The Kenai River Brown Bears were swept by the Minnesota Magicians on Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in North American Hockey League play.
The Brown Bears continued to slump offensively Friday night, falling 3-0 to the Magicians. Saturday, Minnesota had 53 minutes in penalties on 14 infractions and the Bears had 40 minutes on nine in a 3-2 Magicians victory.
Minnesota leads the Midwest Division with a 15-5-0-0 record, while the Bears (9-10-0-1) are now tied for fourth place with the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues. Kenai River now has some time off before hosting the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Nov. 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 25 at 5 p.m.
The Bears are on a 1-5-0-0 skid during which they have scored just eight goals.
Friday’s game was closer than the 3-0 score indicated because Minnesota tacked on a pair of empty-net tallies. Each team had a handful of really good chances. With 3:02 left in the first period, Minnesota’s Joel Pavey tapped in a rebound to provide the decisive chance conversion of the evening.
“We just didn’t capitalize tonight,” Kenai River assistant coach Dan Bogdan said. “We had plenty of chances.
“Both goalies played well. The game came down to the one chance they took advantage of.”
Kenai River’s big chance to get the advantage in the game came in the last half of the second period and first part of the third period. The Bears, now eighth in the league on the power play, had four power plays during that time and came up empty en route to going 0 for 5 for the night.
“All the penalties at the end of the second period had a chance to affect the mood of the game,” Minnesota head coach A.J. Bucchino said. “The way we killed them off created energy for our team.
“I thought we then were the better team in the third period.”
Minnesota’s Jack Robbel, with 30 saves, got the better of Kenai River’s Dennis Westergard in the goaltender’s duel.
“He made a lot of great first saves and that made his game easier,” Bucchino said. “Our D also did a good job down low.”
The Bears lost possession right as Westergard was leaving the ice and that quickly led to a Jackson Jutting goal with 1:29 left. Pavey had another empty-netter with 59 seconds left.
With defensemen Connor Scahill and JJ Boucher serving a suspension, the Brown Bears had to play with five defensemen.
“It’s hard to play with five D and I thought they did a great job,” Bogdan said.
Scahill and Boucher are two of the team’s top five scorers, which speaks to the trouble forwards are having scoring goals.
“They are starting to press,” Bogdan said. “I’m not disappointed with the effort. That’s the first thing I’m concerned with and they’re putting in enough effort to win.”
Saturday, Markuss Komuls started the scoring for the Bears, but Pavey had tied it by the end of the first period. After Carter Breitenfeldt scored for Minnesota in the second, Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik drew the Bears even.
But Ricky Lyle Jr. had the game-winner with 9:03 left in the second period. For Minnesota, Ethan Haider had 19 shots on 19 saves and Jack Robbel had 23 saves on 25 shots. Gavin Enright stopped 29 for the Bears.
Magicians 3, Brown Bears 0
Minnesota 1 0 2 — 3
Kenai River 0 0 0 — 0
First period — 1. Minnesota, Pavey (Klein, Lanigan), 16:58. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — none. Penalties — Minnesota 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 2. Minnesota, Jutting (Lanigan, Breitenfeldt), en, 1:29; 3. Minnesota, Pavey (Keranen, Klein), en, 0:59. Penalties — Minnesota 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 16-5-14—35; Kenai River 9-13-8—30.
Goalies — Minnesota, Robbel (30 shots, 30 saves); Kenai River, Westergard (33 shots, 32 saves).