The Kenai River Brown Bears dropped a 3-1 contest to the host Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks on Sunday in North American Hockey League play.
The matinee served as the rubber match of the three-game series, which was much more competitive than an early October three-game series in which the Tomahawks notched a sweep and outscored the Bears 16-5.
Kenai River falls to 8-23-2-0 and remains in last place in the Midwest Division, while Johnstown moves to 23-8-1-1 and is in second in the East Division and fourth overall in the league.
“As good as we were yesterday, we were that bad today,” Kenai River head coach Jeff Worlton said. “We didn’t play very well.
“We did enough to keep the score close, but it was just one of those games we didn’t work hard and compete up to the standard we’re trying to set.”
The Brown Bears fell in a hole right away when Nick Bruce scored for Johnstown just 26 seconds into the game.
Jonathan Marzec, assisted by Tyler Rock and Christopher Lipe, connected late in the first on the power play to tie the game.
But Worlton said ultimately, the power play let his squad down. On the official stats, the Bears had five power plays, but Worlton said the number was more like eight.
“Our power play has got to be better,” Worlton said. “It was helping us awhile ago, but it’s cooled off.
“We’ve got to make a change and figure out a way to get it going.”
Hayden Rowan got the game-winner for Johnstown midway through the third, and added an empty-netter later to seal the game.
Officially, the Tomahawks outshot the Bears 38-16. Worlton said the Bears’ stats didn’t have that big of a disparity, but he did say Robbie Goor again had a great game in net.
“There’s a lot of positives,” Worlton said when asked to compare Kenai River’s performance against Johnstown to earlier in the season. “We’re going the right way, but we’re here to win.”
The Bears now play Friday and Saturday at 3 p.m. AST against the Aston (Pennsylvania) Rebels before the Rebels follow the Bears home for a two-game series at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Jan. 20 and 21.
Aston is currently tied for second in the league with 53 points.
“It’s an exciting challenge,” Worlton said. “We’re looking forward to going there and seeing how we stack up against Aston, probably one of the best teams in the league.
“We have to man up and see what we can do against them.”
Tomahawks 3, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 1 0 0 —1
Johnstown 1 0 2 —3
First period — 1. Johnstown, Bruce (Solensky), 0:26; 2. Kenai River, Marzec (Rock, Lipe), pp, 17:03. Penalties — Johnstown 3 for 6:00.
Second period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Johnstown 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 3. Johnstown, Rowan (Bokun, Horn), 10:46; 4. Johnstown, Rowan (Pilewicz), en, 18:49.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 10-0-6—16; Johnstown 14-10-14—38.
Goalies — Kenai River, Goor (37 shots, 35 saves); Johnstown, Purpura (16 shots, 15 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 5; Johnstown 0 for 3.