The Kenai River Brown Bears moved to 2-0-0-0 in the North American Hockey League with a 5-3 victory at the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel on Thursday.
Kenai River took a 3-0 lead in the second period and was able to hang on for the victory.
“It’s nice to be 2-0, but we’re still working through stuff and trying to get the guys to play the right way,” Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said.
The Bears were outshot 34-24. Murdock said Chippewa probably had more good chances than his team, as well. Luke Pavicich had 31 saves for the Bears, while Grant Boldt stopped 19 for Chippewa.
“He’s been very good,” Murdock said of Pavicich.
The Bears are tied with the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets at the top of the Midwest Division standings, while the Minnesota Magicians have yet to play a game and both the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Steel are 0-2-0-0.
Alaska players got the Bears started after a scoreless first period. Brandon Lajoie, of Eagle River, scored on an assist from Cam Blanton, then Lajoie scored again for a 2-0 lead. Anchorage’s Max Helgeson then scored with 54 seconds left in the second period for a 3-0 lead.
“That second period was probably the best period we’ve had this season, though we’ve had only six periods,” Murdock said. “It was encouraging for our coaching staff for our players to see what they are capable of.”
Murdock said there was then some disappointment that the Bears didn’t follow up that sterling second by closing the game stronger. Just 5:47 into the third, Chippewa had cut the lead to 3-2.
The coach said Adam Szubert’s power-play goal, assisted by Jeffrey Lee, was pivotal.
“That was a huge fourth goal,” Murdock said. “It gave us a little bump, but they still came down and scored again. It turned out to be the game-winning goal and it was the life we needed for a few minutes.”
When Chippewa cut it to 4-3 with 5:39 to play, Murdock said his team did a solid job of closing things out, especially after the Steel pulled their goalie. Laudon Poellinger scored in the empty net with 14 seconds left.
Kenai River stays in Chippewa for 4:10 p.m. AKST games today and Saturday.
Brown Bears 5, Steel 3
Kenai River 0 3 2 —5
Chippewa 0 0 3 —3
First period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 1. Kenai River, Lajoie (Blanton), 4:38; 2. Kenai River, Lajoie (none), 18:31; 3. Kenai River, Helgeson (none), 19:06. Penalties — Chippewa 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 4. Chippewa, Waltman (Heidepriem), 1:56; 5. Chippewa, Gotovets (Bacallao, Oyler), 5:47; 6. Kenai River, Szubert (Lee), pp, 9:02; 7. Chippewa, Hansson (Oyler, Waltman), 14:21; 8. Kenai River, Poellinger (none), en, 19:46. Penalties — Kenai River 5 for 10:00; Chippewa 5 for 10:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 4-13-7—24; Chippewa 16-5-13—34.
Goalies — Kenai River, Pavicich (34 shots, 31 saves); Chippewa, Boldt (23 shots, 19 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 3, Chippewa 1 for 4.