By JEFF HELMINIAK
Whether these are the last two home games of the season for the Kenai River Brown Bears, or the last two home games period for the Brown Bears, the team would like to send fans out with victories.
Kenai River hosts the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in 7:30 p.m. North American Hockey League games tonight and Saturday.
It had been announced that the Bears were going inactive after this season, but an effort spearheaded by Sterling’s Steve Stuber is being made to save the Bears.
One of the big goals for the effort is to pack the sports complex with 2,500 fans Friday.
The whole ordeal has worn on Kenai River’s coaching staff and players, who will be either unemployed or free agents if the team goes inactive.
Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton said the Bears veteran players, or 1996 birthdates, set the tone for the week after Saturday’s game.
“I don’t think we can ignore the big elephant in the room,” Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton said. “A couple of the ’96s addressed it after Saturday’s game.
“The players are aware of it. If it is the end of the Bears, the players want to try and win the last two games and leave on a high note. To me, that adrenaline and emotion should amp us up more and carry us more.”
The Bears are 11-42-2-0 and out of the playoffs, while the Knights are 26-25-1-3 and locked into the fourth playoff spot out of the East Division.
But WBS, which has just five games in its season, will be looking to gain some momentum back after absorbing 7-0 and 6-0 losses in Fairbanks last weekend.
The Knights own 7-4 and 3-1 victories over the Bears this season.
The Bears are coming off losing two of three to the Topeka (Kansas) RoadRunners last weekend at the sports complex. Topeka has the third-worst defense in the league, but the Bears had just seven goals in the series.
Particularly frustrating for Worlton was a 4-1 loss Saturday in which the Bears outshot the RoadRunners 35-32.
“We just can’t score,” Worlton said. “We played really well and if we’d score, we’d win games.”
Worlton said the Bears are a team built to win 2-1 and 3-1 games, but when the opposition uses the big ice sheet of the sports complex to turn the game into a track meet, Kenai River must respond by lighting the lamp more often.
“We’re trying to do a lot of offensive practice with shooting drills, and trying to create more offensive movement,” Worlton said. “We just have to hope that translates into the game.”