Chill put Brown Bears in deep freeze

  • By Staff Report
  • Wednesday, December 3, 2014 9:22pm
  • Sports

The Kenai River Brown Bears’ problems with consistency have followed them all the way on the road to the Midwest.

Coming off a solid weekend of earning three of four points in always-tough Wenatchee, Washington, the Bears fell 6-2 to the Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill on Wednesday.

“It’s exactly what I told the guys, ‘We’re tired of being up and down,’” Brown Bears head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “Our preparation wasn’t good. Our intensity wasn’t good like it was last week.”

The Bears fall to 11-14-1 and remain in fourth place in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division, ahead of the Minnesota Magicians by a point.

The Chill move to 13-7-4 and are seven points ahead of the Bears in third place in the division.

If the season were to end today, the Bears would be in the playoffs. But a measure of their inconsistency comes in their 69-102 goals for-against tally. That 102 goals against is the second-most in the league.

“This isn’t physical stuff that guys can’t do,” Beauparlant said. “It’s being mentally prepared.”

The coach said two major areas haunted the Bears on Wednesday, poor defensive zone coverage and not finishing opportunities. Beauparlant said goalie Josh Creelman, who had 41 saves, was not the problem.

Coulee’s Blake Kelley had the lone goal of the first period, but early in the second Jack Gessert, assisted by Evan Butcher, tied it for the Bears. Gessert is tied for the league lead with 16 goals.

Adam Lovick put Coulee back up 2-1 just 35 seconds after Gessert’s goal, but the Bears appeared to get a boost when Matt Rudin, assisted by Ben Campbell, scored with just 59 seconds left in the second period.

“The end of the second period was the game in a nutshell,” Beauparlant said. “We tie the game at 2-2 with however much time left, then with 10 seconds left in the period we give up a three-on-one.

“That’s just not being mentally consistent.”

Coulee didn’t convert on the three-on-one, but it was a harbinger of things to come in the third.

The Chill outshot the Bears 18-8 en route to a 47-41 advantage in the game. Richard Zehnal had a pair of goals in the final 20 minutes, while Sean Lang and Garrett Riebling added tallies.

“Even the college scouts that I talked to here all said we showed a lack of intensity, effort and focus,” Beauparlant said.

The Bears stay in La Crosse for games Friday and Saturday at 4 p.m. AST.

“There were numerous NHL and college scouts in the stands,” Beauparlant said. “Anytime we come to the Midwest, it’s an opportunity to showcase the guys.

“I expect a much better effort on Friday.”

The coach said the bright spot of the game was young defensemen Jack Nickels and Will Schwartz playing within themselves and making smart, simple plays.

Wednesday

Chill 6, Brown Bears 2

Kenai River 0 2 0 —2

Coulee Region 1 1 4 —6

First period — 1. Coulee Region, Kelley (DiPietro, Florian), 6:11. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Coulee Region 2 for 4:00.

Second period — 2. Kenai River, Gessert (Butcher), 4:21; 3. Coulee Region, Lovick (Zehnal), 4:56; 4. Kenai River, Rudin (Campbell), 19:01. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Coulee Region 2 for 4:00.

Third period — 5. Coulee Region, Lang (Zehnal, Lovick), 0:23; 6. Coulee Region, Zehnal (Matsushima, Lovick), 4:44; 7. Coulee Region, Riebling (un.), 12:34; 8. Coulee Region, Zehnal (Luka), en, 19:33. Penalties — Coulee Region 2 for 4:00.

Shots on goal — Kenai River 10-23-8—41; Coulee Region 12-17-18—47.

Goalies — Kenai River, Creelman (46 shots, 41 saves); Coulee Region, Thomas (41 shots, 39 saves).

Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 6, Coulee Region 0 for 2.

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