The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Minnesota Magicians 3-1 on Thursday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in North American Hockey League play.
With the victory, the Bears stay alive for the final playoff spot out of the Midwest Division.
Kenai River moves to 20-27-3-2 and is 14 points behind the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets for the final spot. Each team has eight games remaining. A win counts for two points.
Minnesota falls to 31-19-2-0 and is four points behind the first-place Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the Midwest Division.
Kenai River is now on a 8-5-1-0 run since a 1-9-0-1 stretch put the Bears behind in the playoff chase.
“They played really well again tonight,” said Kenai River interim head coach Dan Bogdan after moving his record to 5-4-1-0. “(The Magicians) poured it on for a few minutes, but they stuck to the game plan and weathered the storm really well.”
Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik scored in the first period on the power play for the Bears, assisted by Trey LaBarge and Connor Scahill.
Minnesota came out pelting Kenai River goalie Gavin Enright in the second period, but Enright stood tall. Midway through the period, Andy Walker, assisted by Krajnik and Michael Spethmann, scored for a 2-0 game.
“It helped tilt the ice back in our favor,” Bogdan said of the goal.
John Keranen scored near the end of the second period for a 2-1 game, but Enright would keep a clean sheet the rest of the way.
“He’s been playing consistently all season, especially lately,” Bogdan said of the goaltender. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Spethmann, assisted by Krajnik, sealed the game with an empty-netter.
Bogdan said Krajnik, Spethmann and Walker were all very good. All are uncommitted, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey program had representatives at Thursday’s game.
The series continues with 7:30 p.m. games Friday and Saturday.
“We definitely have to be ready, but our guys are prepared and feeling confident in their game,” Bogdan said. “They’ve been keeping their composure and playing a full 60 minutes.”
Brown Bears 3, Magicians 1
Minnesota 0 1 0 — 1
Kenai River 1 1 1 — 3
First period — 1. Kenai River, Krajnik (LaBarge, Scahill), pp, 7:11. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, A. Walker (Spethmann, Krajnik), 10:00; 3. Minnesota, Keranen (un.), 18:18. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 12:00.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Spethmann (Krajnik), en, 19:17. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 17-18-14—49; Kenai River 12-13-9—34.
Goalies — Minnesota, Robbel (33 shots, 31 saves); Kenai River, Enright (49 shots, 48 saves).
Power plays — Minnesota 0 for 4; Kenai River 1 for 3.