The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate a win over the Anchorage Wolverines on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate a win over the Anchorage Wolverines on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Bears sweep weekend series from Wolverines

The Kenai River Brown Bears swept a weekend series from the Anchorage Wolverines, winning 4-3 in a shootout Friday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex before winning 4-3 in regulation Saturday at Ben Boeke Ice Arena in Anchorage.

The Bears snapped a four-game losing streak Friday.

All sections of the stands were nearly full as Hilcorp gave free admission with the donation of two or more cans or nonperishable items to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

“It’s huge, especially at home,” said Kenai River forward Dylan Contreras, who had two assists. “Our fans never quit on us. We’re very thankful for that.

“They pushed us. They riled us up. They were supporting us all the way through.”

Friday, the Brown Bears got their first victory in five tries against the Wolverines this season. In the Club 49 Cup, Anchorage has 11, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have eight and the Brown Bears have seven.

Kenai River sits at fifth in the Midwest Division at 12-14-2-0 for 26 points, while the Wolverines are seventh at 11-7-2-1 for 25 points. The Minnesota Wilderness lead the division with 35 points.

The Bears play at the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues on Friday at 4:05 p.m. AKST. They don’t return to the sports complex until Jan. 19.

The Wolverines kept the crowd silent Friday through nearly two periods as Kenai River continued to struggle on the power play.

The Bears were 0 for 11 on the power play last weekend in getting swept in Fairbanks.

In the second period Friday, Kenai River came up empty on its second power play of the game and 26 seconds later Danny Bagnole scored to put Anchorage up 1-0.

With 6:42 left in the second period, things got worse for the power play when Anchorage’s Ameen Ghosheh scored short-handed for a 2-0 lead.

“We took control of the game and we thought it was going to be easy,” Anchorage head coach Nick Walters said. “There’s no easy night. There’s no easy night in this division.

“We let them back in and shot ourselves in the foot.”

With 5:41 left in the second period, Kenai River cut it to 2-1 when Blake Norris scored on a Hayden Walters assist.

“The biggest thing with our team is we just have the same goldfish mentality,” Kenai River goaltender Conor Sullivan said. “As soon as a bad play happens, we just kind of wipe it from memory and go from there.”

Just 32 seconds after the Norris strike, Contreras got his stick on a puck in the air and the puck fell to Gavin Duckworth, who scored his first goal for Kenai River.

Then with 1:53 left in the second period, Contreras got a pass from Marko Giourof and moved into the offensive zone.

He held up and picked out defensman Joe Manning joining the attack. Manning scored for a 3-2 lead.

“We really strive to be together as a team, as one,” Contreras said. “As soon as we dug our heels in the ice and led as a team, we could do anything and we proved that.”

Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said his squad has been playing good five-on-five hockey. The Bears outshot Anchorage 12-5 in the first period and 14-11 in the second period on the way to a 37-27 advantage for the game.

“They chipped away at it,” Shaw said of his squad. “They were positive on the bench.

“They knew they didn’t have to get it back on one shift. It just had to come.”

In the third period, Kenai River didn’t score on two power plays to come up 0 for 5 for the game. Anchorage got a power play with 11:15 left in the game and didn’t score, but did gain momentum.

With 2:35 left in the game, Oliver Salo scored to tie the game at 3.

“I think the positive is we got a point out of the night,” Walters said. “We battled back and it’s good to see your group do that.”

In the five-minute, three-on-three overtime, both teams were conservative until the Bears were whistled for too many men on the ice with 2 minutes to play.

Sullivan shined during the power play, finishing with 24 saves on the night. Liam Beerman had 34 saves for Anchorage.

“He was awesome,” Contreras said. “He was standing on his head. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have won that close game.”

Sullivan saved his best for last in stopping all three shooters in the shootout to win in his first shootout of the year. Giourof had the winner for Kenai River.

“I would say I’m definitely pretty good in the shootout,” said Sullivan, who thanked his mother, Cate Sullivan, for all her support. “I put the boys through the works in a shootout in practice yesterday.

“That helped a little for a warmup.”

Saturday, the power play came alive for the Bears. They finished 2 for 4 with the advantage, plus scored short-handed. Anchorage was 2 for 8.

Shaw said a lot of work on the power play finally paid off.

“We’ve made tweaks the last two weeks almost every day,” he said.

Two power-play goals from Nick Stevens put the Bears up 2-0 at the end of the first period. Giourof and Roope Tuomioksa assisted on the first, while Contreras and Luke Hause assisted on the second.

With 7 minutes left in the second period, Kenai River went up 3-0 when Walters scored short-handed with help from Andy Larson and Norris.

Anchorage then began to battle back.

“They’re a nice hockey team,” Shaw said. “They pushed the whole game.

“We would have liked to keep a three-goal lead but it wasn’t in the cards. It’s something we’ll learn from and get better.”

Jackson Stimple scored on the power play with 2:27 left in the second period and 18:02 left in the third period to cut it to 3-2.

With 10:53 to play, Hause notched an insurance goal on helpers from Duckworth and Margarit.

Less than a minute later, Cole Christian again put Anchorage within one, but Marks Slavinskis-Repe was able to close the door in net for Kenai River.

Slavinskis-Repe had 26 saves, while Sullivan saw a few minutes in net while Slavinskis-Repe had a skate repaired.

“Marks was playing well,” Shaw said. “I thought they both played well this weekend.”

Beerman stopped 21 for the Wolverines.

Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Joe Manning celebrates his goal with Marko Giourof and Gavin Duckworth on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Joe Manning celebrates his goal with Marko Giourof and Gavin Duckworth on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Jacob Margarit keeps the puck from Cole Christian of the Anchorage Wolverines on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Jacob Margarit keeps the puck from Cole Christian of the Anchorage Wolverines on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears goaltender Conor Sullivan makes a save against the Anchorage Wolverines on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears goaltender Conor Sullivan makes a save against the Anchorage Wolverines on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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