Jeff Worlton’s first trip to Fairbanks as head coach of the Kenai River Brown Bears ended just like the first trip up north this season — in a loss.
Worlton was not on the bench to see it go down.
The Brown Bears lost 5-1 to the Ice Dogs Thursday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena in Fairbanks while Worlton sat out a one-game suspension that was handed down by the North American Hockey League for an incident last weekend.
Worlton engaged Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues coach Tony Zasowski in a verbal confrontation last Saturday after the team’s 3-2 loss at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Thursday’s loss, the second straight for the Bears, dropped Kenai River to 3-35-1 on the year.
The Bears struggled to stay out of the penalty box throughout the game, giving Fairbanks 12 power-play opportunities. On a bright note, the Bears only gave up a goal on one of those penalty kills.
The Ice Dogs struck 5 minutes, 51 seconds, into the game with a goal from Cayden Cahill, but Jordan Hank tied things up with 5:29 left in the first period with help from Austin Junger.
Logan Coomes notched the go-ahead goal for Fairbanks with 1:07 left in the period. The Ice Dogs outshot Kenai River 10-5 in the frame.
Reggie Lutz notched an insurance goal in the second period to put Fairbanks up 3-1, then added an empty-netter late in the third, shooting from the blue line to seal the win. Just eight seconds after Lutz’s second goal, Evan Somoza struck with a backhander on a power play to push the lead to 5-1.
The two squads will face off twice more this weekend. The puck drops both nights at 7:30 p.m.
Ice Dogs 5, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 1 0 0 —1
Fairbanks 2 1 2 —5
1st period — 1. Fairbanks, Cahill (Cross, Stirtzinger), 5:51; 2. Kenai River, Hank (Junger), 14:31; 3. Fairbanks, Coomes (Gorowsky, Cross), 18:53. Penalties — Fairbanks 2 for 4:00, Kenai River 4 for 8:00.
2nd period — 4. Fairbanks, Lutz (Tomberlin, Anderson), 5:09. Penalties — Fairbanks 2 for 4:00, Kenai River 5 for 10:00.
3rd period — 5. Fairbanks, Lutz (Tomberlin, Ingman), en, 18:55; 6. Fairbanks, Somoza (Kleven, Baumann), pp, 19:03. Penalties — Fairbanks 3 for 6:00, Kenai River 4 for 8:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 5-5-7—17; Fairbanks 10-11-8—29.
Goalies — Kenai River, Nast (28 shots, 24 saves); Fairbanks, Boothe (17 shots, 16 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 6; Fairbanks 1 for 12.