Series preview: Brown Bears vs. Wild

Consistency remains a word that consistently comes up when talking to Kenai River Brown Bears coach Geoff Beauparlant.

As the Bears get set to host the Wenatchee (Washington) Wild today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, the coach said his squad has made more strides toward becoming consistent, but also can improve on consistency.

The best sign of more even play comes from the last two games, when the Bears swept the Minnesota Magicians by scores of 4-2 and 3-2. Earlier in the season, they had lost to the Magicians 6-4 before winning 5-1 the next night.

Beauparlant would like to keep the momentum going against the Wild, who dropped two of three to the Bears just two weeks ago in Wenatchee.

The Bears are currently in last place in a tight North American Hockey League Midwest Division. Kenai River, at 10-11-0, has 20 points, while the Magicians and Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill are tied for third at 22 points, and the Minnesota Wilderness sit in second at 23 points. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs sit atop the division with 32 points that ties them for the league lead.

After this weekend, the next 13 games for the Bears are on the road, meaning the team won’t skate home ice until Jan. 16.

“We want to finish on a strong note at home,” Beauparlant said. “That’s big with us not playing at home for seven weeks.

“This is a big weekend. Every weekend is a big weekend. It’s so close in the standings.”

Beauparlant said the Wild present an evolving challenge, even though the Bears got the best of them just two short weeks ago. Wenatchee is on a roll after taking two of three in Fairbanks last weekend, snapping the Dogs’ 10-game winning streak.

The Wild are young, with just six players born in 1994 — the last year for junior eligibility. Ten players have 1997 birthdates and six have 1996 birthdates.

The Wild are coached by Bliss Littler, who has won more junior games than anyone in USA Hockey history.

“They’re a good young team,” Beauparlant said. “They have a lot of talent and obviously they are well-coached. As a team, they play with what I call a controlled chaos.

“They allow their players a lot of freedom and it works with the type of players they bring in.”

The Wild, who have won three of four overall to move their record to 7-9-4, have five players committed to Division I schools, while the Bears’ lone commit thus far is Alex Jackstadt.

“When you have that many young guys, you can see a vast improvement as they grow into their bodies and the style of play, and adjust to the rigors of junior hockey,” Beauparlant said.

But the coach, who has three 1997 birthdates and eight 1996 birthdates on his roster, is hoping that the maturation of his young players adds to consistency.

The Bears have gotten plenty of scoring out of their vets, with Jack Gessert leading the team with 20 points, Maurin Bouvet having 16 and Matt Rudin having 13.

Kenai River also has gotten scoring from the defense, with Tyler Andrews tallying 18 points, Gustav Berglund having 13 and Ben Campbell having 11.

Beauparlant said when his young players mature, the team will have a depth that breeds consistency.

“That’s when we can start putting in four to six goals consistently a night,” he said.

Beauparlant sees signs of that consistency. He said Joey Sardina, a 1996 birthdate, had made big strides toward being a two-way player at forward. He noted Sardina, and 1997s Colton Fletcher and Tanner Schachle, were on the ice for the last 35 seconds of Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Minnesota.

“They earned it,” he said. “They deserved to be out there. They’ve been laying it on the line for the logo and have really bought into what we are preaching as an organization.”

Beauparlant also said Manfred Ehlers, a 1996 from Sweden, had his best weekend last weekend, while 1996 Evan Butcher also is on the cusp of figuring it out.

The younger players also will be important as the Bears struggle to put 12 forwards and six defensemen on the ice due to injuries and suspensions.

Joey Kaszupski, who was out last weekend due to an illness in the family, returns, but Adam Kresl is out with a dislocated elbow and Nick Klishko remains out with a knee injury.

“It’s going to be 11 and 7 again,” Beauparlant said. “It’s one of those things where we have to keep rolling with what we’ve been handed.”

Notes: The Bears team up with Alaska USA for Military Appreciation Weekend, including a jersey auction, today and Saturday.

For Beauparlant, the weekend takes on special meaning because his wife, Maj. Heather Beauparlant, serves as a physician in the Army. In late September, she returned from about nine months in Afghanistan and she will leave the Army on Dec. 5.

“It’s a proud weekend, not only for her to have done what she did, but for our country,” Beauparlant said. “It’s an up-and-down time having a family member away, and you’re always worried, but you try to take it day by day.

“I’m obviously glad she’s back, but at the same time I know she lost friends along the way overseas, and we’ll never forget those soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

More in Sports

Kenai Central's Jorgi Phillips attacks against Homer on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Kenai volleyball sweeps Homer

The visiting Kenai Central volleyball team swept Homer on Tuesday in Southcentral… Continue reading

Kenai’s James Sparks runs for a gain after a catch during a loss to Houston on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Houston, Alaska. (Photo by Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman)
Kards, Mariners collect Mid Alaska Conference honors

The Mid Alaska Conference awards for football were announced recently. Redington, which… Continue reading

Kenai girls swimmers take 3rd at Palmer Invite

The Colony girls and Palmer boys swimming and diving teams won the… Continue reading

Soldotna junior Brayden Taylor rushes the ball down the field during the Division II state football championship game against Lathrop at Service High School in Anchorage on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Lathrop snaps SoHi’s run of state titles

The Soldotna Stars football team fell to Fairbanks’ Lathrop High School in… Continue reading

Soldotna’s Gehret Medcoff runs for a touchdown against Wasilla on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Stars dominate major NLC football awards

Soldotna, which went undefeated in the Northern Lights Conference this season, won… Continue reading

SoHi wrestlers take 4th at Houston Altercation

The Soldotna wrestling team finished fourth at the season-opening Houston Altercation Tournament… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Emma Beck attacks against Nikiski's Rylee Ellis on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Volleyball roundup: Kenai tops Nikiski; Wasilla sweeps SoHi

The senior civics project of Valerie Villegas was a smashing success Friday… Continue reading

Morgan Aldridge leads riders down a hill at the start of Week 3 of the Soldotna Cycle Series on Thursday, July 18, 2019, at Tsalteshi Trails. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Chainwreck Cyclocross Series holds final race of season

The Chainwreck Cyclocross Series wrapped up with the fifth race Thursday at… Continue reading

Nikiski's Rylee Ellis attacks against Soldotna's Ashlee Anderson on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Volleyball roundup: SoHi, Kenai pull out wins

Staff report Host Soldotna celebrated its senior night with a 3-1 nonconference… Continue reading

Most Read