Both the Bismarck (North Dakota) Bobcats and the Kenai River Brown Bears enter today’s and Saturday’s games at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex hungry for victory.
The Bobcats won the North American Hockey League’s Robertson Cup in 2010 and have won Central Division titles in three of the past six years. But they have currently rode a three-game losing streak to the bottom of the Central Division standings with a 3-5-0 mark.
The Brown Bears, meanwhile, are still smarting from a 6-1 loss to the Minot (North Dakota) Minotauros on Saturday that pushed them to fourth place in the Midwest Division with a 4-6-0 record.
“They’re similar to us in that they have a lot of new guys and a lot of new faces,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “They’re feeling the same ups and downs we are.
“It should be an entertaining weekend. Both teams can skate and get up and down the rink.”
The Bears have continued to bolster their veteran presence at defense by acquiring two new players this week.
Austin Chavez returns to the Bears from Sioux City (Iowa) Musketeers of the Tier I United States Hockey League.
“Austin got caught up in a numbers game,” Beauparlant said. “He’s back to play the minutes he needed to play to develop and have the opportunity to step in and be one of their top four defensemen next year.”
Chavez, at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, had four points in 36 games for the Bears last year and was a minus-3.
Chavez joins Jack Gessert as players to return to the Bears after getting cut from the USHL.
“I think they are hungry to prove themselves,” Beauparlant said. “I think they are good enough to play at that level, it’s just a matter of which role they will play.
“The goal hasn’t changed for both, and that’s to earn a Division I scholarship.”
Quinton Wunder, a 6-2, 190-pound California defenseman, also has joined the team. Wunder has British Columbia Hockey League experience as well as a few NAHL games.
That leaves the Bears with two extra nongoalie players, plus an extra goalie, on the roster.
“Guys can count numbers,” Beauparlant said. “It’s not rocket science.
“Things change all the time at the junior level. Last year we were pretty quiet, but this year there’s been a lot of change, and there’s more coming next week.”
Captain Tyler Andrews said he is excited to add more veterans on defense.
In addition to Chavez, assistant captains Gustav Berglund and Ben Campbell both played for the Bears last season. Goalie Zach Quinn also saw the most time in net for the Bears in the 2013-14 campaign.
“It’s something we’ve talked about a lot,” Andrews said. “With our experience and background, the D and goalie should be the six or seven best on the ice every night.”
Notes: Friday and Saturday will be the first jersey auction of the year. The Rockstar Energy Drink jerseys are sponsored by The Odom Corporation and Powerade.