The Kenai River Brown Bears continued their longest pointless streak in team history Saturday night with an 11th straight loss, coming at the hands of the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks.
The Brown Bears lost 6-1 Friday to set the team record of 10 in a row, then lost 4-1 Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. Kenai River is currently last in the North American Hockey League Midwest division with a 1-13-0 record.
Saturday night’s contest was knotted up at 1-1 heading into the third period — courtesy of second-period goals by Johnstown’s Andrew Romano and Kenai River’s Evan Butcher — but the determined Tomahawks defense intercepted the puck at Johnstown’s blue line and Kelly O’Brien was able to skate up the right side and deliver the game-winning goal from the outer edge of the faceoff circle with 17 minutes, 21 seconds, remaining in the game.
“It was a fantastic shot,” said Tomahawks coach Mike Letizia. “Kelly has an NHL-type shot, and if he can get it off to the net, usually good things happen.”
In the final 15 minutes, Kenai River turned up the pressure but saw multiple chances to score go by the wayside, including several opportunities by Joey Sardina.
After the Tomahawks scored an insurance goal with 3:45 left, Johnstown committed two major penalties that put them on the five-minute power play. However, Kenai River was unable to pounce on the chance to close the gap and Johnstown ultimately netted an empty-netter with 48 seconds left.
“Unfortunately, I think we’re the most penalized team in the league,” Letizia said. “We’ve done a lot of penalty-killing, so we knew what we were doing and we had the confidence to kill it off.”
The Bears’ penalty kill efficiency — the worst in the league — bit them once again. Andrew Romano struck just 13 seconds into a Johnstown power play, getting the puck from Drew Doyon and chipping it up into the net from close range.
After several close moments — including one where Gunnar Goodmanson batted down an airborne puck in front of Kenai River’s net while the Tomahawks were on a power play — the Brown Bears knotted the game up with 1:35 to play in the second period. Charles Spetz corralled the puck at the blue line and unleashed a beeline shot to the goal to equalize.
“I think it hit like three things on its way to the goal, so we knew it was kind of a bouncy goal,” Letizia said.
Kenai River goalie Nicholas Nast kept Johnstown from regaining the lead with a desperate clampdown on the puck with 8.5 seconds left in the frame.
Nick DeSimone, for the second straight night, stopped 35 of 36 shots, giving him a total of 70 out of 72 shots sent his way over the weekend.
Kenai River will host the Aston (Pennsylvania) Rebels next weekend for two games Friday and Saturday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Tomahawks 4, Brown Bears 1
Johnstown 0 1 3 —4
Kenai River 0 1 0 —1
1st Period — no scoring. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Johnstown 2 for 4:00.
2nd Period — 1. Johnstown, Romano (Doyon), pp, 8:21; 2. Kenai River, Butcher (Sardina, Spetz), 18:25. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
3rd Period — 3. Johnstown, O’Brien (Linkenheld, Lynch), 2:45; 4. Johnstown, Linkenheld (Romano), 16:15; 5. Johnstown, Lynch (Buncis), en, 19:12. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Johnstown 2 for 15:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 12-14-10—36; Johnstown 13-14-11—38.
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3; Johnstown 1 for 5.
Goalies — Kenai River, Nast (37 shots, 34 saves); Johnstown, DeSimone (36 shots, 35 saves).