The Minnesota Magicians swept the Kenai River Brown Bears on Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Magicians won 6-3 on Friday and 5-1 on Saturday.
The sweep is a big one for Minnesota as it tries to stay ahead of the hard-charging Fairbanks Ice Dogs for second place in the Midwest Division. The Magicians are now 27-17-3-2 and eight points ahead of Fairbanks, which split a weekend series with the Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill.
Kenai River, losers of 11 straight, is officially eliminated from the playoffs and falls to 10-38-2-0.
Brown Bears head coach Jeff Worlton said Friday’s loss was frustrating because he felt the team shot itself in the foot, but Worlton was generally happy with Saturday’s performance. He said Minnesota goalie Ivan Prosvetov just had a great game.
“We out-chanced them, we outshot them and I think we outplayed them,” Worlton said. “He’s an NHL prospect and there’s a reason for that. He was lights out today.”
With the team set to go inactive at the end of the season and the Bears out of the playoffs, Worlton said they team could quit but hasn’t.
“It’s hard, these players have every reason to quit right now,” Worlton said. “I have to acknowledge that as a coach, but they didn’t this weekend.
“I’m proud of the way they competed and feel good about the direction we are going.”
With two goals in the second period and three in the third period, the Magicians were up 5-0 before Anthony Tzveyn scored unassisted for the Brown Bears in the final minute.
With times tough, Worlton also said the fan support meant a lot this weekend.
“We really appreciate the fans coming out, being loud and not leaving early,” he said. “We can’t thank them enough for their support.”
There was nothing magical about what the Minnesota Magicians did Friday night. Minnesota got the puck to the net and actively crashed the net in outscoring the Bears 4-1 in a second period that spelled the difference in the game.
The Bears got off to a rocky start when Preston Weeks was whistled for holding just 16 seconds into the game, with Hunter Lellig converting on the power play just 50 seconds into the game.
But Kenai River settled in, outshot Minnesota 11-8 for the period, and went to the locker room tied when Evan Butcher, assisted by Ethan Stewart and Connor Fedorek, scored late in the period.
Minnesota head coach Scott Meyer said the first period was in line with his squad’s inconsistent play of late. The Magicians turned that around in the next 20 minutes.
“It was one of the better periods we have played in a while,” Meyer said. “We were moving our feet and getting to the net.”
Nikita Kozyrev, Mitchel Slattery and Will Hammer scored in the first 8 minutes, 3 seconds, of the period to put the Magicians in clear control. Slattery now has 50 points in just 42 games and leads the league in points per game.
David Kaplan made it 4-2 with 10:56 left in the second period on assists from Luke Radetic and Anthony Tzveyn, but Caleb Hite quickly stole the momentum back for the Magicians with a goal to close the period.
“We’re a team that likes to over-pass,” Meyer said. “We were more direct in the second period and got the puck to the net.
“Hopefully, we’re learning that when you get the puck to the net, good things happen.”
Struggling on the power play of late, the Bears were able to get an extra-man goal from Tyler Rock, assisted by Alex Klekotka and Lipe, to start the third and cut the gap to 5-3. But Andrew Kangas once again gave the Magicians a comfortable cushion with 10:56 left in the game.
Ivan Prosvetov had 26 saves for Minnesota, while Robbie Goor had 12 saves on 16 shots and Colt Hanks had 17 saves on 19 shots for the Bears.
The Bears host the Chill on Friday and Saturday at the sports complex at 7:30 p.m.
Magicians 6, Brown Bear 3
Minnesota 1 4 1 — 6
Kenai River 1 1 1 — 3
First period — 1. Minnesota, Lellig (Brown, Slattery), pp, 0:50; 2. Kenai River, Butcher (Stewart, Fedorek), 18:06. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 3. Minnesota, Kozyrev (Denman, Slattery), 0:38; 4. Minnesota, Slattery (Lellig, Kobylyanskyi), pp, 2:23; 5. Minnesota, Hammer (Von Steinbergs, Slattery), 8:03; 6. Kenai River, Kaplan (Radetic, Tzveyn), 9:04; 7. Minnesota, Hite (Buhl, Kangas), 12:56. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 8. Kenai River, Rock (Klekotka, Lipe), pp, 4:48; 9. Minnesota, Kangas (VonSteinbergs), 9:04. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 8-20-7—35; Kenai River 11-7-11—29.
Goalies — Minnesota, Prosvetov (29 shots, 26 saves); Kenai River, Goor (16 shots, 12 saves), Hanks (19 shots, 17 saves).
Power plays — Minnesota 2 for 6; Kenai River 1 for 2.
Magicians 5, Brown Bears 1
Minnesota 0 2 3 — 5
Kenai River 0 0 1 — 1
First period — none. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 1. Minnesota, Kozyrev (Hammer, Slattery), 9:06; 2. Minnesota, Mismash (Tweten), 11:41. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 3. Minnesota, Kozyrev (Hammer), 0:18; 4. Minnesota, Hite (Buhl, Walther), 6:58; 5. Minnesota, Hammer (Slattery, VonSteinbergs), 15:47; 6. Kenai River, Tzveyn (un.), 19:09.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 11-17-15—43; Kenai River 12-17-16—45.
Goalies — Minnesota, Prosvetov (45 shots, 44 saves); Kenai River, Hanks (34 shots, 30 saves); Goor (9 shots, 8 saves).