After a disappointing weekend sweep at the hands of the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel, the Kenai River Brown Bears don’t have to wait long for a chance to make things right.
The Bears host the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues tonight at 7 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex before 7:30 p.m. puck drops with Springfield on Friday and Saturday night.
Kenai River is chasing Springfield for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division. The Jr. Blues are 15-15-2-1 for 33 points, while the Bears sit at 12-19-2-2 for 28 points.
Chippewa is in last with 24 points, so the Bears lost an opportunity with 6-2 and 4-0 losses on Friday and Saturday.
“We’re just trying to regroup as a team and stay positive going into this weekend,” Kenai River assistant Dan Bogdan said. “I think last weekend was one thing, but this weekend we have three games with a team just five points ahead of us for the last playoff spot.
“I think it will say more about the character of our team.”
The reason Kenai River has dropped from the top of the division in the early going to fifth place is trouble with scoring goals. The Bears have 78 goals in 35 games, an output that is third lowest in the league.
“The biggest thing is trying to get guys to the net with the big sheet,” Bogdan said of the Olympic-sized ice at the sports complex. “It’s easy to stay on the perimeter and tough to get inside.”
Bogdan also said players must learn to deal with the great support of home crowds.
“The community support and crowd support is never a negative,” Bogdan said. “It’s one of those things where the guys want to do so well that they get a little bit too far out of their comfort zone instead of keeping it simple.”
The Bears and Jr. Blues will play 10 times this season. They are 2-2 against each other, with one of Kenai River’s victories coming in overtime.
“Each team is testing each other out and figuring out what to do best as far as X’s and O’s,” Bogdan said. “Effort, attitude and enthusiasm is a completely different subject and that’s where we can only focus on ourselves.”
Bogdan said defenseman JJ Boucher not only got on the scoresheet in the Chippewa series, but was physical and did a great job getting the bench up.
Forward Logan Ritchie will be out this weekend with an upper-body injury, while forward Porter Schachle of Wasilla continues to be out.