The Kenai River Brown Bears swept the Northeast (Massachusetts) Generals on Friday and Saturday in North Attleboro and have now won five times in their last seven North American Hockey League games.
After a 2-1 overtime victory Friday and a 4-3 triumph Saturday, Kenai River moves to 6-18-2-0 and has blown past its four-win total of a year ago, although the Bears are still in last place in the Midwest Division. The Generals, at 0-23-3-0, are the league’s only winless team.
Friday, all it took for the Bears to officially cast away the memories of their league-worst record from a year ago was a little fighting, and Swedish forward Jonas Warman was up to the task.
Kenai River coach Jeff Worlton credited Warman for raising the intensity level of the game when he broke out the fisticuffs with Generals defender Kyle Martin in the latter stages of the opening period.
“The momentum swing is what helped jump-start our team,” Worlton said. “The effort was there, the intensity level was good, and their goalie played exceptionally well.”
Ultimately, it was Christopher Lipe that slotted in the game-winning goal three minutes into overtime, giving the Bears their first overtime win of the year.
“We’re always happy to get a win, and no win is bigger than any other,” Worlton said.
Robbie Goor played exceptional in net for Kenai River, stopping 32 of 33 shots on goal to earn the win.
After Warman’s antics in the scoreless first period left both teams with 15 penalty minutes each, Tyler Rock scored on the power play halfway through the second frame to put Kenai River ahead, but the lead did not hold up long. A defensive breakdown in front of the net allowed a Northeast goal from Cameron Smith, tying it up at one apiece.
Another 20 minutes of scoreless third-period hockey, overtime was needed. Following a save by Goor, Jordan Holmes sent the puck to Lucas Carroll, who skated up the ice on a rush and was joined by Lipe, who scored on a shot on the glove side.
“I felt we controlled the puck (in overtime), had composure and we were relaxed,” Worlton said. “We didn’t force the play, we controlled the puck.”
Saturday, the Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period on power-play goals from Luke Radetic, assisted by Jonathan Marzec, and Anthony Tzveyn, assisted by Ryan Mezera and Alex Dingeldein. Tzveyn had been cut by the Generals at the start of the season.
The game had been delayed due to a power outage at the rink.
“By the time the game ended, we’d been there almost seven hours,” Worlton said. “It was definitely a challenging task to keep everybody focused and ready to go, but the team did a good job staying focused and competed.”
But Northeast would score the next two goals of the game, tying things up with 15:21 to play in the third.
Kenai River struck back with goals by Jake Friedman, assisted by Rock and Marzec, and Warman, assisted by Mezera.
Friedman, whose goal came on the power play, just joined the team this weekend from AAA hockey. Worlton called him a player with good speed, skill set and potential.
After fighting Friday, Worlton said Warman was an offensive threat Saturday, earning a second-period breakaway before overpowering the defense for the third-period goal.
The Generals got it to 4-3 with 3:53 to play, but Robbie Goor was able to hold the fort for the victory.
“Goor played really, really well,” Worlton said. “He made some saves that were a big factor in us winning.”
Goor made 34 saves, while David Fessenden had 24 for the Generals.
The Brown Bears stay on the road to face the New Jersey Titans on Friday and Saturday. In their last two games before the Christmas break, the Bears will look to avenge a sweep at the hands of the Titans earlier in the season.
“It’ll be a good measure of how far we’ve come and how far we have to go,” Worlton said.
Brown Bears 2, Generals 1, OT
Kenai River 0 1 0 1 —2
Northeast 0 1 0 0 —1
1st period — no scoring. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 15:00; Northeast 4 for 19:00.
2nd period — 1. Kenai River, Rock (Lipe, Radetic), PP, 11:27; 2. Northeast, Smith (Anosau, Hartje), 13:23. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Northeast 2 for 4:00.
3rd period — no scoring. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Northeast 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 3. Kenai River, Lipe (Carroll, Holmes), 3:04.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 15-12-13-2—42; Northeast 8-10-14-1—33.
Goalies — Kenai River, Goor (33 shots, 32 saves); Northeast, Vinal (42 shots, 40 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 1; Northeast 0 for 0.
Brown Bears 4, Generals 3
Kenai River 2 0 2 —4
Northeast 0 1 2 —3
First period — 1. Kenai River, Radetic (Marzec), pp, 4:15; 2. Kenai River, Tzveyn (Mezera, Dingeldein), pp, 8:54. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Northeast 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 3. Northeast, Thomas (Hartje, Taormina), 3:38. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Northeast 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 4. Northeast, Taormina (Perry), 4:39; 5. Kenai River, Friedman (Rock, Marzec), pp, 7:10; 6. Kenai River, Warman (Mezera), 9:02; 7. Northeast, Egan (Hartje, Bilek), 16:07. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 13-6-9—28; Northeast 10-16-11—37.
Goalies — Kenai River, Goor (37 shots, 34 saves); Northeast, Fesssenden (28 shots, 24 saves).