Series preview: Brown Bears vs. Ice Dogs

With 16 games already played in a 60-game season, Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant is looking for the time invested in rookies early in the season to begin paying off soon.

The Brown Bears host the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for three games this weekend at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday, while game time is at 3 p.m. Sunday.

The only two Alaska teams in the North American Hockey League have been at opposite ends of the spectrum through the first quarter of the season.

Fairbanks, with its 13-2-1 record, has the most points in the league. The Bears, at 1-15-0, have the least points in the league.

But Beauparlant is not ready to press the panic button.

“You can’t say it’s easy,” he said. “It’s a work in progress day to day. We’re always looking for different ways to keep them positive and understand it’s a season-long process.

“We’ve got a lot of younger guys gaining experience earlier in the year. That’s going to prove valuable. It’s taking longer than the staff envisioned, but at the same time we’re improving.”

The coach said the squad’s top four defensemen, all averaging 20 to 23 minutes a night, are first-year players. That quartet is Dylan McArthur, Thomas Keane, Charles Spetz and Croix Evingson.

Another pair of first-year players, Gunnar Goodmanson and Justin Bofshever, are getting major minutes on a line with captain Jack Gessert.

“We’re just over a quarter of the way through the season and that’s when it eventually clicks for the guys,” Beauparlant said. “We saw it last year with some of our younger guys like Joey Sardina and Evan Butcher.”

Beauparlant said consistency in defensive pairings and lines should also begin to pay off. In addition to the Gessert line, the coach said Butcher, Sardina and Bayley Marshall are coming together. He also said Tanner Dufault returned from injury last weekend to pair nicely with alternate captains Sam Carlson and Adam Kresl.

But Fairbanks will be a formidable obstacle if the Bears are to stop a franchise-high pointless streak at 13 games. The Bears are behind 4-0 in the Ravn Alaska Cup, the season-long battle for supremacy between the two Alaska teams.

“It’s always our biggest rival and we look forward to it,” Beauparlant said. “We need to raise our game to a different level when we play them.”

The Bears also get forward Blake Carrick back in the lineup, allowing the team to dress the preferred 12 forwards and six defensemen for the first time in a little under a month. Cam Cook remains out with a shoulder injury.

With three games in three days, Beauparlant said things like shift length and puck management become more important, but that players can’t afford to hold back.

“These are young guys in the prime of their athletic career,” Beauparlant said. “They just have to do the right things away from the rink in terms of meals, rest and hydration.”

Bears notes: Russian defenseman Oleg Khalemin has left the team to try out for Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

“His agent called today and described it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Beauparlant said. “We wish him the best. It’s a great opportunity to potentially play in arguably the second-best pro league in the world.”

Beauparlant said the tryout does not involve appearing in a game, so Khalemin maintains his NAHL eligibility if he doesn’t make the league. …

Defensemen Fredrick Blomgren has been let go by the team and will return to Sweden. …

Friday will be Microcom night, while Saturday will be Marine Toys for Tots, where fans can bring toys to donate or purchase toys at the game to donate.

Sunday will be Kenai Peninsula Youth Foundation Kids Day, with activities for kids at the game and a meet and greet with the Bears after the game at the Soldotna Dairy Queen. All kids 12 and under get into Sunday’s game for free.

More in Sports

Anchorage Wolverines defenseman Ben Edwards shields the puck from Kenai River Brown Bears forward Bryce Monrean on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Wolverines lose Robertson Cup final to New Jersey

The Anchorage Wolverines lost the Robertson Cup final to the New Jersey… Continue reading

Soldotna's Isaac Chavarria competes in the triple jump at the Region 3/Division I meet at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, May 21, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna girls win regions; SoHi boys, Kenai boys, girls finish 2nd

Stars boys left meet thinking they had won, but that changed with Sunday review of team scores

tease
Chugiak softball wins Bash on the Bay

The Chugiak softball team defeated Dimond 6-2 on Saturday to win the… Continue reading

tease
SoHi, Kenai, Homer baseball collect wins

The Soldotna baseball team defeated host Redington 12-8 on Saturday to move… Continue reading

The Kenai Central boys soccer teams mobs Joe Hamilton (center) after Hamilton scored the game-winning penalty kick in the Peninsula Conference championship game Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai soccer sweeps Peninsula Conference titles

The Kenai Central girls and boys soccer teams swept the Peninsula Conference… Continue reading

Seward's Tommy Cronin competes in the triple jump at the Region 3/Division II meet Friday, May 20, 2022, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Area track athletes punch early tickets to state

A few area athletes wrapped up automatic berths to the state track… Continue reading

tease
Kenai baseball rolls past Grace Christian

The visiting Kenai Central baseball team defeated Grace Christian on Friday 18-4… Continue reading

Soldotna's Hamilton Hunt rises above the crowd for a header Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai girls, boys; SoHi boys; Homer girls soccer earn state berths

The Kenai Central girls and boys, Soldotna boys and Homer girls earned… Continue reading

tease
Homer goes 2-1 in Bash on the Bay

The Homer softball team went 2-1 on the opening day of the… Continue reading

Most Read