By JEFF HELMINIAK
The Kenai River Brown Bears continue a seven-game homestand when they host the Fairbanks Ice Dogs today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in North American Hockey League action at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Bears started the homestand last weekend by going 1-2 against the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel to fall to 2-11-0-0 in the league.
Head coach Josh Dubinsky said the team can use the sports complex to begin to turn the season around.
“I think the guys are starting to get a feel for the rink up here,” he said. “They’ve practiced here for three weeks, and they have three games under their belts. I’m hoping we can use it to propel us forward.”
Dubinsky said the Bears missed an opportunity last weekend to carry some momentum into this series. After defeating the Steel 4-2 on Friday, the Bears fell behind 3-0, then outshot the Steel 20-2 in the third period in a 3-1 Saturday loss.
“In the third period, we took it to them for the most part, but it’s hard when you spot another team a three-goal lead,” Dubinsky said.
Fairbanks, at 9-4-0-1, is in second in the Midwest Division. At plus-17, the Ice Dogs have the best goal differential in the league, while the Bears, at minus-37, have the worst.
On Oct. 1 and 2 in Fairbanks, the Ice Dogs topped the Bears 4-1 and 8-2. That gives Fairbanks 2, with the Bears and Anchorage Wolverines at 0, in the Alaska Airlines Club 49 Cup, the seasonlong battle for supremacy among the three Alaska NAHL teams.
Dubinsky said the Bears were solid in the first game against the Dogs, giving up an empty-net goal at the end. In the second game, Kenai River got into penalty trouble and paid the price.
“I don’t think the scores were indicative of how the games went,” Dubinsky said. “They are a really good team and that’s not a surprise. I’m excited to see them on our ice.”
Dubinsky likes the contributions forwards Caden Triggs, Nick Stevens and Hunter Newhouse have made as in-season pickups. The coach also said rookie forward Ryan Finch had a good weekend in getting his first NAHL goal.
Dubinsky said the improved play of the forwards will help Cole Dubicki, who has scored six of the team’s 23 goals.
“We can’t rely on Cole Dubicki to score all of our goals and that seems to be what’s happening,” Dubinsky said.
The coach added that defenseman Luke Anderson will miss the series due to injury.
Saturday will be the Halloween game, with fans who wear costumes getting a chance to go on the ice during the first intermission with the chance to win prizes. Kids also will get candy as they enter the game.