The Kenai River Brown Bears renew their chase for a playoff spot when they host the Minnesota Wilderness today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
With 12 games left to play, the Bears are currently clinging to the fourth and final playoff spot in the close Midwest Division.
After this series, the Brown Bears have just four home games left — two against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and two against the Anchorage Wolverines. Kenai River also has four on the road against Fairbanks and two on the road against Anchorage.
Kenai River is 25-20-2-1, good for 53 points, while the Wilderness are 24-15-3-4, good for 55 points and third place. The Wisconsin Windigo lead the division with 59, while the Ice Dogs are in second with 57.
Pursuing the Bears are the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets with 51, the Wolverines with 49, the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel with 46 and the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues with 43.
Kenai River is currently riding a four-game winning streak. The Brown Bears also have been on fire at home after the holiday break, collecting 13 of a possible 14 points.
The Brown Bears are 1-1-0-1 against the Wilderness this season. Minnesota won its only game at the sports complex — a 2-1 victory back on Nov. 5 marked by a scary injury to Minnesota’s Oliver Stumpel, who had to be taken from the ice on a stretcher.
Stumpel returned to the ice a little over a month after the game and has been playing regularly since then.
Minnesota is coming off a split with the Jr. Blues. Prior to that, the Wilderness got two points out of four games with the Windigo.
The Wilderness play a low-scoring brand of hockey. They have scored the second-fewest goals in the eight-team division, but also have allowed the second-fewest goals in the division.
Kenai River has scored the third fewest in the division and allowed the third most.
For the Brown Bears, Garett Drotts is tied for 17th in the league in points with 45, coming on 23 goals and 22 assists. Kevin Marx Noren, who played 30 games for the Bears last season, leads Minnesota with 44 points.
For the Wilderness, Isak Posch is 13th in the league in goals-against average at 2.33 and tied for 14th in save percentage at .919, while Kenai River’s Nils Wallstrom is tied for 16th in the league in save percentage at .918.