The Springfield Jr. Blues scored a short-handed goal with 2 minutes, 32 seconds, left in the game for a 4-3 North American Hockey League victory over the Kenai River Brown Bears on Thursday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Dylan Rauh had the game-winner.
“The kid came down on the rush and had a backhand bar down,” Kenai River head coach Josh Petrich said. “I give him credit. It was a hell of a play.
“We just got a little lackadaisical on the power play.”
Rauh’s effort sent the Bears to a seventh straight loss. Kenai River will try and get back in the win column with 7:30 p.m. games today and Saturday against the Blues at the sports complex.
Springfield moves to 26-21-5-1 overall and is third in the Midwest Division, three points ahead of the fourth-place Minnesota Magicians and 15 points ahead of the Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill for the final playoff spot out of the Midwest.
The Brown Bears fall to 15-35-1-2 and have been eliminated from the playoffs.
Petrich said the game had a slow start, with Springfield getting the only goal of the first period.
“I thought we had our chances in the first period too, though it is good (goalie Gavin Enright) kept it 1-0,” Petrich said.
Springfield is second in the league on the power play, and that unit struck with its only chance of the night top open the scoring in the second period.
Eagle River’s Sutton McDonald got the Bears back to 2-1 to open a flurry of scoring in the final five minutes of the second period. Springfield’s Nick Schultze and Kenai River’s Filip Karlsson also would score before the period was out.
“I thought it was good for a Thursday night game,” Petrich said. “The crowd was good and it was two eager teams looking for a win.
“It took awhile to get going, but the last half was fast and a lot of fun.”
Lukas Millen tied it up for the Bears with 11 minutes left in the game, but special teams ended up dooming the Bears. Springfield has the worst penalty kill in the league. Petrich said the Bears had plenty of good chances on the power play, but it was the short-handed goal that ended up deciding the game.
Evan Fear stopped 21 shots for the Jr. Blues, while Enright stopped 27 for the Bears.
Jr. Blues 4, Brown Bears 3
Springfield 1 2 1 — 4
Kenai River 0 2 1 — 3
First period — 1. Springfield, Mickelson (Carabelli, Muzzillo), 9:59. Penalties — Springfield 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Springfield, Brainin (Mickelson, Stewart), pp, 8:19; 3. Kenai River, S. McDonald (Rosa, Kaplan), 15:55; 4. Springfield, Schultze (Walter, Sterne), 17:01; 5. Kenai River, Karlsson (C. McDonald, Millen), 17:39. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 6. Kenai River, Millen (Karlsson, Komuls), 9:00; 7. Springfield, Rauh (Schultze, Fineman), sh, 17:28.
Shots on goal — Springfield 13-9-9—31; Kenai River 10-9-5—24.
Goalies — Springfield, Fear (24 shots, 21 saves); Kenai River, Enright (31 shots, 27 saves).