The Kenai River Brown Bears pulled off a pair of dramatic comebacks to sweep the host Northeast (Massachusetts) Generals on Friday and Saturday in North American Hockey League play.
The Brown Bears moved into second place in the Midwest Division with a 9-5-1-2 record, while Northeast falls to 7-10-1-1.
“I think the guys kept working hard,” Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said. “We just showed a little of our inconsistency. Tonight we took our foot off the gas after a good first period. We were able to claw back and lucky enough to have enough time to get it done.”
Kenai River now returns home for a 12-game home stand, the longest of the season. The home stay starts Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, when the Bears take on the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“I think it’s going to be good for us to be up there for a while,” Murdock said. “We’ve really only been up in Kenai for not even two weeks this year.
“It’s an opportunity for the guys to get more involved in the community and get more accustomed to the big ice sheet.”
Saturday, the Bears fell into a 3-0 hole before storming back for a 5-3 victory.
Trevor Smith scored in the first period for the Generals, while Tyler Cooper and Charlie Reid buried the puck in the second for a 3-0 lead with 9:35 left until intermission.
Jack Quinn, on assists from Konner Lundeen and Trey LaBarge, got it to 3-1 headed into the third period. Quinn was just acquired by the Bears and played his first game Saturday. He is in his last year of junior eligibility.
“I hope he can have a few more two-goal games,” Murdock joked. “He was good. He adds a little older presence and more consistency.”
Just 1 minute, 16 seconds, into the third, Logan Ritchie cut it to one with a goal assisted by Soldotna’s Preston Weeks and Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik.
Quinn tied it with 15:53 left in the game on an assist from Laudon Poellinger. Then Theo Thrun put the Bears ahead with a power-play goal assisted by Max Helgeson and Krajnik. Krajnik clinched it with an empty-net, short-handed goal with 28 seconds left.
Landon Pavlisin stopped 30 for the Bears, while Connor Bradford saved 35 for the Generals.
After tying the game with just four seconds left in regulation, the Brown Bears defeated the Generals 4-3 in overtime Friday.
The Bears had to come from a goal down three times to secure victory.
After Dylan Schuett got the Generals on the board just 57 seconds into the game, Weeks, assisted by LaBarge and Helgeson, tied it with 13:26 left in the first.
“He’s definitely been chipping in a bit more on the offensive side of things,” Murdock said of Weeks. “I don’t think he’s changed his game, but he’s definitely doing a good job of reading the play and jumping in the rush.”
Schuett put the Generals up again in the second period, but Thrun, assisted by Helgeson and Michael Spinner, scored on the power play to tie things up.
In the third period, Michael Heneghan gave Northeast the lead with 8:27 to play, but Helgeson, assisted by Robert McCollum and Krajnik, forced overtime.
Then, 2:33 into the five-minute frame, Thrun scored the game-winner on assists from Anchorage’s Ryan Reid and Ritchie.
“With him being so young, you expect him to struggle with consistency,” Murdock said of Thrun. “He’s been playing well lately. He can’t score every single night.”
Pavlisin stopped 32 for the Bears, while Joey Stanizzi had 22 saves for the Generals.
Brown Bears 4, Generals 3, OT
Kenai River 1 1 1 1 — 4
Northeast 1 1 1 0 — 3
First period — 1. Northeast, Schuett (Bankauskas, McCanney), 0:57; 2. Kenai River, Weeks (LaBarge, Helgeson), 6:34. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 3. Northeast, Schuett (Gaudette, McCanney), 3:21; 4. Kenai River, Thrun (Helgeson, Spinner), pp, 9:06. Penalties — Northeast 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 5. Northeast, Heneghan (Ring, Cooper), 11:33; 6. Kenai River, Helgeson (McCollum, Krajnik), 19:56. Penalties — Northeast 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 7. Kenai River, Thrun (Reid, Ritchie), 2:33. Penalties — none.
Shot on goal — Kenai River 8-13-3-2—26; Northeast 10-11-13-1—35.
Goalies — Kenai River, Pavlisin (35 shots, 32 saves); Northeast, Stanizzi (26 shots, 22 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 4; Northeast 0 for 3.
Brown Bears 5, Generals 3
Kenai River 0 1 4 — 5
Northeast 1 2 0 — 3
First period — 1. Northeast, Smith (Ring, Caudette), 8:51. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Northeast 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 2. Northeast, Cooper (Kerner, Nagle), 6:46; 3. Northeast, Reid (un.), sh, 13:25; 4. Kenai River, Daly (Lundeen, LaBarge), 17:29. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 15:00; Northeast 3 for 17:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Ritchie (Weeks, Krajnik), 1:16; 6. Kenai River, Weeks (Poellinger, Daly), 4:07; 7. Kenai River, Thrun (Helgeson, Krajnik), pp, 11:12. Penalties — Northeast 3 for 14:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 18-6-16—40; Northeast 8-14-11—33.
Goalies — Kenai River, Pavlisin (22 shots, 19 saves); Northeast, Bradford (27 shots, 23 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 6; Northeast 0 for 2.