A week after a breakthrough three-game sweep of their instate rivals, the Kenai River Brown Bears fell back into the same hole.
The Brown Bears lost 5-2 in a Friday night road contest to the Topeka (Kansas) Roadrunners, who posted three first-period goals en route to the win.
Last weekend, Kenai River rolled to three victories over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, which is a team amid a struggling losing skid.
Friday in Topeka, Brown Bears coach Jeff Worlton said the squad took a 180-degree swing from how they played against Fairbanks.
“As well as we played last weekend, we played that bad tonight,” Worlton said Friday. “We just didn’t compete, didn’t work hard, and it takes a lot of work to win.”
Michigan native Max Harper netted a hat trick to lead the Roadrunners to the win, scoring the opening goal four minutes in and adding a second one later in the first period. Harper finished the trick with 1:44 left in the third.
Topeka led 4-0 by the early minutes of the second period, but the Bears clawed back in the frame with goals from Ryan Mezera and Jonathan Marzec.
Mezera’s goal came on a Kenai River power play after a slashing penalty sent Topeka’s Andrew Hart to the box. Once Marzec slotted in his scoring strike — which gave him a point in seven straight games — things were moving for the Bears.
“Once we woke up, we had a power play goal and started to make things happen,” Worlton said. “We thought we might be able to push and get to the third and make it a new game, but just weren’t able to get that third goal.”
Interestingly enough, the Roadrunners outshot the Bears 16-6 in the second period, while Kenai River came back to outshoot Topeka 8-4 in the final period.
The Bears dropped to 4-17-2 in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division, maintaining their last place spot.
“I could give you a million excuses about the travel and other stuff, but we have to compete every night to be consistent,” Worlton added. “The first period hurt us, and it goes back to being consistent. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready every night.”
Minnesota native Robbie Goor started between the pipes for Kenai River, but gave up four goals on 15 shots before being pulled early in the second period for Bailey Seagraves, who finished out the final 36:55 of the game with 16 saves on 17 shots.
“Robbie played well last weekend, but today he wasn’t as consistent, so he struggled a little bit,” Worlton said.
Worlton said after the success against the Ice Dogs, the Bears spent minimal time talking about it before moving on to Topeka.
“Listen, it was a great weekend but it was over, so we just tried to focus on Topeka,” he said.
The two teams will square off again Saturday at 4:05 p.m. AST at the Kansas ExpoCentre.
Roadrunners 5, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 0 2 0 —2
Topeka 3 1 1 —5
1st period — 1. Topeka, Harper (Zins, DeRoche), 4:07; 2. Topeka, Makowski (Granowicz), 12:36; 3. Topeka, Harper (DeRoche, Bowery), 14:10. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Topeka 3 for 6:00.
2nd period — 4. Topeka, Russell (Frye, Hart), 1:30; 5. Kenai River, Mezera (Tzveyn, Thielemann), PP, 7:34; 6. Kenai River, Marzec (Butcher, Radetic), 10:08. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Topeka 1 for 2:00.
3rd period — 7. Topeka, Harper (DeRoche), 18:16. Penalties — Topeka 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 10-6-8—24; Topeka 12-16-4—32.
Goalies — Kenai River, Goor (15 shots, 11 saves), Seagraves (17 shots, 16 saves); Topeka, Snowden (24 shots, 22 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 4; Topeka 0 for 3.