The Kenai River Brown Bears will look to shake a scoring slump when they travel to play the rival Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
After getting a seven-game homestand off to a promising start with a 4-1 victory over the Aston (Pennsylvania) Rebels, the Bears scored just nine goals in the next six games in winning just one of them.
That stretch included a three-game sweep at the hands of Fairbanks last weekend, a series in which the Bears scored just twice.
The bright side is the Bears gave up just 15 goals in the seven games at home.
Kenai River needs to get moving quickly to have any chance at the playoffs. At 10-30-2-0, the Bears are 17 points behind Fairbanks (18-22-2-1), which currently has the fourth and last playoff spot in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division.
Fairbanks also leads the Ravn Alaska Cup 5-3.
With the trading deadline and rosters freezing this week, the Bears moved to acquire Jack Vincent from the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets for assets.
Vincent is a 6-foot-0, 174-pound forward from Madison, Wisconsin.
He is 19 years old, but has a 1998 birthdate, meaning he has two years of junior eligibility after this season. Vincent had one goal and two assists in 20 games with the Jets this season.
Kenai River did not have a full roster, so nobody was released to make room for Vincent.
“He’s a young player with a couple of more years to come,” Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton said. “He’s got a lot of potential and skates well.
“I do believe he’ll help us offensively.”
Worlton said Vincent can’t solve the Bears scoring woes by himself, but can be a piece of the puzzle that solves the problem.
Kenai River worked on assembling the rest of that puzzle in practice this week.
“We focused on the offensive side of the puck,” Worlton said. “We did drills that can help generate scoring opportunities and capitalize on rebounds.
“It’s all those things we’ve talked about, but we’ve showed them on film and built on those situations in practice.”
Worlton said more goals will take more willingness to get punished and more aggressiveness.
“We’ve got to get inside the dots,” he said. “That’s an area that’s going to be hard and tough. We have to be willing to pay that price and get cross-checked to get rebounds.”
The coach also said his team can’t be afraid to let fly from lower-percentage scoring areas.
“We’re trying to have fun so we played different games,” Worlton said. “We’re trying to relax a bit, myself included.
“When you put playoff pressure on top of trying to score goals on top of the Ravn Cup, sometimes things get too heavy. We tried to reset this week and have some fun and we hope to see the rewards.”