Kenai River Brown Bears head coach, and New England Patriots fan, Josh Petrich was watching the Super Bowl on Sunday with his team captains when he asked them what should be done in practice this week.
Not surprisingly, the captains said the previous week of practice had been great and they didn’t want to change much heading into 7:30 p.m. games Friday and Saturday against the Corpus Christi (Texas) IceRays at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The desire not to change could have been that they were watching a coach and quarterback in their 19th year together win a sixth Super Bowl, but more than likely it was the two-game sweep the Bears had just completed against the Topeka (Kansas) Pilots.
The twin wins put an end to an 11-game losing streak on home ice and also snapped a six-game losing streak.
“We did a good job focusing on the details and little things we worked on last week in practice,” Petrich said.
Forward Trey LaBarge played a big role in Friday’s 3-2 shootout win, scoring two power-play goals, and after that game he said what the Bears had done on the power play had been drilled so well in practice that he was able to do it without thinking about it.
Petrich said the Bears worked on putting the puck in specific areas and figuring out how to mount scoring chances from there.
“When I coached goalies, I looked at it like they were the toolbox and I was trying to give them as many tools as possible,” Petrich said. “That’s what I was trying to do here, trying to give them tools to score.”
Even with the sweep, the Bears have still scored the second fewest goals in the league. They managed to get the two wins while scoring just four goals in six periods and an overtime.
Petrich said the signs are there for the team to start scoring more goals. He said the Bears are creating good chances, now they just have to capitalize on them.
“Part of what we talked about in the second intermission Friday is you can go out there and do everything right, but if you don’t believe it, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “Those two wins helped with more belief in the locker room and more momentum in the locker room.”
In Saturday’s 2-1 victory, both goals came from defensemen. Three of the Bears’ top seven scorers are defensemen, but Petrich is not concerned with the play of his forwards.
“Both plays (Saturday) were made by forwards, that’s just what they were leaving open,” Petrich said. “All three goals Friday came from forwards.”
The Bears need momentum because the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues have picked up 13 points in their last eight games and now have a 12-point lead over the Bears (14-22-2-2) in the race for the final playoff spot in the Midwest Division.
Corpus Christi is 21-21-1-0 and is two points ahead of Topeka for the final playoff spot out of the South Division.
Oct. 26 and 27 in Texas, the IceRays defeated the Bears 3-1 and 5-2 in what Petrich called the team’s worst weekend of the season.
“Video didn’t do justice to their style of play,” Petrich said. “It’s north-south, fast-paced and they execute on the rush.”
Petrich said there are always new wrinkles when teams come to the sports complex, which has the only Olympic-sized ice sheet in the league. The most important fact may be the IceRays have lost six of seven.
“We expect a super desperate team that’s going to be tough to play against,” Petrich said.
Bears notes: There will be a raffle this weekend to help Terry and Michell Johnston with medical costs. Michell Johnston was diagnosed with a brain tumor early this year.
The prize in the raffle, which is $10 per ticket, is a trip for two to watch the Brown Bears play in Fairbanks from March 28 to 30. The package includes two round-trip tickets from Kenai to Fairbanks, three nights at a hotel, a rental car for the trip and two tickets to all three games.
The winner will be drawn in the third period Saturday.
“Michell and Terry have been so gracious to the Brown Bears and are a huge part of our family,” Petrich wrote in a text message. “Anything we and this community can do to help them will be greatly appreciated.
“It is tough to see great people going through hard times, but we know how tough they are and our thoughts and prayers are always with them.” …
The Brown Bears have traded defenseman Johan Bok to the Bismarck (North Dakota) Bobcats for assets. Petrich said the move was made to give Bok the opportunity to showcase himself more to Division I schools.