The Kenai River Brown Bears snapped an eight-game winless streak by holding off the Fairbanks Ice Dogs 4-3 on Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena in Fairbanks in North American Hockey League action.
Friday, the Dogs had defeated Kenai River to put the Bears on a 2-10-2-1 skid. Fairbanks now leads the Ravn Cup, the 12-game seasonlong battle between the two teams, at 5-1.
The Ice Dogs move to 14-9-1-2 overall and remain tied for second place in the Midwest Division. The Bears are at 10-13-2-1 and move back into a tie for fourth place in the Midwest Division.
The Bears play Thursday at the Minnesota Magicians.
Saturday, the Bears were able to break out of a scoring slump. When Fairbanks took a 1-0 lead after the first period, Kenai River had just one goal in 12 periods. But Michael Spethmann, Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik, Eagle River’s Brandon Lajoie and Laudon Pollinger all scored in the second period for a 4-1 lead.
Fairbanks scored twice in the third, but Kenai River goaltender Gavin Enright held on for the win with 31 saves. For the Ice Dogs, Ethan Lahmon had four saves and Mattias Sholl had 10 saves.
Friday, after Lahmon of the Ice Dogs finished recording his first North American Hockey League shutout, the Bears had scored just one goal in the last 11 periods.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been speechless in my career, but I’m pretty close,” Kenai River coach Josh Petrich said.
In their eight-game winless streak, the Bears had scored just eight goals. During the 15-game skid, Kenai River had scored 22 goals, with the forwards contributing 14.
“We just had a players meeting and we’ll see what results from that when the day is done,” Petrich said after Friday’s game. “We can try to give them as much video as possible, but at the same time we can’t overload it and force it down their throats.
“You have to be there to support them and let you know you care about them. We have to find the mathematical equation that equals the right solution and we have a chance at 7:30 tomorrow night to do that.”
The official scoresheet had the Bears being outshot 47-11 on Friday. Petrich said he had 33-17, but said in the end that doesn’t matter.
“We weren’t very good tonight,” he said.
Petrich said goalie Dennis Westergard was very good in making 43 saves.
“It’s tough,” Petrich said of the goalies. “They’re in the mind-set right now where they’ve got to be almost perfect, and that’s a tough mind-set to have.”
The first half of the game was scoreless, but Trenton Woods and Jack Johnston scored for Fairbanks in the second period. Andrew Garby scored in the third, and a Grant Ledford empty-net, short-handed goal finished off the scoring.
Petrich said he knows slumps are tough, that they dump even more pressure on the Grade A chances that arise.
“At the same time, if you want to be a college hockey player at the next level, you’ve got to fight through it and face adversity head on.
“I’m excited about the chance, starting at 7:30, to see what we’re made of.”
Ice Dogs 4, Brown Bears 0
Kenai River 0 0 0 — 0
Fairbanks 0 2 2 — 4
First period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 1. Fairbanks, Woods (Brown, Sorenson), 11:37; 2. Fairbanks, Johnston (Koethe, Mobley), 11:54. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 3. Fairbanks, Garby (Wilson, Sorenson), 10:17; 4. Fairbanks, Ledford (Stampohar, Sorenson), en, sh, 18:22. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 17:00; Fairbanks 5 for 21:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 5-1-5—11; Fairbanks 11-14-22—47.
Goalies — Kenai River, Westergard (46 shots, 43 saves); Faribanks, Lahmon (11 shots, 11 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3; Fairbanks 0 for 4.
Brown Bears 4, Ice Dogs 3
Kenai River 0 4 0 — 4
Fairbanks 1 0 2 — 3
First period — 1. Fairbanks, Ciolli (Edwards), 19:19. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Spethmann (Lajoie, Ritchie), pp, 4:23; 3. Kenai River, Krajnik (Klekotka), pp, 5:01; 4. Kenai River, Lajoie (Canterbury, Scahill), 8:27; 5. Kenai River, Poellinger (Canterbury), 18:55. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fairbanks 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 6. Fairbanks, Wilson (Edwards), sh, 2:43; 7. Fairbanks, Johnston (Mobley, Garby), 17:59. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 17:00; Fairbanks 4 for 19:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 5-12-1—18; Fairbanks 10-13-11—34.
Goalies — Kenai River, Enright (34 shots, 31 saves); Fairbanks, Sholl (13 shots, 10 saves), Lahmon (5 shots, 4 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 2 for 6; Fairbanks 0 for 4.