The Kenai River Brown Bears yielded three goals in 46 seconds to the Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill on Friday in a 5-2 loss in front of 589 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Bears fall to 1-19-0 in the North American Hockey League, while the Chill move to 6-10-0.
The Bears have now gone 17 games without a win or point, both of which are franchise highs.
The evening had a promising start for the festive, bell-ringing fans. Just 2 minutes, 27 seconds, into the contest, the Bears’ Dylan McArthur notched a power-play goal on assists from Evan Butcher and Jeffrey Fasegha.
“We came out strong,” Kenai River assistant coach Andrew Whiteside said. “Hats off to Dylan McArthur for getting his first NAHL goal.
“After that, we took our foot off the gas.”
The official shot count in the first was 14-2 for the Chill. While that may be a bit exaggerated, Bears goalie Nick Nast had no trouble finding work in the first.
On the power play on which the Bears would eventually score, Nast stopped the Chill on a two-on-one to avoid a short-handed goal. He also turned aside Justin Kendall on a breakaway with 13:39 on the clock.
The Chill would knot the game at 1 with 9:36 left in the first when Isaac Theisen drove a shot off the boards, and it bounced to Dominik Florian for the tap-in.
“It’s always tough on the road,” Coulee Region coach AJ Degenhardt said. “We had a 16-hour travel day yesterday, but we came out fairly hard.”
The game turned in the second with 8:56 to play, when Kenai River’s Bayley Marshall was sent to the box only to be followed 23 seconds later by teammate Tanner Dufault.
Just 10 seconds into the five-on-three, Coulee’s Brady Ferner bounced a goal in off the corner pipe for a 2-1 lead.
“We spent time this week working on the power play,” Degenhardt said. “The message was, ‘Let’s attack the net and not pass it around the outside so much.’”
Just 21 seconds after the Ferner tally, Michael Wilson showed again the message had been received when he took a puck straight to the net for a 3-1 lead.
Kendall then made it three goals in less than a minute when Nast made two scrambling saves, but not the third.
Whiteside said that whether the coaches are happy with the referee’s calls is a moot point.
“It’s certainly not an excuse for the guys to stop working and to stop competing,” Whiteside said. “We can’t concern ourselves with what is called. We have to stay focused on the game.”
The Bears had a chance to turn the tables with three minutes of power play near the end of the second, but came up empty.
“Our power play was not very good at all tonight,” Whiteside said. “We struggled making tape-to-tape passes and we didn’t have clean breakouts.”
Coulee’s Nico Luka all but iced the outcome 2:18 into the third, when he slipped the puck past Nast from a bad angle. But Whiteside was quick to stick up for his goaltender.
“He competed like he always does,” Whiteside said. “He had to make way too many tough saves for us.”
Nast had 30 saves for the Bears, while Hunter Vorva made 21 for the Chill.
Whiteside also liked the play of Joey Sardina and Dufault. Late in the third, Dufault was able to win a faceoff and get the puck out front to Sam Carlson for a goal.
The Bears and Chill meet again Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the sports complex.
Bears notes: Ferner was face down on the ice for several minutes with 2:55 left in the game. Degenhardt said he would need stitches, but otherwise was OK.
Ferner wasn’t the only one needing hospital time for the Chill. Steven Quagliata had a possible broken finger and Dominik Florian also was a possible candidate for stitches. …
The Chill are taking a look at 2015 Kenai Central graduate Jake Eubank while in Alaska. Eubank is playing for the Under-20 Pikes Peak (Colorado) Miners in the Tier III Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League.
The Miners lead the league with an 11-2-0 record, while Eubank leads the Miners with 30 points and 18 goals.
Eubank was tendered by the Bears for this season, but did not make the team.
“We knew he was from this area, so we figured we’d get him up here while we’re here,” Degenhardt said. “We’re taking a good peek at him for next year, possibly.”
Chill 5, Brown Bears 2
Coulee Region 1 3 1 —5
Kenai River 1 0 1 —2
First period — 1. Kenai River, McArthur (Butcher, Fasegha), pp, 2:27; 2. Coulee Region, Florian (Theisen), 10:34. Penalties — Coulee Region 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Coulee Region, Ferner (Quagliata, Falconer), pp, 11:37; 4. Coulee Region, Wilson (Quagliata, Ferner), pp, 11:58; 5. Coulee Region, Kendall (Zembergs, Falconer), 12:23. Penalties — Coulee Region 3 for 9:00; Kenai River 5 for 10:00.
Third period — 6. Coulee Region, Luka (Reedy, Schroer), 2:18; 7. Kenai River, Carlson (Dufault, Bofshever), 17:31. Penalties — Coulee Region 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Coulee Region 14-12-9—35; Kenai River 2-8-13—23.
Goalies — Coulee Region, Vorva (23 shots, 21 saves); Kenai River, Nast (35 shots, 30 saves).
Power plays — Coulee Region 2 for 4, Kenai River 1 for 4.