Series preview: Brown Bears vs. Coulee Region Chill

The Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill have gone five games without a win. The Kenai River Brown Bears have gone 14 games without a win.

The two meet for a three-game series at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, with 7:30 p.m. games tonight and Saturday, and a 3 p.m. puck drop Sunday.

“Something’s gotta give, right?” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “Something’s gotta give.”

Last season, the Chill and the Bears were in a battle for the fourth and final playoff spot out of the North American Hockey League Midwest Division.

Coulee Region ended up losing its last seven games as the Bears made the playoffs for the sixth straight year.

However, the Chill didn’t let that disappointment carry over into this season.

They were lingering with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Minnesota Wilderness at the top of the Midwest Division standings before this current skid.

But even as it stands, they are in great position to make the playoffs. The Wilderness lead the division with 56 points, while Fairbanks has 53 points and the Chill (20-11-6) have 46.

Kenai River (11-25-2) with 24 points and the Minnesota Magicians with 28 points are battling for the final spot out of the division.

In Wisconsin in early December, Coulee swept the Brown Bears by scores of 6-2, 6-4 and 5-2.

“They’re deep and their goaltending is solid,” Beauparlant said. “They play a simple hockey game, but they compete and they work hard.”

Beauparlant said his team is coming around.

“I had a really good conversation with a friend of mine who watched all four games we played against Fairbanks,” Beauparlant said. “He’s nobody that’s associated with our organization, but he’s somebody I trust.

“He said that every game we were better and competing harder. He felt the team was getting closer to the way I want them to play and to the way the staff wants them to play.”

In particular, Beauparlant is happy with how the team is playing during five-on-five hockey. The big disparity in losing the last four games to Fairbanks was on special teams. Fairbanks was 9 for 19 on the power play, while the Bears were 0 for 17.

“Our special teams have to be better than they were against Fairbanks,” Beauparlant said.

The Bears will get forward Adam Kresl back for the Coulee series. Kresl had been out since mid-November.

That means Kenai River either has to cut somebody, or put somebody on injured reserve. Beauparlant said the team would decide late Thursday or today on the move, depending on whether Colton Fletcher has to be put on injured reserve with an ankle he injured against Fairbanks.

Notes: The Coulee series will be Central Peninsula Hospital cancer awareness weekend. Jerseys will be auctioned off Friday and Saturday.

Sunday’s 3 p.m. start will be half price for all fans — $7 for adults and $5 for kids.

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