Jr. Blues sweep by Brown Bears

  • By Staff Report
  • Saturday, February 18, 2017 2:28am
  • Sports

The Kenai River Brown Bears were playing the blues this weekend, both on and off the ice.

A pair of blowout losses to the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues left the Brown Bears in a bigger hole than when they started the weekend in the North American Hockey League.

Friday, Kenai River lost a 6-1 North American Hockey League contest to the Jr. Blues at the Nelson Center in Springfieldy, then returned Saturday to stumble to a 10-2 loss.

Kenai River fell to 10-34-2-0, last in the NAHL Midwest Division and 23 points behind the fourth and final playoff spot. The win for Springfield put the Jr. Blues (22-21-1-1) into third in the division, jumping Fairbanks (21-23-2-1), which split a weekend series with the Minnesota Magicians.

“Obviously it was a rough weekend,” said Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton. “But the score doesn’t necessarily show the effort they put in. The other teams got a lot of bounces, and if that was the case, it’d be a lot more frustrating for the coaches.”

With 14 games remaining in their 60-game season, the Bears have 28 possible points available to gain, so the window to grab a postseason spot is quickly closing.

”We never want to say no and quit believing, but we have to find our game again,” Worlton said. “That’s something we’re going to focus on this week.”

Heading into another road series against the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets next weekend, a team that beat the Bears twice by identical scores of 6-2 earlier in the season, the turnaround must be swift, Worlton said.

“We’ve just got to get back to basics and play our game,” Worlton said. “I believe the men on this team are not going to quit.”

During their current seven-game slide, the Bears have allowed 4.42 goals a game and have only managed to score 1.28 goals a game.

In Saturday’s game, the Bears scored first with a goal from Jonathan Marzec, coming with 8:32 left in the first period.

The Jr. Blues responded 2 minutes, 54 seconds, later with a power-play strike from Jordan Muzzillo, then took the lead on a goal by Brennan Blaszczak, also on a power play.

In the first half of the second period, Springfield scored twice more to take a 4-1 lead.

Jack Vincent, a forward the Bears acquired just over a week ago, slotted home a goal with 7:04 left in the second period to cut the deficit to two, but that would be all the offense the Bears would get.

Springfield barraged Kenai River with five goals in the third period to seal the win.

After stymieing Springfield on all five power plays in Friday’s game, the Bears gave up four goals on five Springfield power plays on Saturday. Kenai River suffered nine penalties that totaled 44 minutes, while Springfield was charged with just six minutes of penalty time.

“That’s the difference,” Worlton said. “Our PK has been really good this year, and we had a bad game today.”

The Jr. Blues also outshot the Bears 39-23 in the opening two periods combined.

Bears goaltender Robbie Goor warded off 43 shots Saturday in the losing effort. Springfield goalie Mike Robinson blocked 35 of 37 shots.

Friday night, the Brown Bears had the first-period blues. The Brown Bears gave up four goals in the opening 20 minutes to send the Bears to a sixth straight loss.

Max Nylander lit the lamp 38 seconds into the game to put the Jr. Blues up first, and it didn’t stop there. Springfield got scoring strikes from Matt Long, Matt Cassidy and Zachary Tyson before the first period was over.

Down 4-0, Luke Radetic provided a brief respite by scoring what turned out to be Kenai River’s only goal just 58 seconds into the second period, but the Jr. Blues added two more of their own before the period was finished to ice the victory.

The Bears also could not stay out of the sin bin, racking up five penalties to just one for Springfield.

“It was just a bad weekend, and it’s been a couple of bad weeks,” Worlton said. “We’ve just got to find a way to snap out of it.”

Goor made 40 saves, while Mike Robinson stopped 29 of 30 shots sent his way for the Jr. Blues.

Facing his old team, Springfield forward Joey Sardina notched three assists on Friday, while former Bears defenseman Jack Nickels recorded two helpers on Saturday.

Saturday

Jr. Blues 10, Brown Bears 2

Kenai River 1 1 0 — 2

Springfield 2 3 5 — 10

First period — 1. Kenai River, Marzec (Friedman), 11:28; 2. Springfield, Muzzillo (Nickels, Puricelli), PP, 14:22; 3. Springfield, Blaszczak (Tyson, Muzzillo), PP, 17:14. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Springfield 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 4. Springfield, Mickelson (Peck, Leibold), 8:41; 5. Springfield, Puricelli (Cassidy, Hollenstein), 9:54; 6. Kenai River, Vincent (Warman), 12:56; 7. Springfield, Cassidy (Puricelli, Nickels), PP, 17:35. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 14:00; Springfield 1 for 2:00.

Third period — 8. Springfield, Hollenstein (Puricelli, Cassidy), PP, 1:40; 9. Springfield, Simeone (Peck, Leibold), 3:37; 10. Springfield, Fineman (Nylander, Cassidy), 8:32; 11. Springfield, Smyth (Long, Nylander), 15:22; 12. Springfield, Cassidy (Puricelli, Hollenstein), 15:49. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 24:00; Springfield 1 for 2:00.

Shots on goal — Kenai River 14-9-14—37; Springfield 21-18-14—53.

Goalies — Kenai River, Goor (53 shots, 43 saves); Springfield, Robinson (37 shots, 35 saves).

Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3; Springfield 4 for 5.

Friday

Jr. Blues 6, Brown Bears 1

Kenai River 0 1 0 — 1

Springfield 4 2 0 — 6

First period — 1. Springfield, Nylander (Long, Smyth), :38; 2. Springfield, Long (Matsinger), 8:39; 3. Springfield, Cassidy (Leach, Muzzilo), 13:36; 4. Springfield, Tyson (Sardina, Blaszczak), 14:10. Penalties — Springfield 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 5. Kenai River, Radetic (Butcher), :58; 6. Springfield, Blaszczak (Tyson, Sardina), 5:15; 7. Springfield, Blaszczak (Sardina, Tyson), 12:59. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00.

Third period — no scoring. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Shots on goal — Kenai River 13-7-10—30; Springfield 17-16-13—46.

Goalies — Kenai River, Goor (46 shots, 40 saves); Springfield, Robinson (30 shots, 29 saves).

Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 1; Springfield 0 for 5.

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