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Saturday: Bears notch 5th straight victory

The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets 8-7 in overtime Saturday in North American Hockey League action at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

The Brown Bears won for the fifth straight time and now have 13 of a possible 14 points in their last seven games.

Kenai River wraps up its home slate for the 2023-24 season with a 5 p.m. Sunday game against the Jets. The game is fan appreciation and admission is free.

The Bears are averaging 5.6 goals per game during their past seven games after not scoring five goals in a single game during an 18-game losing streak earlier in the season.

“It’s all in the belief and effort of the group right now,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “You’ve got to create your own chances. You’ve got to create puck luck.

“They’re doing that right now. It’s fun to watch.”

At 19-32-4-2, the Bears are still in last place in the Midwest Division with 44 points. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues are tied for sixth with 46 points.

The Jets, at 32-19-4-1, have clinched a playoff spot and are in third place in the Midwest Division.

With 2:50 left in the five-minute overtime, Luke Hause scored on assists from Carter McCormick and Joseph Yoon.

“You should have heard how the crowd erupted,” Shaw said. “It was unbelievable.

“It was pretty loaded in here tonight, so they got their money’s worth.”

Hause’s shot from the hash mark kept the Bears from what would have been a tough loss after giving up the last four goals of the third period.

Shaw said the Jets are a very skilled hockey team and the Bears gave them too much of an opportunity to get back into the game, including a pair of power-play goals.

“I was happy our group kind of cut the bleeding there and was able to finish out the third period and get the couple chances we had,” Shaw said.

Kenai River had a 2-0 lead after the first period when Yoon scored on an assist from Roope Tuomioksa and Hause scored on a Jacob Margarit assist.

After Max Wagener struck for the Jets to start the period, Landon MacDonald, assisted by Owen Hanson and Gavin Duckworth, put the Bears back up 3-1 with 16:27 left in the second.

After Noah Gibbs cut it to 3-2, Samuel Sisik, assisted by Tuomioksa, again put the Bears up two.

Then came a crazy sequence in which the scoresheet has three goals being scored in 12 seconds, though Shaw said it probably wasn’t that quickly.

With 1:57 left in the second, Mason Kesselring got Janesville within 4-3.

But the Bears scored with 1:47 and 1:45 left — Dylan Contreras on assists from Kotaro Tsutsumi and Luke Lizak, and Hanson on Blake Norris and Landon MacDonald assists.

With 16:32 left, the Bears were up 7-3 when MacDonald scored on the power play with help from Andy Larson and Sisik.

Then Nick Sajevic got hot for the Jets and quickly rolled up a hat trick. He scored with 14:46 and 14:33 left, then Kesselring scored on the power play with 12:59 to play.

With 6:42 left, Sajevic completed his hat trick and tied the game with a power-play goal.

AJ Reyelts had 33 saves for the Bears, while Matthew Alberti and Jan Kasal combined to make 26 saves for the Jets.

“We obviously gave up seven, too, and we don’t want that,” Shaw said. “It’s something we have to clean up as a unit, but I like the goals we’re scoring right now.

“They’re not fluky goals. They’re hard-nosed, nice plays.”

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