Kenai River’s Brady Engelkes celebrates a hat trick with his teammates during a game against Fairbanks at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River’s Brady Engelkes celebrates a hat trick with his teammates during a game against Fairbanks at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears snap losing skid with win over Fairbanks

It was the team’s first win since Dec. 2

Brady Engelkes delivered a hat trick to lead the Kenai River Brown Bears to a 6-3 victory over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in National American Hockey League play on Saturday that snaps an 18-game losing skid — the team’s first win since Dec. 2.

When Engelkes completed his third goal, cheers rang out, people threw their hats on the ice and teammate Riley Mullens — who had the assist — swept Engelkes up in a twirling hug before setting him free to revel in the moment.

“It was an unreal feeling,” Engelkes said after the game. “It’s definitely something I’ll never forget — my first hat trick in the NAHL.”

Kenai River coach Taylor Shaw said Engelkes, only recently traded to the Brown Bears, is an exciting addition to the team.

“Most people don’t realize he’s still a senior in high school,” Shaw said. “There’s still big things to come yet, for him. We’re excited to be a part of it.”

Shaw said taking the victory and seeing the players reveling in their accomplishment is important.

“I don’t know if it’s quite sunk in yet.”

He credited the team with being “detailed” on Saturday — controlling the puck, winning the special teams battle, finding ways to score and broadly managing to shut down the Ice Dogs defensively.

At the start of the third period, the Brown Bears were up 3-0, and goaltender Marks Slavinskis-Repe had only been made to fend off 15 shots. They had made 26 against Fairbanks goalie Marcus Ouellet.

Engelkes had opened the action with 7 minutes and 53 seconds left in the first period, scoring with assists by Carter McCormick and Dylan Contreras during a power play. He made another while the Brown Bears were short-handed at 5:38 in the first.

In the second period, Mullens scored at 6:58 with assists by Ryan Hipsag and Kotaro Tsutsumi.

Fairbanks found some traction in the third, delivering three goals of their own — including two within only 6 seconds. Wyatt Carlson opened scoring for the Ice Dogs at 18:01 during a power play and with assists by Reece Cordray and Ingus Locmelis. Brent Gulenchyn scored at 6:57 with help from Luca Ricciardi and Josh Austin, then Cole Burke put it back in at 6:51 with assists by Nolan Abraham and Lance Mengel.

Though Fairbanks got some pucks in the net, the Kenai River Brown Bears kept their lead healthy with two goals scored during a five-minute power play. Mullens put in his second goal of the evening at 12:38 with assists by Tsutsumi and Samuel Sisik. Landon MacDonald followed that goal closely with his own at 11:05, with help from Andy Larson and John Ross.

Engelkes, with an assist from Mullen, saw the game closed 6-3 with his third goal at 3:12.

By the end of the game, Kenai River’s Slavinskis-Repe had fended off 22 of 25 shots. For Fairbanks, Ouellet blocked 32 of 38.

Shaw said, especially as pressure mounted in the third period to close out the win, they took the game “shift by shift.”

“When you start the game, you talk about wanting to play a complete 60 minutes, but it’s got to start with the first point,” he said. “In the locker room, on the bench, we just had to chip away at it. Pretty soon you can string some shifts together and pretty soon the clock starts to wind its way down — the guys were resilient.”

The win, Shaw said, has the potential to represent a big shift in energy for the team. The Brown Bears haven’t had what they felt on Saturday night “in a while.”

Important now, he said, is for the Brown Bears to sit in that feeling, “remember how it feels,” and let it energize them — “ride that into a good week.”

“It’s good to get a win under us,” Engelkes said. “Now we build from there … this is a great starting point — it starts with one.”

After the win, the Brown Bears are 13-30-4-0, have 30 points, and are 8th in the Midwest Division. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are 16-24-1-5, have 38 points and are 6th.

The Kenai River Brown Bears will play the Anchorage Wolverines next weekend, in Anchorage on Friday, March 1, and back at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Kenai River’s Brady Engelkes celebrates a hat trick with his teammates during a game against Fairbanks at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River’s Brady Engelkes celebrates a hat trick with his teammates during a game against Fairbanks at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate a victory that snaps an 18-game losing skid at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate a victory that snaps an 18-game losing skid at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate a goal during a game against Fairbanks at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate a goal during a game against Fairbanks at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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