It may have been a little unlucky for the Kenai River Brown Bears that, with 51 seconds left in overtime Friday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, John Keranen of the Minnesota Magicians fired the game-winner off a defender’s stick and into the back of the net for a 5-4 victory.
Kenai River head coach Josh Petrich wasn’t having it.
“It happens. It’s a frustrating game,” Petrich said. “The team that deserved two points got it. You won’t get any argument from me.”
On Saturday, luck had less of a role in deciding the outcome. Although the Bears outshot the Magicians 36-27, Minnesota managed to exit with a 5-2 win over Kenai River.
Minnesota moved to 8-4-1-1 with the victory, good for 18 points and tied for second place with Fairbanks in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division. The Bears are 6-8-1-0 and sit in fifth in the Midwest with 13 points.
Petrich said his squad was sloppy and lacked energy Friday. He actually considered the Bears fortunate to get a point and pointed to something Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice said after a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 17.
“The game of hockey is also very fair,” Maurice said. “There’s a handful of nights you think you deserve a better fate or you get lucky, but for the most part, you get what you earned.”
Petrich told Kenai River before the game that the first five minutes of the contest would set the tone. The coach said it was the perfect time to jump on the Magicians and build on a two-game winning streak, including a 4-2 win Thursday over the Minnesota. But if the Magicians controlled the first five minutes, the game would be a dogfight.
Minnesota controlled the first five minutes. Unofficially, the Magicians had a 6-0 shots advantage when Keranen scored 4:09 in for the lead.
“I didn’t think we had any jump,” Petrich said. “I thought we just let them dictate the play of the game.”
But it’s notable that the Bears are prolific enough at scoring that they can stay in games even when giving up the lion’s share of possession. With 14:41 left in the first, Minnesota goalie George McBey made a great sliding save on a two-on-one shot from Gabriel Wahl. Then with 3:34 left in the first, Luke Radetic got the puck in the slot and whistled a perfect shot into the top right corner.
“I think we played some of our best hockey of the trip,” said Minnesota coach Scott Meyer, whose squad pulled four points out of Fairbanks on the previous weekend. “Every time we made a mistake, it ended up in the back of our net.
“We had a ton of chances, but their goaltender played very well.”
In the second, the Magicians had a goal called off with 7:16 to play due to a high stick. Meyer said he thought the goal should have been good, but Minnesota kept pressing and looked ready to take control of the game when Cameron Buhl scored on the power play with 1:12 left in the period. Then with 30 seconds left, Brown Bears goalie Gavin Enright quickly got to his back pipe to keep the score at 2-1.
“I thought both goalies stole the show,” Petrich said of McBey, who had 28 saves, and Enright, who had 27. “Gavin was really good tonight. He kept us in the game.”
That save loomed really large when Gil Garcia threw the puck at the net with 5 seconds left in the period. It bounced off a defender and through McBey’s legs for a 2-all tie.
The Bears took that momentum and played their best hockey of the night, with Michael Spethmann scoring a a centering pass from Connor Scahill for a 3-2 lead with 9:21 left in the game. But that momentum evaporated when Minnesota’s Ethan DeStefani scored on the power play at 6:25 and Buhl scored at 4:29 for a 4-3 lead.
The Magicians were 2 for 2 on the power play, while the Bears were 0 for 3.
“You don’t win special teams, you don’t win the hockey game,” Petrich said.
But the Bears once again found a way to draw even at the end of a period. Petrich called timeout with 1:35 to play and pulled the goalie. Just 13 seconds later, Sacha Guillemain was lighting the lamp with the equalizer to set up Keranen’s dramatics in overtime.
“We’ve got a young group,” Meyer said. “They did a good job in Fairbanks, but last night was a dud. We found a way to get two points tonight.”
Saturday, Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from Jarrett Lee and John Keranen, but the home team responded well in the second frame, outshooting the Magicians 15-8 and cutting the lead to 3-2.
Just 42 seconds after a roughing call on Minnesota’s Matt Denman put Kenai River on the power play, Gil Garcia struck for his 11th goal of the season, cutting the lead in half.
However, the Magicians responded with a goal 29 seconds later from Bram Scheerer.
Sutton McDonald yet again closed the lead to one, scoring four minutes later with help from Michael Spethmann.
Davis Kirkendall continued to pile on for Minnesota at 8:21 of the third, a power-play goal that was set up by a cross checking charge to the Bears’ Joseph Allegrini. The Magicians slotted in an empty-netter dagger with 1:48 left to seal the win.
Magicians 5, Brown Bears 2
Minnesota 2 1 2 —5
Kenai River 0 2 0 —2
1st period — 1. Minnesota, Lee (Scheerer), 7:32; 2. Minnesota, Keranen (Breitenfeldt), 16:19. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
2nd period — 3. Kenai River, Garcia (Radetic, McDonald), PP, 8:02; 4. Minnesota, Scheerer (Dybiz), 8:31; 5. Kenai River, McDonald (Spethmann), 12:41. Penalties — Minnesota 4 for 16:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
3rd period — 6. Minnesota, Kirkendall (Skarda), PP, 8:21; 7. Minnesota, Kirkendall (Laukaitis, Nauss), EN, 18:12. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 11-8-8—27; Kenai River 13-15-8—36.
Goalies — Minnesota, Saville (36 shots, 34 saves); Kenai River, Pavliukov (26 shots, 22 saves).
Power plays — Minnesota 1 for 4; Kenai River 1 for 3.
Magicians 5, Brown Bears 4, OT
Minnesota 1 1 2 1 — 5
Kenai River 1 1 2 0 — 4
First period — 1. Minnesota, Keranen (Breitenfeldt, Grundy), 4:09; 2. Kenai River, Radetic (Wade, Komuls), 16:26. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 3. Minnesota, Buhl (Keranen, Skarda), pp, 18:48; 4. Kenai River, Garcia (Weeks, Ezitis), 19:55. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Spethmann (Scahill, S. McDonald), 10:39; 6. Minnesota, DeStefani (Denman), pp, 13:35; 7. Minnesota, Buhl (Ribau), 15:31; 8. Kenai River, Guillemain (Garcia, Komuls), 18:38. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 9. Minnesota, Keranen (Denman), 4:09.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 10-13-5-4—32; Kenai River 5-11-12-4—32.
Goalies — Minnesota, McBey (32 shots, 28 saves); Kenai River, Enright (32 shots, 27 saves).