Kenai River Brown Bears forward Nick Stevens runs into Minnesota Magicians goalie Josh Langford on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Nick Stevens runs into Minnesota Magicians goalie Josh Langford on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Brown Bears win season finale

If there’s such a thing as a perfect way to end a 14-41-3-2 season, the Kenai River Brown Bears found it Saturday night in front of a large crowd at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

The Brown Bears snapped a nine-game losing streak by defeating the Minnesota Magicians 3-0 in North American Hockey League play in front of 1,836 fans. The Magicians drop to 25-23-6-3 and also will miss the playoffs.

“I think it just speaks to the resiliency that we have,” Kenai River interim head coach Taylor Shaw said. “We haven’t had a ton of success for the last couple of weeks as far as wins goes, but I thought we’ve played pretty well, to be honest.

“To win a game like that, last game of the year with 1,800 people in the building, it’s pretty special.”

Forwards Jeffrey Bertrand, Caden Triggs and Barak Braslavski and defensemen Sean Henry and Brendan Hill all played their last games for the Brown Bears after aging out of junior hockey.

Shaw said it was nice for the five to go out with a win.

“I think the biggest thing for them was that they all stuck around wanting to be a part of the future here, right?” Shaw said. “So they were able to kind of leave their stamp on where we’re trying to go.

“Like I said, the big piece is the culture for us. So they really bought in and wanted to stay here and be a part of that change and evolution.”

Those players were all over the score sheet Saturday. After Hunter Newhouse, assisted by Bryce Monrean and Max Marquette, put the Bears up 1-0 in the second period, Bertrand, with help from Triggs and Hill, made it 2-0 with 16:31 left in the second period.

Magicians head coach Nick Bydal said emotion is a big part of hockey because the game involves doing so many difficult things.

“We got eliminated (Friday), even though we won, so guys were disappointed today and that’s understandable,” Bydal said. “And the first two periods were what they were.

“And we came out in the third and tried to win, which was good to see. We definitely outplayed them in the third, which is all I could really ask of them.”

The problem for the Magicians is Bears goalie Bryant Marks, an 18-year-old from Wasilla, was on his game in recording his first NAHL shutout. Marks had 31 saves, while Josh Langford stopped 27 for the Magicians.

Shaw said Marks has had trouble playing in back-to-back games all season.

“For him to get rewarded after going back to back, I think that’s huge,” Shaw said. “It’s a huge confidence builder for him. And I think it shows him that the process we went through with him was worth it.”

The Bears clinched the game with an empty-netter in the final minute with the five aging-out players on the ice. Triggs scored, assisted by Braslavski and Henry.

Hill, who played all 60 games for the Bears this season as captain, said he’s proud of his work with the team.

“I just wanted to stay here, help them with the culture, and help build them up so that next year maybe they’re a contender for a playoff spot,” he said. “It just takes the older guys in the locker room to police it and kind of show the younger guys what needs to be done.

“If I left, I kind of felt it could get out of control because they didn’t have any role models to look up to. I love the organization and I love being in Kenai, Alaska.”

Hill said it also meant a lot to him to have such a large crowd to end the season.

“It was great to see everyone come out to the game,” Hill said. “All the kids, throwing them broken sticks and giving them autographs and all that stuff. It’s all about giving back to the community and in the end, these kids will remember coming to Brown Bears games for the rest of their life.”

The captain also said he has helped Marks out throughout the year, so to see Saturday’s performance was special.

“Once we got down to the middle of the third period, my whole goal of the game was to get Marks the shutout,” Hill said.

Hill said he will play college hockey and expects to have plans in place soon. The team also had no announcement on a change in Shaw’s status as interim coach as of Saturday night.

“I just want to thank the community for supporting us,” Hill said. “Some nights weren’t the best, but we stuck it out and kept our heads up and were able to finish out with a good win.”

Saturday

Brown Bears 3, Magicians 0

Minnesota 0 0 0 —0

Kenai River 0 2 1 — 3

First period — none. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 1. Kenai River, Newhouse (Monrean, Marquette), 1:54; 2. Kenai River, Bertrand (Cad. Triggs, Hill), 3:29. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 5 for 18:00.

Third period — 3. Kenai River, Cad. Triggs (Braslavski, Henry), 19:47. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Shots on goal — Minnesota 9-11-11—31; Kenai River 9-16-5—30.

Goalies — Minnesota, Langford (29 shots, 27 saves); Kenai River, Marks (31 shots, 31 saves).

Power plays — Minnesota 0 for 3; Kenai River 0 for 3.

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Caden Triggs has his shot blocked by Minnesota Magicians defenseman Frank Lindgren on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Caden Triggs has his shot blocked by Minnesota Magicians defenseman Frank Lindgren on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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