The Kenai River Brown Bears fell 6-5 in overtime to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Friday in North American Hockey League action at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Ice Dogs (24-16-4-0) moved into a tie for second place in the Midwest Division with the win, while the Brown Bears (21-20-2-1) stand alone in sixth place after getting a point for the overtime loss.
“I was pretty happy overall with the group tonight,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “We didn’t get the extra point we needed.”
The top four in the division make the playoffs. The Wisconsin Windigo now lead the division with 53 points, while the Minnesota Wilderness and Ice Dogs have 52. The Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets have the final playoff slot with 48 points, while the Anchorage Wolverines have 46, the Brown Bears have 45, the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel have 44 and the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues have 41.
The Wolverines continue to lead the Club 49 Cup with 23 points, while the Ice Dogs have 17 and the Bears have eight. Kenai River is 0-3-2-0 against Fairbanks this season.
The same two teams play tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the sports complex. The first 1,000 fans get a free T-shirt, as the Bears are making it a “whiteout” night.
The Ice Dogs jumped to a 3-1 lead after the first period. Jacob Conrad and McCabe Dvorak had Fairbanks up 2-0 just 3:23 into the game.
With 2:12 left in the first, the Bears scored the first of three power-play goals when Ryan Finch lit the lamp with help from Garett Drotts and Ben Monson. Billy Renfrew then scored late in the first period for Fairbanks.
“Our special teams was clicking for us,” Shaw said. “Overall, for the most part, five-on-five was pretty good for us too. Truthfully, I thought we deserved to win the game, but that doesn’t guarantee you are going to.”
The Bears won the shot count 47-35.
“They are a team that when they get an opportunity, they capitalize,” Shaw said. “We don’t want to get into a scoring match with them.”
Heading into Friday, Kenai River had not scored more than three goals in a game since returning from holiday break on Dec. 30 — a stretch of 12 games. The Brown Bears snapped their slump in the second period by scoring four times.
Ashton Christman, assisted by Noah Holt, and Bryce Monrean on the power play, assisted by Luke Anderson and Hunter Newhouse, had the game tied midway through the second period.
After Julian Recine scored on the power play for Fairbanks, Finch got his second power-play goal of the game, this time with help from Kotaro Tsutsumi.
Noah Holt, assisted by Christman and Joe Manning, scored with 1:49 left in the second period to give the Bears a 5-4 lead.
Fairbanks tied it early in the third with a goal by Kole Altergott.
Then, just 57 seconds into overtime, Renfrew continued to celebrate his commitment to Division I Northern Michigan this week by scoring the game-winner.
Nils Wallstrom made 29 saves for the Bears, while Kayden Hargraves stopped 42 for the Ice Dogs.