Series preview: Brown Bears vs. RoadRunners

The news that the Kenai River Brown Bears will take up inactive status at the end of their 10th season has rocked everyone associated with the organization, and the results have been obvious on the ice.

Since rumors of the move started flying on Feb. 17 and 18 during a series at the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues, the Bears have lost eight straight to run their losing streak to 13 games. But in those eight games, the Bears have struggled to remain competitive, with just one of those losses coming by a goal. In the first five losses of the skid, four came by two goals or less.

When the Topeka (Kansas) RoadRunners come to town for a 7 p.m. game today and 7:30 p.m. games Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, Kenai River will look to get back on track. The Bears have five home games left, and eight overall.

“We were winning or competing in every game, then since the announcement about the team, we’ve definitely gone the other way,” Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton said. “As a coaching staff, we’re trying to keep them motivated and looking toward the future.”

The Bears enter the series at 10-40-2-0. Even when inactive status was announced, the Bears were out of the playoff race. But with just five players aging out after this season, the players had next season to build toward. Now, all those players face an uncertain future.

Worlton stresses that the players have not quit.

“We’re still blocking shots,” he said. “The goaltenders are still making saves. I do not think the guys have quit at all.

“Still, there’s that adversity on top of adversity. Sometimes it’s just too much to carry.”

If this period has shown Worlton anything, it’s the character of the Brown Bears supporters. The team had the worst record in the league the past two seasons, and now fans have had to deal with this season.

“The fans are just unbelievable,” Worlton said. “Win or lose, they come and don’t wear bags on their heads.

“Their dedication is something I don’t know I’ve ever seen before in all my years in youth hockey, high school hockey, junior hockey, pro hockey and coaching college. The team is aware of it, and we want to give the fans something to feel proud about in the last couple of games.”

While the Bears are last in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division, Topeka is last in the South Division. But the RoadRunners own 5-2 and 6-2 victories over the Bears in early December.

“They’re a big team,” Worlton said. “They’re skilled, and they can put the puck in the net.”

The RoadRunners have six players with Division I commitments. They have given up the third most goals in the league, but are 17th in the league in scoring. The Bears have given up the second-most goals, and scored the second-fewest goals.

Kenai River’s biggest problem of late has been the power play. Friday, the Bears were 0 for 1 with the extra man and gave up two short-handed goals. Saturday, the Bears were 0 for 3 and gave up another shortie, tying the league lead for short-handers at 11.

After being in the middle of the pack for a time this season, Kenai River now has the third-worst power play in the league. Worlton said the struggle to score on the power play has led to the short-handed goals.

“When you go from 13th in the league to near the bottom of the barrel, it’s hard not to force it,” Worlton said.

The Bears have no injuries heading into the series, but defensemen Alex Dingeldein will serve the last game to a two-game suspension today. Dingeldein dropped the gloves with under five minutes to play in Friday’s game.

More in Sports

Amy Anderson gets encouragement from her son, Everett, in the marathon relay at the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. Anderson teamed with Bethany Nyboer, Katy Coseglia and Chelsea Wingard to finish fourth with Soar B.A.C.K.'s. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
When 26.2 miles isn’t enough

Women’s, men’s winners at Kenai River Marathon warm up with endurance feats the day before the race

Barrow's Eric Librado and Angelo Reyes break up a pass intended for Kenai Central's Sawyer Vann on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Mid Alaska Conference: Kenai tops Barrow; Homer routs Redington

The Kenai Central football team defeated Barrow 21-8 on Saturday in Mid… Continue reading

Seward football tops Eielson to finish perfect regular season

The host Seward football team defeated Eielson 66-10 in nine-man football Saturday… Continue reading

Saturday volleyball: Kenai, Homer win divisions at Slamma Jamma

The Kenai Central volleyball team won the King Salmon Division, while Homer… Continue reading

Kenai girls, SoHi boys swimming and diving capture Kenai Invite

The Kenai Central girls and Soldotna boys swimming and diving teams swept… Continue reading

Soldotna's Andrew Pieh intercepts a pass intended for Chugiak's Kaden Lockwood on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna football routs Chugiak on senior night to stay perfect

The Soldotna football team defeated Chugiak 63-7 on Friday in Railbelt Conference… Continue reading

Brown Bears take 4 points on weekend

The visiting Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Springfield Jr. Blues 4-1… Continue reading

Dahl, Aldridge take wins at 3rd week of Chainwreck Cyclocross

Nels Dahl and Morgan Aldridge took victories at the third week of… Continue reading

Friday volleyball: Nikiski tops Seward; Kenai goes undefeated in Slamma Jamma bracket play

The visiting Nikiski volleyball team defeated Seward 25-22, 25-20, 20-25 and 25-19… Continue reading

Most Read