The Kenai River Brown Bears came into the weekend riding a three-game winning streak, but were swept Friday and Saturday in North American Hockey League road games against the Shreveport (Louisiana) Mudbugs.
The Bears lost 5-1 on Friday and 4-1 on Saturday.
The Mudbugs are now 35-7-3-2 and are the second best team in the league, six points behind the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The Bears are 15-30-1-2, 19 points out of the final playoff spot in the Midwest Division with 12 games left to play.
The Bears stay on the road and face the Lone Star (Texas) Brahmas on Friday and Saturday.
After falling in a 4-0 hole after two periods Friday, Kenai River head coach Josh Petrich was happier with the way his team played Saturday.
“We didn’t capitalize this weekend,” Petrich said. “They’re a good team with good goaltending. They make life tough on you.”
Shreveport went up 1-0 in the first period on a short-handed goal by Cole Quisenberry, but then there was no scoring until just 1:04 into the third period, when Jack Clement scored on the power play for a 2-0 lead.
Cameron Cook would score short-handed to make it 3-0. Gil Garcia and Sacha Guillemain were sick all week and joined the lineup Saturday.
“This weekend we gave up three short-handed goals,” Petrich said. “That’s not us. We were juggling some guys in different roles.”
Filip Karlsson scored for the Brown Bears on the power play to make it 3-1 with 4:25 to play, but Shreveport would clinch the game with an empty-netter with 20 seconds left.
With 5:17 to play, three fights occurred, including between goalies Kevin Lake of the Bears and Gustav Grigals of the Mudbugs. Petrich said it was a physical weekend of hockey.
“The thing we can take away is what’s always been a staple of the Brown Bears organization — guys stood up for each other,” Petrich said. “They didn’t back down or give up.”
Friday, Petrich was more disappointed in the play.
“We didn’t show up and play for two periods and they are way too good of a team to do that,” he said.
Shreveport had a 4-0 lead after two periods and went up 5-0 in the third period before Emils Ezitis, assisted by Connor Scahill and Luke Posner, broke up the shutout.
“The reason why we won three in a row is we were good with the puck, paid attention to detail and outbattled teams,” Petrich said. “The first two periods they outbattled us and we didn’t pay attention to detail.”
In particular, Petrich put some things in the game plan to deal with the old, quirky boards and the Bears didn’t do them the first two periods.
“The positive is when we showed up in the last 20 minutes we showed we can play with the second best team in the league,” Petrich said.
The Bears were 0 for 5 on the power play, while Shreveport was 0 for 6. Gil Garcia and Sacha Guillemain, two of the top producers on the power play, were out sick for the Bears.
Gavin Enright had 27 shots on 23 saves for Kenai River before Kevin Lake made 16 saves on 17 shots. Jaxon Castor had 17 saves for Shreveport.
Petrich said Enright was pulled both as a spark to the team and a wakeup call to Enright.
Mudbugs 5, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 0 0 1 — 1
Shreveport 1 3 1 — 5
First period — 1. Burnett (Quisenberry, Clement), 7:02. Penalties — Kenai River 5 for 21:00; Shreveport 5 for 21:00.
Second period — 2. Shreveport, Holmers (Transit, Procopio), 7:57; 3. Shreveport, Cook (Gysbers, Burnett), sh, 12:18; 4. Shreveport, Transit (Holmers, Cook), 17:47. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Shreveport 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 5. Shreveport, Natyshak (Transit, Lane), 12:01; 6. Kenai River, Ezitis (Scahill, Posner), 18:53. Penalties — Kenai River 5 for 21:00; Shreveport 5 for 21:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 5-5-8—18; Shreveport 14-15-15—44.
Goalies — Kenai River, Enright (27 shots, 23 saves), Lake (17 shots, 16 saves); Shreveport, Castor (18 shots, 17 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 5; Shreveport 0 for 6.
Mudbugs 4, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 0 0 1 — 1
Shreveport 1 0 3 — 4
First period — 1. Shreveport, Quisenberry (Fader, Procopio), sh, 15:52. Penalties — Shreveport 2 for 12:00.
Second period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Shreveport 5 for 10:00.
Third period — 2. Shreveport, Clement (Quisenberry, Baranovskis), pp, 1:04; 3. Shreveport, Cook (Lane, Gysbers), sh, 12:39; 4. Kenai River, Karlsson (Posner), 15:35; 5. Shreveport, Fader (Quisenberry, Clement), en, 19:40. Penalties — Kenai River 14 for 109:00; Shreveport 20 for 175:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 8-8-9—25; Shreveport 17-16-20—53.
Goalies — Kenai River, Lake (35 shots, 32 saves), Enright (17 shots, 17 saves); Shreveport, Grigals (21 shots, 21 saves), Castor (3 shots, 3 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 7, Shreveport 1 for 2.