The visiting Kenai River Brown Bears notched a 2-1 shootout victory over the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues on Friday in North American Hockey League play.
“I always tell the guys a good team knows how to close out games,” Kenai River head coach Josh Petrich said. “It’s important to get that extra point on the road.”
The Bears are now 2-3-0-0 and sit in fourth in the Midwest Division, while Springfield, at 3-2-0-1, is in third.
Petrich said the game was dead even, with each team taking three penalties and registering a second-period, power-play goal.
The Bears got on the board first with 14 minutes, 38 seconds, left in the second period, when Emils Ezitis scoring on assists from Markuss Komuls and Alex Klekotka. Petrich said the goal came from quick passing from all the players on the power-play unit.
“Being 1 for 3 on the power play, I’ll take that every night,” Petrich said.
Petrich said the Bears were great on their first and third penalty kills of the night, but Nikita Kozyrev got loose with 3:59 left in the second to tie it.
“The kid who scored for them is a superskilled kid,” Petrich said. “We talked about controlling him before the game, but he got loose and made us pay.”
Many Kenai River players had never experienced the three-on-three overtime before, but Petrich said they were up to the task, thanks to a huge save from goalie Artur Pavliukov.
“He was awesome tonight,” Petrich said. “Without him, we don’t get the W. No one wins it, but one guy can lose it for you and Artur was rock-solid.”
In the shootout, both Gil Garcia of the Bears and Aiden Beck of the Blues were denied in the first round. In the second round, the Bears’ Luke Radetic and the Blues’ Kozyrev lit the lamp. Ezitis scored in the third round, and Pavliukov salted away the victory by stopping Jeff Skinner.
Bears notes: Komuls, a defenseman, was playing in his first game for the Bears after being acquired for an asset from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. Komuls is from Latvia, but he has been in the U.S. for over three years so does not count as an import player.
The Bears have released Colt Hanks and Jordin Holmes to get down to 24 players. The roster must be down to 23 by Oct. 5.
“People always say that if you don’t have tough decisions, you don’t have a good team,” Petrich said. “I’m really happy with the depth and competition in-house.”
Brown Bears 2, Jr. Blues 1
Kenai River 0 1 0 0 1 —2
Springfield 0 1 0 0 0 —1
First period — none. Penalties — none.
Second period — 1. Kenai River, Ezitis (Komuls, Klekotka), pp, 5:22. 2. Springfield, Kozyrev (Stewart, Muzzillo), pp, 16:01. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Springfield 1 for 2:00.
Third period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Springfield 2 for 4:00.
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 3, Springfield 1 for 3.