Kenai River Brown Bears forward Brandon Lajoie (arm raised) celebrates his first-period goal Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, against the Maine Nordiques at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Brandon Lajoie (arm raised) celebrates his first-period goal Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, against the Maine Nordiques at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Magicians take 2 from Bears

The host Minnesota Magicians defeated the Kenai River Brown Bears 2-1 on Friday and 5-1 on Saturday in North American Hockey League play.

Minnesota is now tied for first in a tight Midwest Division. The Magicians and Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets each have 22 points, while the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have 21 points in third and the Bears, losers of four straight, have 20 points in fourth.

Friday, Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said the Bears continued a recent trend in playing well but not burying scoring chances.

“I thought the guys played all right,” Murdock said. “We had chances to win the game, but we didn’t capitalize on some of our Grade A scoring chances. One or two brain farts cost us the game.”

Murdock said Minnesota’s goals came from not picking up a guy driving the net, and not picking up a guy standing in front of the net.

Minnesota was leading 2-0 with 2:34 left in the third period when Eagle River’s Brandon Lajoie scored for the Bears.

“He’s been really good these last three weeks,” Murdock said of Lajoie.

Kenai River couldn’t find the equalizer in losing a third straight game.

“If we look back at the last nine periods, one of them was really bad but the rest were OK,” Murdock said.

Saturday, the Bears were able to stick with the Magicians for the first half of the game. Minnesota led 1-0 after the first period, but Morgan Winters tied things up 3:46 into the second period.

However, Minnesota outscored the Bears 4-0 after the midway point of the second period.

Darius Bell made 29 saves for the Magicians, while Luke Pavicich had 26 saves for the Bears.

After last weekend’s game, Kenai River traded Wasilla’s Porter Schachle to the Danbury (Connecticut) Jr. Hat Tricks for Jake Veri.

Schachle recently committed to Division I University of Vermont and had nine goals and six assists in 17 games this season. Schachle ages out of junior hockey after this season.

Veri has three goals and four assists in 10 games. He has one year of eligibility after this season.

“We needed a center and we wanted to get Porter a little bit of a change in scenery,” Murdock said. “We thought that’s what he needed to keep him moving in the right direction.”

Murdock said Kenai River had been playing the better part of the season with four 20-year-old centers. Veri is a guy that can return and be a top-six guy next year.

Rookie Parker Lockwood of Kenai, who has two years of eligibility left after this season, has been seeing time at forward for the Bears. Lockwood has played six games and hasn’t had a point.

Murdock said Lockwood has a pretty good skill set and is working hard. He said the league is tough for first-year players this year because of the new coronavirus pandemic.

With some NAHL and United States Hockey League teams shut down, plus players at the university level staying in junior hockey to get games, Murdock said the NAHL is tougher than ever this season.

Kenai River has another game against the Magicians today at 3 p.m. AKST before playing at the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel at 4:10 p.m. AKST on Wednesday.

Friday

Magicians 2, Brown Bears 1

Kenai River 0 0 1 —1

Minnesota 0 1 1 —2

First period — none. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 1. Minnesota, Novak (Christy, Light), 15:52. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Third period — 2. Minnesota, Cronin (Laylin, Kukkonen), 12:14; 3. Kenai River, Lajoie (McNamara, Thrun), 17:26. Penalties — none.

Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-12-11—32; Minnesota 8-16-12—36.

Goalies — Kenai River, Rose (36 shots, 34 saves); Minnesota, Beran (32 shots, 31 saves).

Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 1; Minnesota 0 for 2.

Saturday

Magicians 5, Brown Bears 1

Kenai River 0 1 0 —1

Minnesota 1 3 1 —5

First period — 1. Minnesota, Falk (Laylin, Cronin), 18:29. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.

Second period — 2. Kenai River, Winters (Morgan, Helgeson), 3:46; 3. Minnesota, Laylin (Oravitz), 10:02; 4. Minnesota, Weiss (Falk, Longhi), 10:27; 5. Minnesota, Kron (Svenddal, Stein), 14:17. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Minnesota 1 for 2:00.

Third period — 6. Minnesota, Stein (McCabe, Kanta), 9:33. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Minnesota 2 for 4:00.

Shots on goal — Kenai River 5-13-12—30; Minnesota 11-13-7—31.

Goalies — Kenai River, Pavicich (31 shots, 26 saves); Minnesota, Bell (30 shots, 29 saves).

Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3, Minnesota 0 for 3.

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