Brown Bears split weekend series with Jr. Blues

Brown Bears split weekend series with Jr. Blues

The visiting Kenai River Brown Bears split a weekend series with the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues on Friday and Saturday in North American Hockey League play.

The Bears stretched their winning streak to three with a 3-2 overtime victory Friday, but lost 3-2 Saturday. Kenai River, at 5-3-0-0, still leads the Midwest Division as it prepares for its home opener Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex against the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel. Springfield is 3-2-1-0.

“This is a game good teams win,” Kenai River head coach Josh Petrich said Friday. “We weren’t very good tonight. We looked tired and slow. We still found a way to come out with two points.”

Petrich has emphasized fast starts this season, and the Bears came through when Logan Ritchie scored on assists from Justin Daly and Jack Conroy just 1 minute, 6 seconds, into the game.

“After that goal we let down because maybe we thought it was going to be easy,” Petrich said. “We chased our tail a little bit.”

Things got worse in the second period, when the Bears were whistled for three penalties and Springfield (2-2-1-0) had a 2-1 lead just over seven minutes into the frame.

But the Bears steadied themselves enough to get the equalizer when Johan Bok threw the puck to the net and it went five-hole off a skate. Petrich said Sutton McDonald and Alex Klekotka put in extra effort to get the puck to Bok.

After a cautious third period, the teams went to overtime. Petrich emphasized getting shots on net in the extra frame, and Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik did that just 15 seconds in after getting the puck from Markuss Komuls and Michael Spethmann. The puck went in for the winner.

Gavin Enright had 28 saves for the Bears, while Caleb Hannon stopped 20 for the Jr. Blues.

“He made very timely saves and weathered some storms,” Petrich said of Enright. “I’m very happy with Gavin’s performance.”

Saturday, Springfield led 1-0 after the first period before Connor Scahill got things started in the second on a power-play goal, assisted by Klekotka and Krajnik. But Springfield scored two before the end of the second to lead 3-1.

Wasilla’s Porter Schachle, assisted by Cody Moline and Bok, got the Bears within one with 10:24 to play, but Kenai River could not find the equalizer.

Dennis Westergard stopped 22 for Kenai River, while Jack Williams stopped 27 for Springfield.

The Bears have trimmed their roster to 24 by trading JJ Berdal to the Jamestown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks for assets and by releasing Emils Ezitis and Alex Stuckert. Petrich said he plans on getting the roster down to 23 by Sunday.

Friday

Brown Bears 3, Jr. Blues 2, OT

Kenai River 1 1 0 1 — 3

Springfield 0 2 0 0 — 2

First period — 1. Kenai River, Ritchie (Daly, Conroy), 1:06. Penalties — none.

Second period — 2. Springfield, Puricelli (DenBeste), pp, 1:08; 3. Springfield, Techel (un.), 7:02; 4. Kenai River, Bok (A. Walker, McDonald), 16:23. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00.

Third period — none. Penalties — none.

Overtime — Kenai River, Krajnik (Komuls, Spethmann), 0:15. Penalties — none.

Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-4-9-1—23; Springfield 7-12-11-0—30.

Goalies — Kenai River, Enright (30 shots, 28 saves); Springfield, Hannon (23 shots, 20 saves).

Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 0; Springfield 1 for 3.

Saturday

Jr. Blues 3, Brown Bears 2

Kenai River 0 1 1 — 2

Springfield 1 2 0 — 3

First period — 1. Springfield, Carabelli (Groton, Reid), 16:14. Penalties — none.

Second period — 2. Kenai River, Scahill (Klekotka, Krajnik), pp, 9:30; 3. Springfield, Panisa (Schmidling, Brainin), 10:09; 4. Springfield, Puricelli (Kozyrev, Villegas), pp, 19:51. Penalties — Kenai River 6 for 12:00; Springfield 3 for 6:00.

Third period — 5. Kenai River, Schachle (Moline, Bok), 9:36. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Shots on goal — Kenai River 7-14-8—29; Springfield 4-15-6—25.

Goalies — Kenai River, Westergard (25 shots, 22 saves); Springfield, Williams (29 shots, 27 saves).

Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 2, Springfield 1 for 4.

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