The Aston (Pennsylvania) Rebels didn’t have the most chances Friday, but they made the most of their chances.
Despite getting outshot 42-34, the Rebels posted a 5-3 North American Hockey League victory over the Kenai River Brown Bears at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
“I really felt that their hockey team deserved a better fate,” Aston coach Joe Coombs said. “They were all around our net, but our goalie stood on his head.
“He was fantastic.”
Darion Hanson, who was seventh in the league in goals against after Friday’s game, made 39 saves, including a number of good ones with the Bears down 4-3 and on the power play starting with 5 minutes, 7 seconds, to play.
Kenai River outshot a team for the first time all season, went over 40 shots for the first time all season, and scored more than two goals for the first time since Sept. 26.
But all that couldn’t stop the Bears from falling to 1-14-0 and enduring a franchise-long 12th straight game without earning a point. Aston moves to 9-5-0.
“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities, and you have to give credit to their goaltender,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “He made some big saves with the game on the line.”
The Bears started slow, with Colton McMenamin giving Aston the lead on the rush just 5:19 into the game.
While Beauparlant said goalie Nicholas Nast probably would have liked that first goal back, Nash came back a minute later and stopped a mini-breakaway to keep the Bears in the game.
Aston took penalties with 12:53 and 1:13 left in the first, and that turned the momentum to the Bears.
“With about eight minutes left in the first period, they really took the game over,” Coombs said.
Just 56 seconds into the second period, Joey Sardina, on assists from Jack Gessert and Gunnar Goodmanson, tied the game.
Beauparlant said those three, as well as Evan Butcher, Bayley Marshall and Jeff Fasegha, really stood out in the game.
With 11:59 left in the second, Dean Balsamo gave Aston a 2-1 lead.
“We weren’t getting sustained pressure,” Coombs said. “What we did was we made plays and scored.
“They had sustained pressure, but they weren’t able to make those plays.”
Butcher, assisted by Marshall and Sardina, tied the game with 6:45 left in the second.
Then came the crucial final minute of the second period. Gessert hit the pipe with 42 seconds to play, then Aston’s Jerry Miettuten scored from the point with 6.4 seconds left.
“We’ve talked before about how it’s a game of inches,” Beauparlant said. “If he hits the inside of the pipe, it’s probably 3-2 us headed into the third period.”
Goodmanson, assisted by Gessert and Justin Bofshever, drew the Bears even just 1:34 into the third.
But with 11:19 to play, Bears defenseman Croix Evingson went into the corner to retrieve the puck and slipped, leading to a goal by Evgeny Yakovlev.
Beauparlant said the play there is to slip the puck behind the net to the other defenseman.
“It’s a play he knows how to make, needs to make and is coached to make,” Beauparlant said. “Sometimes those things happen, it just happened at the wrong time.”
Hanson was able to keep the Bears at bay until Ryan Cusin finished them off with an empty-net goal.
The same two teams drop the puck at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the sports complex.
Rebels 5, Brown Bears 3
Aston 1 2 2 —5
Kenai River 0 2 1 —3
First period — 1. Aston, McMenamin (Solomon, Swingle), 5:19. Penalties — Aston 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Sardina (Gessert, Goodmanson), 0:56; 3. Aston, Balsamo (Zerban, Underwood), 11:59; 4. Kenai River, Butcher (Marshall, Sardina), 13:15; 5. Aston, Miettuten (Spellman, Balsamo), 19:54. Penalties — Aston 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 6. Kenai River, Goodmanson (Gessert, Bofshever), 1:33; 7. Aston, Yakovlev (Blackman, Cusin), 8:41; 8. Aston, Cusin (Blackman, Yakovlev), en, 19:17. Penalties — Aston 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Aston 12-10-12—34; Kenai River 11-15-16—42.
Goalies — Aston, Hanson (42 shots, 39 saves); Kenai River, Nast (33 shots, 29 saves).
Power plays — Aston 0 for 1; Kenai River 0 for 4.