Series preview: Brown Bears vs. Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets

The Kenai River Brown Bears scored their lone win of the season against the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets, but the Jets have served notice that a repeat will be tough this weekend.

Janesville comes to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex for North American Hockey League games against the Bears today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Last weekend, the Jets (10-6-2) swept host Fairbanks to become the first squad to turn that trick since the Wenatchee (Washington) Wild in October 2011, according to Bears head coach Geoff Beauparlant.

“Every week is a different challenge,” Beauparlant said. “They play similar to Fairbanks with a little bit more speed.

“Their goaltending is younger, but gaining experience week to week.”

The Bears (1-20-0) topped Janesville 4-3 in overtime Sept. 18, but since then have gone a franchise-high 18 games without a win or a point.

“We’re looking for the small positives, the things that show we have improved,” Beauparlant said.

The Bears were swept by the Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill last weekend by scores of 5-2 and 6-2, but Beauparlant said it was the first time this season Kenai River scored the first goal in each game of the weekend. It also was the first time the Bears had the lead or were tied in both of the weekend’s games going into the second period.

“We have to be able to sustain through the second period,” Beauparlant said. “The second period has been a real challenge for us.”

The Bears are being outscored 23-14 in the first period, 53-18 in the second period and 38-9 in the third period, with that third-period tally being inflated by empty-net goals.

“We still have to play 60 minutes,” Beauparlant said. “We can’t have four- or five-minute lapses.”

In Friday’s 5-2 loss, the Chill scored three goals in 46 seconds in the second period to provide the difference.

Saturday’s second period saw Coulee Region score on the next shift after two goals — one by the Bears, one by the Chill — to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead headed into the third.

“We’ve been improving in the defensive zone, on the power play and the penalty kill,” Beauparlant said. “We’re optimistic we can get points this weekend.”

The Bears get two key players back. Alternate captain Adam Kresl returns after getting banged up and sitting out last weekend. Kresl has one goal and four assists in 19 games.

Cam Cook also returns from injury. He hasn’t played since Oct. 23, but is still tied for third on the team with 10 points — three goals and seven assists.

Bears notes: Soldotna skater Preston Weeks signed a North American Hockey League tender agreement with the Kenai River Brown Bears.

The defenseman is currently playing for the Under-18 Pikes Peak Miners of the Tier I Midget AAA North American Prospects Hockey League. Through 15 games with the Miners, Weeks has recorded five points, all assists.

After playing his freshman year of high school with the Soldotna Stars, Weeks played a season with the Compete Hockey Academy in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. He also played two games with the Brown Bears as an affiliate player this season. …

The Bears have not heard from the agent of Russian defenseman Oleg Khalemin and are assuming he is not coming back. Khalemin left the Bears to try out for the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is no longer on the Kenai River protected list. …

Former Brown Bears goaltender Kris Oldham has been named to the U.S. Junior Select Team that will compete in the 2015 Junior A Challenge from Dec. 13 to 19 in Whitby, Ontario.

It is not the first time the Anchorage netminder, also a draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, has been with Team USA. While playing for the Bears in 2013-14, Oldham helped the United States go 5-0 at the 2013 Five Nations Tournament with his 4-0 record, 1.81 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. …

Friday is Ravn Alaska night. Saturday is Stanley Chrysler night, with all the 2016 models getting rolled onto the rink between intermission, when T-shirts, prizes and free oil changes will be dispersed.

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