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Jr. Blues top Bears in extra time Friday, Saturday

The Kenai River Brown Bears lost in a shootout Friday and in overtime Saturday at the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues in North American Hockey League play.

The Bears got a point for the fifth straight game — all on the road — but also had a two-goal lead in the third period Friday and Saturday only to see it slip away.

The Jr. Blues improved to 20-9-1-1 and remain in second place in the Midwest Division. The Bears remain in last place in the division at 7-19-2-1.

Kenai River now takes Christmas break. The Bears return to action Jan. 1 on the road at the Minnesota Magicians.

“It just kind of leaves a sour taste in our mouth, but at the end of the day we got four of six (points out of the series),” Kenai River interim head coach Taylor Shaw said after moving to 4-3-2-1. “We had them both Friday and Saturday, but for our guys it’s a learning spot and hopefully we can use it as motiviation after the break.”

Despite the two extra-time losses and being in last place, Shaw said the mood is good as the players head to break.

“We know things are going in the right direction — guys can tell it and feel it because they’re a part of it,” he said.

Friday, Issac Novak kept the Bears from a second straight road victory with two goals and an assist.

“I think the biggest thing for us is we probably didn’t have our best stuff tonight but we still found a way to make it a game,” Shaw said. “We were up 3-1 with seven minutes left and we let them take it to OT and then we gave up the extra one in the shootout.

“That puts a cloud over it. Everybody’s happy to earn points, but in our eyes it wasn’t good enough.”

After a scoreless first period, David Vieten, assisted by Caden Triggs, put the Bears up in the second period, before Zach Bade sent things to the third period tied at 1.

Kenai River’s power play continued to click to give the Bears a 3-1 lead in the first half of the third period. Hunter Newhouse scored on an assist from Ryan Finch and Cole Dubicki scored on an assist from Kevin Marx Noren.

In order to get his first NAHL goal, Newhouse actually was taken down in front of the net and slammed his face on the ice before getting up to score.

“He knocked the puck down out in front of the net and put the puck in the back of the net, and got some stitches on top of it,” Shaw said.

But Novak, who had assisted on the first-period goal, brought his team back with goals with 7:42 and 1:24 left in the game.

“I think they made plays,” Shaw said of Springfield. “They’re a really good hockey team. If you give them a lifeline and let them stay in the game, they’re going to find ways to make plays and score goals.

“We got away from the details that made us successful and that cost us an extra point tonight.”

After a scoreless overtime, Dubicki and Springfield’s Tristan Shewchuk had goals in the first two rounds of the shootout. After Gramm McCormack missed for the Bears, Novak clinched the victory with a goal for Springfield.

Tommy Aitken made 31 saves for the Bears, while Andrew Doran stopped 22 for the Jr. Blues.

Saturday, McCormack, assisted by Dubicki and Bryce Monrean, scored in the second period to give the Bears a 1-0 lead headed to the third.

With 17:18 left in the game, Marx Noren scored on the power play, assisted by Caden Triggs and Vieten, for a 2-0 lead.

With 12:11 to play, Jack Boxer cut it to 2-1 for Springfield, then Jonathan Panisa tied the game with 9:25 to play. Panisa then scored 25 seconds into overtime.

“For us, we got away from what put us in a spot to go up 2-0,” Shaw said. “We started chasing a bit.”

Aksel Reid made 27 saves for the Jr. Blues, while Bryant Marks stopped 25 for the Bears.

Friday

Jr. Blues 4, Brown Bears 3, SO

Kenai River 0 1 2 0 0 —3

Springfield 0 1 2 0 1 —4

First period — none. Penalties — Springfield 2 for 4:00.

Second period — 1. Kenai River, Vieten (Triggs), 5:32; 2. Springfield, Bade (Schultz, Novak), 6:47. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Third period — 3. Kenai River, Newhouse (Finch), pp, 5:13; 4. Kenai River, Dubicki (Marx Noren), pp, 9:18; 5. Springfield, Novak (Scott), 12:18; 6. Springfield, Novak (Callahan), 18:36. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Springfield 3 for 6:00.

Overtime — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Shots on goal — Kenai River 5-7-10-3—25; Springfield 8-14-10-2—34.

Goalies — Kenai River, Aitken (34 shots, 31 saves); Springfield, Doran (25 shots, 22 saves).

Saturday

Jr. Blues 3, Brown Bears 2, OT

Kenai River 0 1 1 0 —2

Springfield 0 0 2 1 —3

First period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Second period — 1. Kenai River, McCormack (Dubicki, Monrean), 14:47. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Springfield 2 for 4:00.

Third period — 2. Kenai River, Marx Noren (Triggs, Vieten), pp, 2:42; 3. Springfield, Boxer (Schneider, Keller), 7:49; 4. Springfield, Panisa (Smith, Kaplowitz), sh, 10:35. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Springfield 2 for 4:00.

Overtime — 5. Springfield, Panisa (Scott, Novak), 0:27. Penalties — none.

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