Friday: Bears score 10 goals, win 4th straight

The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets 10-5 on Friday in North American Hockey League play at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

The Bears won their fourth straight game and now have 11 of a possible 12 points in the last six games.

The 10 goals in a game is by far a season high. Kenai River scored six goals in a game four times this season.

The team is averaging 5.2 goals per game in its last six games. This from a team that didn’t score five goals during even one game in an 18-game losing streak earlier this season.

“It’s fun to be a part of,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “I haven’t heard the rink this loud in a couple of months. How awesome.”

The Bears remain in last place in the Midwest Division at 18-32-4-2, good for 42 points. The Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues are in sixth with 46 points, while the Fairbanks Ice Dogs are in seventh with 44 points.

The Jets drop to 32-19-3-1. They have already clinched a playoff spot are solidly in third place in the division.

Janesville had the upper hand early in the game, with Grady Gallatin scoring the lone goal of the first period. Just 39 seconds into what would be a wild second period, Conner Brown put the Jets up 2-0.

“The new life and energy and the diffrence it makes in the room, and the belief and execution of the group,” Shaw said. “To go down 2-0 in the second period and then to just start coming after them, I thought it was a resilient group.”

Kenai River would score three straight to go up 3-2 — Andy Larson on Samuel Sisik and Landon MacDonald assists, Kotaro Tsutsumi on Dylan Contreras and Luke Hause assists, and Thomas Gunderson on Brady Engelkes and William Esterbrooks assists. It was the first NAHL goal for Gunderson.

Janesville came right back to go up 4-3 on strikes from Rhett Kodsi and Ethan Begg.

Kenai River then scored six straight goals to take command.

Two came before the end of the second period — Riley Mullen on Sisik and Larson assists, and Owen Hanson on MacDonald and Blake Norris assists.

Just 7:25 into the third period, Kenai River had a 9-3 lead. Sisik scored on a Mullen assist, Contreras scored with help from Engelkes, Roope Tuomioksa scored on Luke Lizak and Joseph Yoon assists, and Gunderson scored on Larson and Engelkes assists.

The Jets are so explosive, though, Shaw still could not relax. Conor Sullivan stopped 23 for the Bears, while Matthew Alberti and Jan Kasal combined to stop 9 of 18 for the Jets.

“Sully made some big saves when we needed him to,” Shaw said. “I thought he played well. We killed off some big penalties in the third period, especially the four-on-three.

“They’re well-coached. They’ve got a lot of kids that are very skilled. Even when we were up 9-5, we were telling the group that we’ve still got to play here.”

Ryan Williams cut it to 9-5 with 4:18 left in the game, but Gavin Duckworth, assisted by MacDonald and Hanson, iced the game with an empty-netter with 14 seconds left.

“Landon MacDonald’s coming up the ice and he can take a shot going through the neutral zone,” Shaw said. “He makes a play to his teammate who’s a little more wide open and he buries it.

“That’s this group, right?”

The Bears finish their home schedule with a 7:30 p.m. Saturday game and 5 p.m. Sunday game against the Jets. The Sunday home finale is fan appreciation day, and thus free admission.

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