So far, so good with the Kenai River Brown Bears’ plan to treat the rest of the North American Hockey League season as one long playoff series.
The Bears were riding a six-game skid when they hatched the plan before last weekend’s two-game set with the Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Bears came away with 3-2 and 5-4 overtime wins to move to 12-22-1-1 and into fifth place in the Midwest Division. Kenai River’s 26 points trail the 35 points of the Minnesota Magicians for the final playoff spot in the division.
Kenai River continues the playoff push with 7:30 p.m. games today and Saturday with the Lone Star (Texas) Brahmas.
The Brahmas are 17-10-4-3 and in third in the South Division. Lone Star was just swept by the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, who have won 10 straight games since losing to the Bears on Dec. 2.
Lone Star does not score a lot, but the squad does not give up a lot of goals, either. The team has scored 82 goals, last in a league where every other team has scored at least 90.
But the Brahmas have given up just 71 goals, second in the league behind the 70 of the Shreveport (Louisiana) Mudbugs.
“They have a great D corps and goaltending,” Kenai River assistant Nick Sova said. “They play in tight contests.
“We’re going to have to make things tough for them.”
Sova said the South Division has a reputation as one of the most physical divisions in the league.
“We think we have a tough team, too,” Sova said.
The Bears have been buoyed by two recent additions that have filled out lines.
Sweden’s Filip Karlsson has joined a line with Luke Radetic and Gil Garcia. Radetic had a hat trick in Saturday’s victory, but Karlsson also had a goal and three assists.
“It was the whole line that was playing well and I’m sure Luke would be the first to say that,” Sova said.
Anchorage’s Tyler Miknich also has filled in a line nicely with David Kaplan and Alex Klekotka.
The Bears continued to dip into the Alaska talent pool when Anchorage goalie Kevin Lake, at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, was added to the roster to replace Artur Pavliukov. Lake has one year of junior eligibility left after this season.
Sova and Kenai River coach Josh Petrich both agreed Pavliukov can play in this league, but he had to be moved because Karlsson’s addition put the Bears over the import limit.
“A lot of great hockey players come from Alaska,” Sova said. “Why wouldn’t we want them on an Alaska team?”
Defenseman Bronson Adams, 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds out of McKinney, Texas, also had joined the team. Sova said Adams, who has two years of junior eligibility left after this season, did a good job moving the puck in his first game Saturday.
Bears notes: This will be Alaska Airlines weekend for the Bears, with Alaska Airlines reps on hand Saturday night.
The reps will be there to give away thunder sticks and register fans for a pair of airfare tickets that will be given away during Saturday night’s second intermission.