The nightmare start to the season continued for the Kenai River Brown Bears, who suffered 6-2 and 9-1 losses to the Minnesota Wilderness in Cloquet, Minnesota, this weekend.
The Bears drop to 1-9-0 in North American Hockey League play, while Minnesota improved to 4-3-1. Kenai River travels to play Fairbanks, which leads the Midwest Division at 8-1-1, on Friday and Saturday.
Friday, five second-period goals spelled Kenai River’s doom, as the hometown Wilderness turned a 1-0 lead into a 4-0 lead in a span of 4 minutes, 20 seconds, early in the second period of play.
Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant said while the entire organization has been focused on finding ways to improve with each game, they are hoping to find the turnaround point soon.
“We felt some positive vibes, but we can’t keep going down the path we’re going,” Beauparlant said. “We’ve got to find ways to keep pucks out and then score goals.”
Six different players got into the scoring column Friday for the Wilderness, starting with a power play goal by Tyler Cline just barely three minutes into the game.
The Bears held the Wilderness in check for the remainder of the frame, but could not convert on the other end of the ice, hitting the post three times.
It didn’t take long for Minnesota to build upon that lead in the second period. Ashton Calder slipped the puck by Kenai River goalie Brian Baker just 2:18 into the frame, and was followed by goals from Malo Ville and Tyler Vold by the 6:38 mark of the period. Baker ended the night stopping 36 of 42 shots he faced.
Later in the frame, Alex Toscano and Jacob Hamacher netted a goal each to push the lead to 6-0.
Finally, it was Sam Carlson that broke the Minnesota shutout, getting an assist from new addition Blake Carrick on a forecheck to tally his third goal of the season with 2:28 left in the second period. Jeffrey Fasegha added another Bears score 6:51 into the third — his second of the year — but the damage done was too much to overcome.
“It’s getting to a point in the season that we can’t keep making the same mistakes,” Beauparlant said. “We’re a young team, but that’s only going to last so long.”
The game was the first played following the addition of three new players: Swedish forward Mathias Tellstrom, Japanese defenseman Seyia Hayata, and Carrick, a forward from Michigan. Carrick was acquired in a trade for Tommy Bowe and Jack Nickels.
Beauparlant expressed optimism about the new recruits, saying that he expects Tellstrom and Carrick to compliment the Bears’ front line and Hayata to solidify the back.
“We’re excited about where they can get us,” he said, adding that he plans not to make the same mistake last year of trading too many players in a short period of time.
“I’ve learned my lesson from last year, I’m not panicking.”
Saturday, the Wilderness were 5 for 5 on the power play en route to the victory.
Minnesota had a 3-0 lead after the first period and led 4-0 when Tellstrom scored on assists from Hayata and Gunnar Goodmanson with 16:42 left in the second period.
“He competed hard and played well considering he has only practiced with us once,” Beauparlant said.
But the Wilderness closed the game with five straight goals.
“The only way to go is up,” Beauparlant said. “We all have to do some real soul searching, staff included.
“We have to look at what we’re doing and what the players are doing. Not that we have to start over. We believe in these players.”
Nicholas Nast had 31 saves for the Bears, while Chase Munroe made 28 for the Wilderness. Beauparlant said there’s not much Nast could have done about the goals.
Wilderness 6, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 0 1 1 —2
Minnesota 1 5 0 —6
1st period — 1. Minnesota, Cline (Vold), pp, 3:11. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
2nd period — 2. Minnesota, Calder (Hamacher, Seper), 2:18; 3. Minnesota, Ville (Bergland, Heikkila), 5:17; 4. Minnesota, Vold (Roth), 6:38; 5. Minnesota, Toscano (Bender, Gilling), 14:59; 6. Minnesota, Hamacher (Calder, Trapp), 16:40; 7. Kenai River, Carlson (Kresl, Carrick), 17:32. Penaltie — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
3rd period — 8. Kenai River, Fasegha (Cook, Kresl), 6:51. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00.
Shots — Kenai River 11-8-15—34; Minnesota 11-22-9—42.
Goalies — Kenai River, Baker (42 shots, 36 saves); Minnesota, Munroe (34 shots, 32 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3; Minnesota 1 for 3.
Wilderness 9, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 0 1 0 —1
Minnesota 3 4 2 —9
First period — 1. Minnesota, Cline (Roth, Vold), pp, 6:43; 2. Minnesota, Mahan (Hamacher, Altmann), 6:52; 3. Minnesota, Bloom (Kelly, Roth), 13:06. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 4. Minnesota, Bloom (Bender, Vold), pp, 0:57; 5. Kenai River, Tellstrom (Hayata, Goodmanson), 3:18; 6. Minnesota, Mahan (Hamacher, Altmann), 8:21; 7. Minnesota, Bender (Cline, Hamacher), pp, 14:58; 8. Minnesota, Gilling (Toscano, Cline), pp, 19:08. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 16:00; Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 9. Minnesota, Bender (Toscano, Trapp), 8:01; 10. Minnesota, DeVito (Mahan, Calder), pp, 19:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 12-9-8—29; Minnesota 16-13-11—40.
Goalies — Kenai River, Nast (40 shots, 31 saves); Minnesota, Munroe (29 shots, 28 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3; Minnesota 5 for 5.