Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Preston Weeks moves the puck up the ice against the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Preston Weeks moves the puck up the ice against the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Series preview: Brown Bears vs. Chippewa Steel

Kenai River Brown Bears head coach Kevin Murdock is not as concerned with revenge as he is with consistency.

The Brown Bears face the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in North American Hockey League play.

The Bears were on a roll the last time they faced the Steel. Kenai River had won four straight, and had just swept the Minnesota Magicians, before taking 8-2 and 5-0 pastings in Wisconsin on Oct. 4 and 5.

“The biggest thing for us is consistency,” Murdock said. “It’s been a bit of an issue. We were coming off a sweep of the Magicians and feeling good about ourselves.

“I’m not saying the guys necessarily took the weekend off, but they were a bit overconfident going into the weekend and struggled.”

The Bears are coming off a sweep of the Northeast (Massachusetts) Generals, but Murdock said he hopes his team doesn’t fall into the same trap this time.

These two games — the last time the Bears will see the Steel all season — loom important with a tight playoff race shaping up in the Midwest Division.

Fairbanks is in first with 23 points, while Kenai River (9-5-1-2) is in second with 21 and the Steel (10-4-0-0) are in third with 20. The Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues are fourth with 15, with Minnesota and the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets tied with 13.

“Chippewa has got a really good team this year, they have a lot of returning players,” Murdock said. “A year ago in their first year they probably didn’t meet their own expectations, but in that process they built a team at the end of last year more for this season.”

When the squads played in Wisconsin, Murdock said Chippewa had a top line with a combined eight years of experience in the NAHL. Connor Szmul, with three seasons, leads the team with 18 points, while Killian Kiecker-Olson has two years and 17 points, and Jacob Dirks has three years and 16 points.

The Steel had won eight straight before dropping 8-1 and 4-1 contests to the Aberdeen (South Dakota) Wings last weekend.

“They play a pretty fast, physical style, so it will be interesting to see how everything goes on a big sheet of ice,” Murdock said.

The Bears have acquired defenseman Tristan Culleton from the Jamestown (Pennsylvania) Rebels for assets. Murdock said the Bears have had a few defensemen out and have been down to six defensemen the last few weekends, so Culleton, in his last year of junior eligibility, should provide valuable experience.

Friday will be Military Appreciation Night, with free admission available with military ID. Saturday will be a postgame skate with the Bears.

More in Sports

From left, Dain Douthit, Silas Thibodeau, Roman Dunham, Cody Good and Jackson Anding participate in a practice League of Legends match on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022 at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula esports teams ready for state championships

Players contend with changing games, increased pressure, rival rematches

Tela O’Donnell-Bacher and Neldon Gardner hold their plaques after being inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame following a duel wrestling meet on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
A celebration of Kenai Peninsula wrestling

Two storied members of local wrestling community inducted into National Wrestling Hall of Fame

A great horned owl sits in a tree. (USFWS/Colin Canterbury)
Refuge Notebook: Finding perfection in the imperfect

The new snow brought our refuge manager outside for a morning walk

File
Out of the Office: On Andrews’ legacy

I thought it would be appropriate to rerun my column, originally published on June 5, 2001

Skiers from Kenai, Seward and Soldotna start the girls race during the Turkey Trot on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna, Alaska.
Kenai boys, SoHi girls clock top finishes at Turkey Trot ski meet

Kenai boys took the top four finishes of the night

Soldotna’s Jacob Strausbaugh tries to turn Palmer’s Kael Salisbury during the 112-pound final at the Lancer Smith Memorial wrestling tournament Saturday, Nov. 19, in Wasilla. (Photo by Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman)
Soldotna boys roll to Lancer Smith crown

The Soldotna boys wrestling team won the team title Saturday at the… Continue reading

The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate a third-period goal Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears get 2-game sweep of Wolverines

The Kenai River Brown Bears completed a two-game sweep of the Anchorage… Continue reading

tease
Hockey roundup: Kenai tops Kodiak, Chugiak stops SoHi

The Kenai Central hockey team moved to 2-0 in the Railbelt Conference… Continue reading

tease
Brown Bears come back to beat Wolverines

The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Anchorage Wolverines 4-2 on Friday… Continue reading

Most Read