Time is running out on the Kenai River Brown Bears.
The combination of a 1-0 Bears’ loss at the Bismarck (North Dakota) Bobcats on Friday and a win by the Minnesota Magicians means the Bears are now 11 points behind Minnesota for the final playoff spot out of the North American Hockey League Midwest Division.
And with just seven games to play, the Bears (14-37-2) have a possibility of notching just 14 points.
Even that might not be enough to catch a Magicians (19-29-3) club that has won four straight and is on a six-game point streak.
“The Magicians keep finding a way to get points,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “All that’s on our mind is getting wins and chipping away at it.”
The Bears have lost three straight, scoring just one goal in the past three contests.
“I thought we had the chances,” Beauparlant said. “I guess it’s just frustrating for the guys to work so hard and play so well, yet they can’t take pressure off the defensemen or goaltending by spotting them a goal or two early.
“It’s not that the guys aren’t working hard to make it happen, the results just haven’t been there. You have to tip your hat to the goaltender.”
Hunter Shepard had 18 saves for the Bobcats, while Evan Hauser made 42 for the Bears. But Beauparlant said many of the Bobcats’ shots were from the outside.
“Even on the power play, everything was from the outside,” Beauparlant said. “Of course, Evan made three or four saves he shouldn’t have made, but those are the types of saves a goaltender must make to keep you in the game.”
Beauparlant said Shepard was good early, as two-thirds of the Bears first nine shots were Grade A scoring chances. Even after going down 1-0 on Evan Giesler tally with 6 minutes, 51 seconds, left in the game, the Bears still got a breakaway and a chance with Hauser pulled but couldn’t convert.
Beauparlant said the game-winning goal bounced off Hauser’s face mask, hit Bismarck in the shoulder, then went in.
“I’m happy with how we competed,” Beauparlant said. “As a coach, I’m happy with how the guys are still working even though they know time is ticking away a lot faster than anticipated.”
Defenseman Quinton Wunder returned to the lineup after sustaining a concussion Feb. 14 against Fairbanks. Captain and defenseman Tyler Andrews served the first game of a two-game suspension for the accumulation of too many checking from behind penalties.
Bobcats 1, Brown Bears 0
Kenai River 0 0 0 —0
Bismarck 0 0 1 —1
First period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Bismarck 2 for 4:00.
Second period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 1. Bismarck, Giesler (Souto, Brown), 13:09. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Bismarck 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-7-2—18; Bismarck 12-14-17—43.
Goalies — Kenai River, Hauser (43 shots, 42 saves); Bismarck, Shepard (18 shots, 18 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3; Bismarck 0 for 5.