Series preview: Brown Bears vs. Blues

The Kenai River Brown Bears hope to solve their five-on-five problem when they face the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

The Bears enter the series in last place in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division at 1-14-2-0, while Springfield is tied for fourth in the division at 8-11-0-1.

Kenai River’s problem at this date in the season is clear — five-on-five hockey, particularly scoring goals when both sides are at even strength.

The Bears have been outscored 42-9 during five-on-five play, exactly what’s expected of a one-win team.

But oddly, the team is significantly better on special teams. Kenai River has scored 16 times and given up three short-handed goals in 98 power plays, while yielding 25 goals in 104 penalty kills.

While that’s not great, it’s certainly not the mark of a one-win team.

“We’ve got to get the puck in the net five-on-five or it’s going to be a long year,” Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton said. “It’s kind of weird. Usually, if you’re not good five-on-five, you’re not going to be good on the power play.”

Brown Bears forward Jonathan Marzec said he actually thinks his squad is fine five-on-five.

What he said the young and inexperienced Bears struggle with is the transitions from power play to even strength.

The Bears have given up several goals due to the opposition getting behind the defense when getting out of the penalty box. Also, killing off penalties takes energy.

“We’ll take a lot of penalties in a short amount of time and kill them off, but then we’ll be gassed,” Marzec said.

An example came Saturday, when the Bears had to kill off three two-minute penalties and one four-minute penalty against Janesville, which has the second-ranked power play in the league.

The Jets didn’t score until a power-play goal with five seconds left in the first, but all that hard skating would take a toll in the 6-2 loss.

“I’m starting to see us make plays and get more scoring chances five-on-five, hopefully the next step is to score,” Worlton said. “Sometimes, young teams have to take baby steps.

“Hopefully, the next step is to put three or four goals in.”

The Bears have scored three goals just once in the past eight games. Worlton said that at least three goals will be needed to win the majority of games.

The coach said the players noticed the healthy crowds of over 800 each night last weekend, and want to provide the first home victory of the season.

“It was awesome,” Worlton said. “We have great fan support here.

“Obviously, we are struggling in the win column but they keep coming and supporting the kids. We want to return the favor and win some games at home.”

The coach also said he is pleased with the recent improvement of defenseman Jordan Holmes, a 6-foot-0, 205-pound player out of Philadelphia. Holmes has one year of junior eligibility left after this year.

“He’s a first-year defenseman that started off slow and sluggish, and we weren’t sure if he could play at this level,” Worlton said. “His game has taken off in a positive way.”

More in Sports

Saturday prep football: Homer wins; Nikiski, Seward lose

The Nikiski football team opened its season with a 12-8 nonconference loss… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Wade James punts against Eielson on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, at Buck Nystrom Field on Eielson Air Force Base. (Photo by Jeff Olsen/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)
Kenai, SoHi football start season with victories

By JEFF OLSEN Fairbanks Daily News-Miner EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE — Asked… Continue reading

Nick Varney
Reeling ‘Em In: More tips from Nick on catching silvers

Now, here are a few more suggestions on how to pop those coho tumbling around the lagoon.

Strausbaughs win ABC Life Choices 5K Run

The ABC Life Choices Celebrate Life! 5K Run was held Saturday in… Continue reading

Week 1 prep football preview: Getting back to normal

The five high school football teams from the Kenai Peninsula begin the… Continue reading

Some great examples of genetic diversity with Kenai River king salmon populations. (Photo by Ken Gates)
Refuge Notebook: Where have the big Kenai River kings gone?

Over the years, fishing for king salmon has provided many anglers with… Continue reading

Bradley Walters leads the pack up Angle Hill on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of the office: Race thyself

During the pandemic, I questioned the value of regular community racing and… Continue reading

Anchorage's Lars Arneson finishes third in the men's Mount Marathon Race on Monday, July 4, 2022, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Arneson sets new record at Mat Peak

Lars Arneson, a 2009 graduate of Cook Inlet Academy now living in… Continue reading

Anchorage's Will Ross rides to victory in the Soggy Bottom 100 on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. (Photo provided by Angela DiBeradino)
Anchorage’s Ross gets record back in Soggy Bottom 100

Anchorage’s Will Ross now has Alaska’s most coveted endurance mountain biking record.… Continue reading

Most Read