The Kenai River Brown Bears split a pair of North American Hockey League games with the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel on Friday and Saturday at the Chippewa Area Ice Arena.
The Bears won 4-2 on Friday before dropping a 4-3 contest on Saturday.
The Bears, at 3-1-0-0, remain tied for the Midwest Division lead with the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets. The Steel are in third at 1-3-0-0, the Minnesota Magicians have yet to play a game, and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs are in last at 0-4-0-0.
Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said his team continues to make too many mistakes, giving the opposition opportunities.
“As nice as it is to win games, when you’re not winning the right way it comes back to bite you in the butt sooner rather than later,” he said.
Friday, after a scoreless first period, Liam Hansson and Ethan Heidepriem got Chippewa out to a 2-0 lead just 2:39 in to the second period. Less than two minutes after Heidepriem’s goal, though, Wasilla’s Porter Schachle, assisted by Brandon McNamara, had the Bears on the comeback trail. With 11:04 left in the second, Dylan Hadfield tied things up with an unassisted goal.
With 6:30 to play in the game, Jeffrey Lee, assisted by Max Helgeson of Anchorage and Lucas Wahlin, gave the Bears the lead. Then Daymin Dodge scored unassisted and short-handed for a 2-0 lead with 3:38 to play.
Danny Fraga stopped 43 for the Bears, while Gus Bylin made 17 saves for the Steel.
“It was nice to see the resilience after we got down by two,” Murdock said. “Danny played really well on Friday.”
Saturday was a back and forth affair. Adam Beauvais put the Bears up 1-0 in the first, but Chippewa tied it before the end of the first.
In the second, Chippewa went out ahead, but Brandon McNamara tied it heading to the third.
With 17:58 to play, Theo Thrun, assisted by McNamara, gave the Bears the lead. But by the time 12:17 was left to play, the Bears were down 4-3 and couldn’t find the equalizer.
Fraga stopped a penalty shot, making 26 saves overall, while Grant Boldt had 30 saves for the Steel.
Murdock said the Bears were a little beaten up after three games in three days. Forward Peter Morgan didn’t play all weekend, and Helgeson didn’t play Saturday. Kenai River dressed 13 forwards Saturday, but the Bears were down to 10 forwards for an extended period.
“Three games in three days is tough,” Murdock said. “It’s nice to have a few days off before we go to Janesville.”
Kenai River plays at Janesville on Friday and Saturday at 4 p.m. AKST.
Brown Bears 4, Steel 2
Kenai River 0 2 2 —4
Chippewa 0 2 0 —2
First period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Chippewa 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 1. Chippewa, Hansson (Ryder, Waltman), 1:03; 2. Chippewa, Heidepriem (Hansson), 2:39; 3. Kenai River, Schachle (McNamara), 4:26; 4. Kenai River, Hadfield (none), 8:56. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Chippewa 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Lee (Helgeson, Wahlin), 13:30; 6. Kenai River, Dodge (none), sh, 16:22. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 19:00; Chippewa 3 for 17:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 8-11-2—21; Chippewa 20-14-11—45.
Goalies — Kenai River, Fraga (45 shots, 43 saves); Chippewa, Bylin (21 shots, 17 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 2; Chippewa 0 for 5.
Steel 4, Brown Bears 3
Kenai River 1 1 1 —3
Chippewa 1 1 2 —4
First period — 1. Kenai River, Beauvais (none), 1:58; 2. Chippewa, Baker (Lindstrom), 3:25. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Chippewa 3 for 27:00.
Second period — 3. Chippewa, Waltman (Lindstrom), pp, 9:38; 4. Kenai River, McNamara (un.), 14:09. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 8:00; Chippewa 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Thrun (McNamara), 2:02; 6. Chippewa, Hansson (Waltman), 4:20; 7. Chippewa, Bacallao (Black, Gotovets0, pp, 7:43. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 19:00; Chippewa 2 for 15:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 15-12-6—33; Chippewa 8-16-6—30.
Goalies — Kenai River, Fraga (30 shots, 26 saves); Chippewa, Boldt (33 shots, 30 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3; Chippewa 2 for 5.