Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion  and  vie for the pock during a game on Friday, Sept. 11 at the Soldotna Sports Center.

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion and vie for the pock during a game on Friday, Sept. 11 at the Soldotna Sports Center.

Ice Dogs sweep Brown Bears on opening weekend

The Fairbanks Ice Dogs swept a two-game series from the Kenai River Brown Bears at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to open the North American Hockey League season for both squads.

Friday, the Bears lost 6-2, while Saturday Kenai River lost 7-3 after getting outscored 6-0 in the third period in front of 726.

Friday, three short-handed goals within five minutes of each other in the first period doomed the Brown Bears’ chances of winning their home opener in front of 801.

The opening game of the season can often be a little odd as teammates adjust to each other, but even in that context the three shorties that had the Dogs up 3-0 with 1 minute, 41 seconds, left in the first period stood out.

“Special teams are always a work in progress, but I wouldn’t have expected three short-handed goals unanswered to start the game,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that at any level.”

First games of the season give an indication of where work is needed. With both teams finishing 0 for 5 on the power play, it wasn’t hard to discern where coaches will be pointing their attention.

“We didn’t score on the power play and I don’t think they did either,” Ice Dogs coach Trevor Stewart said. “Obviously, both coaches will be looking at their power play.”

Everything was going according to plan with 6:33 left in the first for the Brown Bears. For the most part, they had been denying Fairbanks space in the center of the ice and puck possession had allowed them to draw a few penalties.

Then Logan Coomes and Todd Burgess broke out on a two-on-one just 14 seconds into the power play, with Coomes finishing the opportunity.

Just 14 seconds later, Ryan Kero won a faceoff to Tyler Tomberlin, who was all alone for a tap-in on the far pipe.

The Bears earned another power play with 2:22 left, and Tomberlin and Reggie Lutz broke out with Lutz finishing the chance.

“It’s just one game,” Stewart said. “We got pretty fortunate there early. We had some puck luck.”

But of Fairbanks’ nine returners, three had over 30 points last year. Beauparlant said his squad must learn that giving such talent even half a step is dangerous.

“That’s the style Fairbanks plays,” Beauparlant said. “You have to understand who the opponent is, and understand what their strength is.”

Two of those returners with over 30 points last season combined to help put the game away in the second period, as Burgess and Ryner Gorowsky found the back of the net. Evan Somoza also had a tally in building the 6-0 cushion.

“The veterans had a good night,” Stewart said. “It was good to see them on the scoresheet.”

Stewart also said Coomes, with a game-high three points, was rewarded for rededicating himself to hockey after getting bounced around leagues for a year and a half.

After the fourth goal of the game, Beauparlant pulled goalie Nicholas Nast in favor of Brian Baker, but the coach said it wasn’t because of Nast’s play.

“He had no chance on any of the four,” Beauparlant said.

The Bears got a fish on the ice for the first time with 4:55 left in the second period, when Evan Butcher pulled up on the rush and whipped the puck cross-ice to Jeff Solow. Solow’s shot was tipped in by Joey Sardina.

Beauparlant thought Sardina was the best player for the Bears, and also said he teamed with Butcher and Justin Bofshever for the Bears’ best line.

The Bears then won the third period on a goal by Jack Gessert with under a second to play.

The tally tied Gessert with Brad Duwe, the Soldotna High School product and current University of Alaska Anchorage skater, for the Bears’ all-time lead at 41.

But Beauparlant said even more important for captain Gessert and assistant captains Sam Carlson and Adam Kresl was the way they led during the tough home opener.

“I didn’t see any huge swings emotionally,” Beauparlant said. “Our guys stayed together and stayed positive on the bench.

“For the most part, we did the things we worked on the past two weeks.”

Saturday, Kenai River got on the board first when Kresl scored on assists from Charles Spetz and Cameron Cook. Burgess evened the score before the end of the first period.

The Bears then controlled the second period, with Jordan Hank scoring on assists from Ashton Amaya and Solow, and Sardina scoring short-handed on assists from Butcher and Solow.

But a barrage of six Fairbanks goals in the third period decided the game.

“Guys were not identifying guys coming into the zone,” Beauparlant said. “We’ve got a young, inexperienced team and we need to find ways to win hockey games.

“We’ve got to learn from this and learn how to close out close games.”

The coach said Fredrick Blomgren and Anchorage’s Croix Evingson had solid debuts at defense. He also said the grind line of Kresl, Carlson and Bofshever was solid, as was the play of Hank.

The Bears head on the road to face the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets on Friday and Saturday. Those are the first two games of a 10-game road trip.

“It’s going to be great for team chemistry,” Beauparlant said. “I like where we are at already, and this is only going to increase it.”

 

Friday

Ice Dogs 6, Brown Bears 2

Fairbanks 3 3 0 —6

Kenai River 0 1 1 —2

First period — 1. Coomes (Burgess), sh, 13:41; 2. Fairbanks, Tomberlin (Kero), sh, 13:55; 3. Fairbanks, Lutz (Tomberlin), sh, 18:19. Penalties — Fairbanks 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Second period — 4. Fairbanks, Burgess (Coomes, Gorowsky), 3:00; 5. Fairbanks, Somoza (Stridsberg, Kero), 5:32; 6. Fairbanks, Gorowsky (Coomes), 8:52; 7. Kenai River, Sardina (Butcher, Selow), 15:05. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 14:00.

Third period — 8. Kenai River, Gessert (Spetz, Keane), 19:59. Penalties — Fairbanks 5 for 23:00; Kenai River 3 for 8:00.

Shots on goal — Fairbanks 12-17-7—36; Kenai River 12-8-3—23.

Goalies — Fairbanks, Lindgren (23 shots, 21 saves); Kenai River, Nast (16 shots, 12 saves), Baker (20 shots, 18 saves).

Power plays — Fairbanks 0 for 5, Kenai River 0 for 5.

 

Saturday

Ice Dogs 7, Brown Bears 3

Fairbanks 1 0 6 —7

Kenai River 1 2 0 —3

First period — 1. Kenai River, Kresl (Spetz, Cook), 15:25; 2. Fairbanks, Burgess (Gorowsky), 18:24. Penalties — Fairbanks 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.

Second period — 3. Kenai River, Hank (Amaya, Solow), 3:47; 4. Kenai River, Sardina (Butcher, Solow), sh, 19:08. Penalties — Fairbanks 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Third period — 5. Fairbanks, McPheters (Cahill, Tomberlin), 1:13; 6. Fairbanks, Plunkett (Gorowsky, Coomes), 9:00; 7. Fairbanks, Mehnert (un.), 9:37; 8. Fairbanks, Burgess (un.), 18:03; 9. Fairbanks, Coomes (Gorowsky), 19:09; 10. Fairbanks, Junger (Mehnert, Somoza), 19:50. Penalties — Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.

Shots on goal — Fairbanks 16-6-17—39; Kenai River 8-11-10—29.

Goalies — Fairbanks, Lindgren (29 shots, 26 saves); Kenai River, Baker (39 shots, 32 saves).

Power plays — Fairbanks 0 for 4; Kenai River 0 for 3.

More in Sports

Kenai Central’s Kylee Verkuilen races Nikiski for control of the ball during a soccer game at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, April 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai sweeps, shuts out Nikiski in Friday soccer games

Kenai girls and boys teams opened with early goals

Head coach Taylor Shaw (center) talks to the Kenai River Brown Bears during a timeout at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, March 23, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Season review: Brown Bears hope to build on solid finish to season

It’s not easy to finish a season in last place in a division, yet have plenty of reasons for optimism for the next season

tease
Homer snow shuffles sports schedule

The Mariners were supposed to host Kenai Central in Thursday

A pair of Trumpeter Swans break through the thin ice in search of emergent vegetation at the Kenai River Flats with Mt. Redoubt in the background. (Photo courtesy T. Eskelin/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Has spring sprung?

I have always found the arrival of spring to be championed by the first sightings of geese at the Kenai and Kasilof Flats

tease
Peninsula Piranhas win South Central Area Championships

The Peninsula Piranhas won the South Central Area Championships in Homer on… Continue reading

Lily Langham of Kenai Central High School and Brooklyn Larsen, Rylie Thompson and Ava Fabian of Soldotna High School, stand for a photo with their medals after competing in the USA Hockey National Championships as part of the Alaska All Stars 19U Division 2A hockey team. (photo provided)
Local skaters help Alaska All Stars to semis of national tourney

Four central Kenai Peninsula skaters were on the Alaska All Stars 19U… Continue reading

tease
SoHi girls win distance medley relay at Big C Relays

A number of Kenai Peninsula athletes nabbed top-eight finishes at the Russ… Continue reading

tease
Saturday: Brown Bears finish season with comeback victory in Fairbanks

The Kenai River Brown Bears finished their season with a 4-3 victory… Continue reading

tease
Friday: Ice Dogs hold off Brown Bears

The Kenai River Brown Bears dropped a 2-1 decision to the Fairbanks… Continue reading

Blackwater Railroad Company and Silas Jones (front left) play at the 30th annual Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament on Saturday, March 23, 2024 at the Deep Water Dock on the Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Delcenia Cosman/Homer News)
Out of the Office: Good gathering, good vibes

It’s been a while since I’ve attended a good-old-fashioned social event —… Continue reading

Hunter Beck, Dan Beck, Emma Beck and Tracie Beck sit at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, as Emma signs a National Letter of Intent to play volleyball at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Hunter is Emma's brother, Dan is Emma's father and Tracie is Emma's mother and the head volleyball coach. (Photo provided)
Beck signs to play with UAA volleyball

Kenai Central senior Emma Beck signed a National Letter of Intent to… Continue reading

Jim Beeson coaches Kenai Central football on August 11, 1999. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Beeson, Romans part of Alaska High School Hall of Fame 2024 class

Legendary Kenai Peninsula coaches Jim Beeson and Ward Romans were named to… Continue reading