The Kenai River Brown Bears are looking to home ice and an extra week off to kick-start a season that has gotten off to a 1-11-0 start.
The Bears host the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The games are the start of a 14-game North American Hockey League homestand.
“Obviously, we’re excited to be back home and we’ll look forward to seeing the fans and playing in front of the fans pushing the guys to be great,” head coach Geoff Beauparlant said.
Just two of the Bears’ first 12 games were at home. The tough road trip is the reason the Bears are 19 points behind Midwest Division leaders Fairbanks and lead the league in goals allowed at 67.
“We’re always looking forward,” Beauparlant said. “We can’t go back and change the first 12 games, we can only learn from them.
“I believe we have learned from them. I can see it in practice, and in the work ethic in the gym and locker room.”
The coach said the team goals are consistent focus and hard work.
“One of our players said after Fairbanks that we have to feel tired and have to feel sore after every game,” Beauparlant said. “As players, they didn’t feel everybody was doing that.
“He was right. It doesn’t all come down to X’s and O’s. Inner motivation is a big component.”
Beauparlant also said not focusing for 60 minutes costs the team when a crucial short-handed goal is yielded, or a opportunity for a pivotal goal is missed.
He said captain Jack Gessert and alternate captains Adam Kresl and Sam Carlson have been able to keep the team positive, and team-building activities in the extra week have brought the team closer.
Beauparlant said Johnstown, which is 6-4-3, will give the Bears a great test on compete level.
“Johnstown as a hockey club competes harder than almost all the teams in the league,” Beauparlant said. “They’re extremely hard to play against.”
The Tomahawks are tied for third in the league in goals scored. Andrew Romano has two goals and nine assists, while Alex Alger and Kelly O’Brien each have four goals and six assists.
Notes: Mathias Tellstrom has left the Tier II Brown Bears. Beauparlant said Tellstrom was playing well, but wanted to score more points at the Tier III level. Tellstrom had a goal and an assist in four games. Bayley Marshal, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound forward, will replace him. …
The Bears have moved defenseman Jeff Solow to North Iowa of the NA3HL. Solow appeared in 13 games for the team last year and 10 this year. Beauparlant said he couldn’t find a spot in the NAHL for Solow, but he believes he will earn his way back into the NAHL. …
The Bears currently have a full roster of 23, but Russian defenseman Oleg Khalemin is in town on a tryout trying to make the roster. …
Friday night will be GCI night with prizes and giveaways. Saturday is Kenai Peninsula Youth Foundation Bears Den night, with prizes, giveaways and discounted merchandise.