The Kenai River Brown Bears were swept on the road by the Maine Nordiques on Friday and Saturday in North American Hockey League action.
The Brown Bears fell 3-2 on Friday before dropping a 6-4 contest on Saturday.
Friday in Lewiston, Maine, the Bears gave up a third-period lead but the narrow shave left head coach Kevin Murdock optimistic that the Bears are improving.
“This is really the first real road trip of the season, the first big road trip with a 23-hour travel day,” Murdock said Friday. “Getting in and having to turn around and play a game the next day … for them, it’s a bit of a learning curve to play games.
“They’ve shown flashes of how good we are capable of being.”
Earlier in the season, the Bears won four straight on the road, then won three of five on a recent homestand.
Kenai River led 2-1 in the third period after a power-play goal by Logan Ritchie early in the frame, but a few costly mistakes in the final minutes allowed Maine to rally for the win.
A hooking call on Ritchie set up a power play for the Nordiques, who tied it up at 2-all with 3:36 left in the game on a goal by Cale Dubrul.
Maine then scored the go-ahead goal with 2:57 left to play on a shot by Kevin Pitts, who skated into the open crease on a pass from the corner by Makem Demers to take the lead.
“That tying goal gave them a ton of momentum,” Murdock said. “We weren’t able to answer when the puck dropped for the next shift.”
The final frame punctuated a night that saw the Brown Bears outshot badly in the first two periods with a 38-15 advantage for Maine. The Nordiques ended up outshooting Kenai River 51-28 overall.
“I just think they played with a little more urgency than us,” Murdock said. “It was a sloppy game, but I thought Maine played really well. I don’t think we played near to our ability for the better part of the game.”
Landon Pavlisin, the most recent Midwest Division star of the week, finished with 48 saves. Maine goalie Connor Androlewicz stopped 26 of 28 shots.
Murdock said Pavlisin has been a calming influence in goal for the Bears, and in a loss like Friday the stat sheet doesn’t tell the whole story.
“He’s been really good the last few weekends, he’s playing very confident,” he said. “He’s been making saves like usual, and that’s exactly what you want out of your goalie.”
Peter Morgan put the Bears on the board first late in the first period to net his first goal of the season. Murdock said the line of Morgan, Cody Moline and Porter Schachle worked well together, resulting in the first goal.
Maine came back to tie it up early in the second period on a Jacob Crespo score, but the Bears grabbed the lead back at 5:13 of the third period on a power play. Murdock said the Bears did well moving the puck around, eventually landing it on Ritchie’s stick on a redirect from Preston Weeks.
Crespo and Trey LaBarge were both given major misconduct penalties from fighting with just under nine minutes to go in the third period, setting up the late drama.
Saturday, the Bears fell into a 3-1 hole after the first period and never were able to get out of it.
Green started the scoring for the Nordiques in the first period, but Ritchie answered with 3:33 left in the first, on assists from Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik and Theo Thrun. But Emmanuel Sanchez and Noah Kane scored before the end of the first to give the Nordiques a crucial edge.
In the second period, Robert McCollum had a power-play goal, assisted by Krajnik and Thrun, to get the Bears within one.
But for the second time in the game, the Nordiques scored in quick succession to jump far out front again. With 15:00 and 14:32 remaining, Green and Jack Strauss scored to put Maine out front 5-2.
Kenai River did fight back, eventually cutting it to 5-4 with 5:49 to play. Cody Moline, assisted by Wasilla’s Porter Schachle and Peter Morgan, and Ryan Reid, assisted by Moline and Morgan, had the goals.
But the Brown Bears couldn’t find the equalizer and Vincent DeSanctis settled things with an empty-net goal with 28 seconds left.
Pavlisin had 23 saves for the Bears, while Androlewicz stopped 28 for the Nordiques.
The Bears stay on the road to face the Northeast (Massachusetts) Generals on Friday and Saturday, with both games starting at 3 p.m. AKDT.
Nordiques 3, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 1 0 1 —2
Maine 0 1 2 —3
1st period — 1. Kenai River, Morgan (Schachle, Moline), 16:57. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Maine 1 for 2:00.
2nd period — 2. Maine, Crespo (Fox, Kane), 5:51. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
3rd period — 3. Kenai River, Ritchie (Weeks, Lajoie), PP, 5:13; 4. Maine, Dubrul (Fox, Demers) PP, 16:24; 5. Maine, Pitts (Demers), 17:03. Penalties — Kenai River 6 for 23:00; Maine 5 for 21:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 7-8-13—28; Maine 17-21-13—51.
Goalies — Kenai River, Pavlisin (51 shots, 48 saves); Maine, Androlewicz (28 shots, 26 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 2; Maine 1 for 4.
Nordiques 6, Brown Bears 4
Kenai River 1 1 2 — 4
Maine 3 0 3 — 6
First period — 1. Maine, Green (Fox), 11:36; 2. Kenai River, Ritchie (Krajnik, Thrun), 16:27; 3. Maine, Sanchez (Rivet, DeSanctis), 18:00; 4. Maine, Kane (Green, Fox), 18:09. Penalties — none.
Second period — 5. Kenai River, McCollum (Krajnik, Thrun), pp, 17:33. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Maine 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 6. Maine, Green (Fox), 5:00; 7. Maine, Strauss (Grimshaw, Lofdahl), 5:28; 8. Kenai River, Moline (Schachle, Morgan), 11:17; 9. Kenai River, Reid (Moline, Morgan), 14:11; 10. Maine, DeSanctis (Pitts), en, 19:32. Penalties — Maine 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 13-7-12—32; Maine 11-9-9—29.
Goalies — Kenai River, Pavlisin (28 shots, 23 saves); Maine, Androlewicz (32 shots, 28 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 4; Maine 0-1.