The Kenai River Brown Bears picked up their first win of the season by topping the host Minnesota Magicians 2-1 on Saturday in North American Hockey League play.
Add in their 2-1 overtime loss to the Magicians on Friday, and the Bears were able to pick up three points from the Magicians, who came into the weekend leading the Midwest Division.
The Bears are now 1-10-2, still in last in the six-team division, while the Magicians fall to second at 9-5-2.
“It’s a weight off our shoulders,” Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton said. “We felt like we were getting closer and closer.
“We did all the right things, or enough of the right things, to win.”
Worlton said the keys to the weekend were not taking many penalties and blocking shots.
“We showed to ourselves we can play with anybody if we don’t spend the whole game in the box,” Worlton said.
The Magicians took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a goal by Caleb Hite.
But the Bears stormed back with unassisted goals by Luke Radetic and Anthony Tzveyn within 30 seconds of each other in the second period.
“Both of them were quick shots,” Worlton said. “Guys are buying in, listening, improving and getting rewarded for their efforts.”
Worlton said having to go on the penalty kill late in the game made for some drama, but he said the key was the team was killing just a fifth penalty and not something in double digits.
Bailey Seagraves made 29 saves for the Bears, while Daniil Gerasimov and Ivan Prosuetov combined for 22 saves for the Magicians.
Worlton said Friday’s loss was a step in the right direction.
“We competed,” Worlton said. “We’re starting to make plays offensively and creating scoring chances, not just shots.
“It’s coming together. I feel positive. Things are going the right way.”
When goalie Connor Poczos left the team to go to school recently, the Bears acquired goalie Robbie Goor from the Austin (Minnesota) Bruins for a draft pick.
Goor had a successful debut Friday.
“Robbie played well,” Worlton said. “He battled and made the saves he had to, to try and help us win.”
Worlton anticipates a competition between goalies Seagraves and Goor that will help the team.
Another thing that has made the team better is the maturation of young defensemen. Of the eight defensemen on the roster, seven can return next year.
“They’re getting better, learning and taking advantage of the video we do,” Worlton said. “They didn’t make the mistakes today that they’d made in the past.
“They’re learning, but they’ve got a long way to go.”
A mistake cost the Bears the first goal of the game after the first two periods were scoreless.
Kenai River was late picking up a player getting out of the penalty box, leading to a goal 2 minutes, 25 seconds, into the third period.
“Previously, when we went down 1-0, our guys wouldn’t settle, but there would be a weight on their shoulders,” Worlton said. “Today, they kept pressing and believed they were going to score.”
The Bears pushed the game to overtime after opting for the extra attacker with just under two minutes to play.
Evan Butcher pushed the puck into space and Ethan Stewart finished with 45 seconds left.
Hite then scored 58 seconds into overtime for Minnesota.
Worlton said the final positive from the game was the Bears took only three penalties.
The Bears have traded Connor Inger to the Amarillo (Texas) Bulls for future considerations. Lucas Carroll, a forward recently cut by Austin, will take Inger’s place on the roster.
In some other shuffling since the Bears left town, defenseman Connor Nilson of Fairbanks and forwards Stewart and Luke Radetic have been added to the roster.
The Bears play at 4 p.m. at the Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill on Friday at Saturday.
Magicians 2, Brown Bears 1, OT
Kenai River 0 0 1 0 —1
Minnesota 0 0 1 1 —2
First period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
Second period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Travis Brown 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 1. Minnesota, Siebenaler (Bump), 2:25; 2. Kenai River, Stewart (Butcher, Thielemann), 19:15. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 4-3-7-0—14; Minnesota 10-9-10-2—31.
Goalies — Kenai River, Goor (31 shots, 29 saves); Minnesota, Prosuetov (14 shots, 13 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3; Minnesota 0 for 3.
Brown Bears 2, Magicians 1
Kenai River 0 2 0 —2
Minnesota 1 0 0 —1
First period — 1. Minnesota, Hite (Nelsen, Kobylyanskyi), 18:52. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Minnesota 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Radetic (un.), 5:36; 3. Kenai River, Tzveyn (un.), 6:06. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Minnesota 2 for 4:00.
Third period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-8-7—24; Minnesota 11-8-11—30.
Goalies — Kenai River, Seagraves (30 shots, 29 saves); Minnesota, Gerasimov (14 shots, 12 saves), Prosuetov (10 shots, 10 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 6; Minnesota 0 for 5.