Ice Miners sweep Brown Bears

The Kenai River Brown Bears continue to find ways to lose while playing pretty solid hockey games.

Friday, a goalie miscue led to a 1-0 victory for the Keystone (Pennsylvania) Ice Miners in front of 501 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Saturday did not end much better, as the Miners returned to notch a 4-1 win over the Bears.

Friday’s lone goal of the game came with 11 minutes, 28 seconds, left in the second period, when Evan Hauser attempted to cover a puck that Keystone had slowly slid into the zone.

Hauser missed the coverup and the puck bounced off him. He still had his head down, looking at the glove which presumably had the puck, when the Ice Miners’ Garrett Hallford pushed the puck into the net.

Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said he missed the goal because he was looking on the bench for his next line, assuming there was going to be icing called. But he heard the goal was not pretty.

“You don’t wish it on anybody,” Beauparlant said. “As a former goaltender, I have given up a goal like that. More than one, in fact.”

The coach said Hauser took his eye off the puck for just a second due to a miscommunication with a defenseman, and that’s all it took.

Beauparlant pulled Hauser for the next 3:24 and Alec Derks came on to make two saves while Hauser composed himself and came back out to finish a 33-save performance.

“Evan did a great job the rest of the way,” Beauparlant said.

While it is easy to point to the miscue as the difference in the game, Beauparlant said the Bears still have to score to win hockey games.

On a night where the Bears generated a bundle of solid chances, Keystone goalie Nick Kossoff needed 22 saves to keep a clean sheet, including a successful block on a Kenai River penalty shot by Joseph Kaszupski in the first period.

“We were bad,” Keystone head coach Michael Gershon said. “One fluke bounce is all it took.

“That was not how we play. Lots of guys didn’t show up. If we want to go anywhere in the playoffs, that can’t keep happening.”

The two losses were costly in the Bears’ playoff chase. Kenai River falls to 14-36-2 and is now nine points behind the Minnesota Magicians for the final playoff spot out of the North American Hockey League Midwest Division.

Keystone is 26-19-5 and just one point out of second place in the North Division.

Gustav Berglund scored Kenai River’s only goal of the weekend on Saturday with help from Jack Gessert and Alex Jackstadt.

After a first-period power play strike from Alex Archibald that bounced off a Brown Bears player put Keystone ahead in the first period, Berglund equalized 5:28 into the second period, a scoreline that remained that way into the third frame.

“We had good control, we were ready to make a change, and the puck went low, hit Gustav in the slot as he jumped in from blue line,” Beauparlant said.

However, Keystone’s power-play unit — and another unfortunate bounce off a Kenai River player — struck again before four minutes were up in the final period. Taylor Fernandez scored with assists from Jacob Coleman and Austin Romzek. Ultimately, the Miners finished 2 for 4 on the power play.

Austin Romzek added an insurance goal with 1:32 to play, which was then followed by an empty-netter from Matt Jones with two ticks on the clock.

Beauparlant said he was most pleased with the Bears defensive core, which has been feeling the impact of injuries in recent weeks. With a pair of games against the Bismarck (North Dakota) Bobcats next weekend, Beauparlant stayed optimistic about the team’s chances.

“All we can do is worry about getting ready for Bismarck next week,” he said. “We have a long road ahead of us, but we’re committed to prepare each week as if we’re in the playoffs.”

In Friday’s matchup, Beauparlant said he was happy with his team’s play for about 90 percent of the game, with the exception being the start of the second period.

He said the line of Matt Rudin, Zack Zulkanycz and Adam Kresl not only controlled Keystone’s top line, but was able to spend most of the time attacking.

While Keystone outshot the Bears, Beauparlant said the defensemen kept those shots coming from the outside.

“We turned the puck over so much in the defensive zone,” Gershon said. “We had turnovers at both blue lines that led to three-on-twos.”

But when the Bears did get off solid chances, Kossoff was there each time.

“We have really good goaltending,” Gershon said. “Sometimes our team takes advantage by leaving the zone too early and doing things they shouldn’t do.”

Beauparlant said the problem is Kossoff didn’t have to make any eye-popping saves.

“We weren’t taking the extra split second to find that little opening or change the angle,” the coach said.

 

Saturday

Ice Miners 4, Brown Bears 1

Keystone 1 0 3 —4

Kenai River 0 1 0 —1

First period — 1. Keystone, Archibald (unassisted), PP, 9:17. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Keystone 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 2. Kenai River, Berglund (Gessert, Jackstadt), 5:28. Penalties — Keystone 4 for 16:00.

Third period — 3. Keystone, Fernandez (Coleman, Romzek), PP, 3:43; 4. Keystone, Romzek (Coffman, Jones), 18:28; 5. Keystone, Jones (unassisted), EN, 19:58. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Shots on goal — Keystone 7-9-10—26; Kenai River 5-12-6—23.

Goalies — Keystone, Blankenburg (23 shots, 22 saves); Kenai River, Derks (25 shots, 22 saves).

Power plays — Keystone 2 for 4; Kenai River 0 for 4.

 

Friday

Ice Miners 1, Brown Bears 0

Keystone 0 1 0 —1

Kenai River 0 0 0 —0

First period — none. Penalties — Keystone 2 for 4:00.

Second period — 1. Keystone, Hallford (Archibald), 8:32. Penalties — Keystone 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 12:00.

Third period — none. Penalties — Keystone 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 3 for 14:00.

Shots on goal — Keystone 11-12-13—36; Kenai River 10-8-4—22.

Goalies — Keystone, Kossoff (22 shots, 22 saves); Kenai River, Hauser (34 shots, 33 saves), Derks (2 shots, 2 saves).

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

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