assisted by Newhouse and Ben Monson, had the Bears up 2-1 headed to the third.
After Zachary Cline tied it with 10:29 left, Walters got the game-winner on the power play with 3:29 to play. Garett Drotts and Monson had assists.
The Bears then immediately had to kill off a power play to get the win. Wisconsin was 0 for 4 with the extra man, while Kenai River was 1 for 3.
“We hadn’t been winning the special teams battle, so to win it tonight was huge for our group,” Shaw said.
Nils Wallstrom had 26 saves for the Bears, while Maxwell Beckford stopped 35.
Shaw said Walters not only had two goals, but played at a good pace, hunted the puck, won draws, back-checked and got pucks out of the zone. The coach also like the play of forwards Tsutsumi and Noah Holt.
Shaw also said all six defensemen played well. Jacob Zwirecki and Joe Manning were making their first starts on the big ice sheet of the sports complex, but Shaw said both adjusted well.
Brown Bears 3, Windigo 2
Wisconsin 0 1 1 —2
Kenai River 1 1 1 —3
First period — 1. Kenai River, Tsutsumi (Newhouse, L. Anderson), 14:18. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Wisconsin, Levandowski (Widlund, Mickel), 0:50; 3. Kenai River, Walters (Newhouse, Monson), 7:04. Penalties — Wisconsin 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 4. Wisconsin, Cline (Levandowski), 9:31; 5. Kenai River, Walters (Tsutsumi, Monson), pp, 16:31. Penalties — Wisconsin 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Wisconsin 9-11-8—28; Kenai River 10-13-15—38.
Goalies — Wisconsin, Beckford (24 shots, 21 saves); Kenai River, Wallstrom (21 shots, 19 saves).
Power plays — Wisconsin 0 for 4; Kenai River 1 for 3.