The Kenai River Brown Bears went on the road to defeat the Minnesota Magicians by scores of 5-3 and 4-2 in early September in North American Hockey League.
But after last weekend, the Bears should know how much that means when the Magicians visit the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex for 7:30 p.m. games today and Saturday.
In a home-opening series against the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets, the Bears cruised to 5-2 and 4-1 victories Friday and Saturday before losing 6-3 Sunday.
“They do have a ton of talent and it’s still early in the season,” Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said of the Magicians. “Everybody was working on getting their roster to size. We played them the first weekend after the Showcase and I don’t think what happened indicates anything moving forward.”
The Magicians finished second in the Midwest Division last season, then lost to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the Midwest Division finals. After the season, the third straight starting goalie for the Magicians heard his name called in the NHL Draft. This year, Minnesota has scored 23 goals in 10 games. Only six teams have scored less.
But Minnesota has six players committed to Division I schools and had four listed as “Players to Watch” by NHL Central Scouting last week.
“They have a good team this year,” Murdock said. “They lost a little firepower up front and are still getting accustomed to it.”
The Brown Bears line of Theo Thrun (15 points), Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik (12 points) and Logan Ritchie (10 points) has been dangerous all season, while the Magicians leading scorer right now has seven points.
Minnesota did show how dangerous it can be in collecting a 2-1 shootout win in the Ice Dogs’ home opener last weekend. The Bears are 6-3-1-1 and in sole possession of second place in the Midwest, while the Magicians are last at 2-6-2-0.
Murdock, whose team did the Skilak Lookout trail Monday to take a break after last weekend’s three-game series, said consistency is the key for his team right now.
“I think we’re feeling pretty good,” he said. “We’ve shown flashes of how good we can really be. We need to work on consistency and playing for a full 60 minutes.
“We played well Friday, but Saturday there were even times when we let up here and there.”