The Kenai River Brown Bears put on an extended show at the season-opening North American Hockey League Showcase from Wednesday through Saturday in Blaine, Minnesota.
The Bears went to a shootout in three of their games, and played in overtime in the other, meaning Kenai River finished just 2 minutes, 3 seconds, shy of the maximum number of minutes possible at the tourney.
“We just wanted to get our guys as much ice time as possible,” joked Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock.
After losses Wednesday and Thursday, the Bears won 4-3 in a shootout over the Jamestown (Pennsylvania) Rebels on Friday and 4-3 in a shootout over the Austin (Minnesota) Bruins on Saturday.
At 2-0-1-1, the Bears now travel to play the Minnesota Magicians on Friday and Saturday.
“We’re feeling pretty great about it,” Murdock said. “It’d be nice to start winning some games in regulation, but coming out of the Showcase with six of eight points with the few practices we’ve had is pretty good.”
Murdock claimed his first NAHL victory Friday.
“It feels great, especially the way it happened, tying it up late in the game,” Murdock said.
Kenai River goaltender Landon Pavlisin stopped all three Jamestown attackers in the shootout, while Eagle River’s Brandon Lajoie scored for Kenai River.
After Jamestown got on the board first, Kenai River’s Stewart Pond, on assists from Soldotna’s Preston Weeks and Lajoie, tied the game with 27 seconds left in the first period.
Just 2:12 into the second period, Logan Ritchie, on assists from Wasilla’s Porter Schachle and Theo Thrun, put the Bears up, but the Rebels would score twice to take a 3-2 lead into the third.
With just 16 seconds left in regulation, JJ Boucher, assisted by Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik and Schachle, scored to tie the game. Murdock said Ritchie won two key faceoffs after the goalie was pulled to set up Boucher’s goal.
Pavlisin had 24 saves for the Bears, while Jon Howe stopped 28 for the Rebels.
Saturday, it was Danny Fraga getting the job done in net, making 38 saves and stopping all three in the shootout. Laudon Poellinger had the game-winner in the shootout. Murdock said all three goalies were great throughout the Showcase, which was great after losing last year’s star goalie, Gavin Enright, to the United States Hockey League.
Ritchie scored twice in the first period, once assisted by Poellinger, as the Bears lead 2-0 after 20 minutes.
After Austin tied it at 2 in the second, Robert McCollum scored with just nine seconds left in the second for a 3-2 lead. Austin would tie it in the third to set up the shootout.
Jaxon Friedman saved 18 for the Bruins.
Murdock said Friday and Saturday were not the Bears’ best games of the Showcase.
“At the end of the day, the guys pulled it off,” he said. “Good teams find a way to win games.”
Brown Bears 4, Rebels 3, SO
Kenai River 1 1 1 0 1 — 4
Jamestown 1 2 0 0 — 3
First period — 1. Jamestown, Clark (Brydges, Siffringer), 18:48; 2. Kenai River, Pond (Weeks, Lajoie), 19:33. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Ritchie (Schachle, Thrun), 2:12; 4. Jamestown, Olson (Moore, Stoia), 3:08; 5. Jamestown, Clark (Olson), 15:21. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Jamestown 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 6. Kenai River, Boucher (Krajnik, Schachle), 19:44. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Jamestown 4 for 8:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shootout — Kenai River 1 (Lajoie G, Helgeson NG); Jamestown 0 (Siffringer NG, Hubbarde NG, Brydges NG).
Shots on goal — Kenai River 10-9-10-2—31; Jamestown 6-9-11-1—27.
Goalies — Kenai River, Pavlisin (27 shots, 24 saves); Jamestown, Howe (31 shots, 28 saves).
Brown Bears 4, Bruins 3, SO
Austin 0 2 1 0 0 0 — 3
Kenai River 2 1 0 0 1 — 4
First period — 1. Kenai River, Ritchie (un.), 1:58; 2. Kenai River, Ritchie (Poellinger), 13:57. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 3. Austin, Gabor (un.), 8:05; 4. Austin, Shoudy (Jacobs, Mysak), 17:15; 5. Kenai River, McCollum (un.), pp, 19:51. Penalties — Austin 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 6. Austin, Larkin (Sheriff), pp, 14:42. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — Austin 1 for 2:00.
Shootout — Austin 0 (Gabor NG, Pietila NG, Almquist NG); Kenai River 1 (Poellinger G, Krajnik NG).
Shots on goal — Austin 13-10-15-3—41; Kenai River 6-8-2-5—21.
Goalies — Austin, Friedman (21 shots, 18 saves); Kenai River, Frage (41 shots, 38 saves).