Jr. Blues nip Brown Bears

The game of chase the Kenai River Brown Bears played Thursday night was not enough to secure victory, as the Bears lost 4-3 to the Jr. Blues in Springfield, Illinois, in a North American Hockey League Midwest matchup.

The Bears kept pace with the Jr. Blues by scoring quickly after each Springfield goal. All three Kenai River goals came within 4 1/2 minutes of a Springfield score, and all three tied the game.

The fourth Jr. Blues goal was the dagger, however, as Hunter Longhi put the Blues ahead with 1:10 left in the third period on a power play. Five of the seven goals came on the power play.

The Brown Bears (19-8-1-2) stayed atop the Midwest division with 41 points, one ahead of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (19-9-0-2), who lost 5-2 Thursday to the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets. Springfield remains fifth in the division.

The two teams return to the Nelson Center ice Friday and Saturday with game times at 4:05 p.m. and 3:05 p.m. (AKST), respectively.

Springfield opened the scoring late in the first period with a power-play strike from Aaron Swanson with 36 seconds left in the frame.

It took just 20 seconds for Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik to knot it back up, sending the Bears into the intermission with the momentum. Krajnik ended the night leading the NAHL in scoring with 36 points.

Swanson lit the lamp again for Springfield just over seven minutes into the second, but Peter Morgan responded for Kenai River 1:51 later with an unassisted goal.

Things got testy midway through the second with major penalties handed down after a fight between Kenai’s Laudon Poellinger and Springfield’s Hunter McCurdy.

An unsportsmanlike conduct charge to Bears forward Bryan Huggins early in the third period resulted in another lead change, this time a goal by Adisen Brueck that put the Jr. Blues up 3-2.

With 11:17 left in the game, Max Helgeson collected his 12th goal of the year on an unassisted play.

With time winding down, the Jr. Blues finally broke the deadlock with just 70 seconds remaining, using an assist from Swanson to set up a shot by Longhi on the power play, and the Bears skated off without a point.

Goaltender Landon Pavlisin stopped 23 of 27 shots for the Bears, while Springfield goalie Alex Proctor got the win with 21 of 24 shots saved.

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