Caden Triggs of the Kenai River Brown Bears celebrates his first-period goal against the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Caden Triggs of the Kenai River Brown Bears celebrates his first-period goal against the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Brown Bears topple Jr. Blues

By JEFF HELMINIAK

Peninsula Clarion

The Kenai River Brown Bears received two goals from Caden Triggs and three assists from Nick Stevens in toppling the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues in North American Hockey League play Thursday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Josh Dubinsky, former head coach for the Brown Bears, was not on the bench Thursday night. Brown Bears general manager Chris Hedlund said in a text message Dubinsky is not with the team anymore. Hedlund had no other information on the situation, texting that a press release will go out soon.

When Kevin Murdock resigned as head coach of the Bears late in the 2020-21 season, Dubinsky took over and went 1-3 to finish the regular season. He then led the Bears to a playoff series victory over the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets, the first for the Bears since beginning play in the 2007-08 season.

Kenai River went on to lose in Game 5 of the Midwest Division finals, just one victory short of the Robinson Cup Finals.

Just two days after that loss, Kenai River named Keenan Kelly head coach, promoting Dubinsky to associate head coach. Then Aug. 6, Kenai River announced Dubinsky had been named head coach after Kelly resigned to take a job with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads in Boise.

Dubinsky had led the team to a 3-16-0-0 record heading into Thursday’s game.

According to the scoresheet, assistant coach Taylor Shaw was in charge of the team Thursday night against the Jr. Blues, who remain tied for first place in the Midwest Division with a 13-8-0-1 record. The Bears remain in last place at 4-16-0-0.

Kenai River started the game strong, outshooting Springfield 20-8 in the first period on the way to a 45-23 advantage for the game.

Triggs, assisted by Stevens and Carter Green, and Bryce Monrean, assisted by Brendan Hill and Kevin Marx Noren, put the Bears up 2-0 after the first period.

Almost 6 minutes into the second period, Triggs, assisted by Kaden Hjelm and Stevens, put the Bears up 3-0.

With 5:25 left in the second, Connor Smith gave the Blues a spark by scoring an unassisted, short-handed goal. Luke Panchisin, assisted by Stevens and Hjelm, would score less than a minute later on that power play to put the Bears in control.

Jonathan Panisa scored in the third period for the Blues.

Tommy Aitken saved 21 for the Bears, while Ethan Roberts saved 41 for the Jr. Blues.

The series continutes with 7:30 p.m. games tonight and Saturday night at the sports complex. Tonight Hilcorp is sponsoring free admission for each person bringing two nonperishable food items, which will be donated to Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

Thursday

Brown Bears 4, Jr. Blues 2

Springfield 0 1 1 —2

Kenai River 2 2 0 —4

First period — 1. Kenai River, Triggs (Stevens, Green), 11:19; 2. Kenai River, Monrean (Hill, Marx Noren), 18:28. Penalties — Springfield 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 3. Kenai River, Triggs (Hjelm, Stevens), 5:53; 4. Springfield, Smith (un.), sh, 14:35; 5. Kenai River, Panchisin (Stevens), pp, 15:09. Penalties — Springfield 1 for 2:00.

Third period — 6. Springfield, Panisa (Bacallao), 13:47.

Shots on goal — Springfield 8-5-10—23; Kenai River 20-15-10—45.

Goalies — Springfield, Roberts (42 shots, 38 saves); Kenai River, Aitken (14 shots, 12 saves).

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