On a weekend where Soldotna’s Preston Weeks tied the North American Hockey League record for most games played, the Kenai River Brown Bears were swept on the road by the Minnesota Magicians.
Weeks has now played in 231 games for his hometown team, tying the mark Skylur Jameson set with the Wichita Falls (Kansas) Wildcats from the 2004-05 to the 2007-08 seasons. The Wildcats ceased operations after the 2017-18 season.
Weeks, 20 and in his last season of junior eligibility, got in 11 games for the Bears in the 2015-16 season under coach Jeff Worlton. He played 54 games for the Bears in 2016-17 under Worlton, then 59 each in 2017-18 and 2018-19 for coaches Josh Petrich and Dan Bogdan. This year, Weeks has played 48 for coach Kevin Murdock.
By sitting out Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Magicians, Weeks will be able to break the record in front of friends and family on March 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex against the Amarillo (Texas) Bulls. The Bulls have the best record in the league at 38-8-1-3.
“It’ll be cool,” Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said. “We talked to him and left it open to him, and he told us we could make the call.
“It’ll be cool to have his parents at the game. I’m sure he doesn’t think breaking the record is a big deal, but it’s a big deal.”
The Bears also lost 6-5 to the Magicians on Friday to fall to 25-19-3-3 and finish their road trip 1-6-1-0. Kenai River, with 56 points, is now in third place in the Midwest Division. The Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel are in second with 57 points, while Fairbanks leads with 75 points. The Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets and Minnesota Magicians are tied for the fourth and final playoff spot with 43 points each.
“For the most part, with the exception of maybe tonight, in the previous four games we played well and I thought we deserved more than two points,” Murdock said. “In the first half, we were winning games I didn’t think we deserved to win due to getting the bounces. Now, it’s kind of the reverse of that.”
In Friday’s game, Minnesota’s Devlin McCabe scored with 1:02 to play to secure the victory.
In the first period, Cole Oravitz and Lucas Kanta scored for the Magicians before Kenai River’s Logan Ritchie, assisted by Zach Krajnik of Eagle River and Connor Scahill.
In the first half of the second period, the Bears grabbed a 3-2 lead thanks to goals from Ryan Green, assisted by JJ Boucher and Dylan Hadfield, and Scahill, assisted by Max Osborne of Anchorage and Peter Morgan.
After Kanta tied it for Minnesota, Anchorage’s Max Helgeson, assisted by Jack Quinn and Peter Morgan, gave the Bears a 4-3 lead headed to the third.
T.J. Sagissor and Chris Konin put Minnesota up before Helgeson, assisted by Quinn and Moline, tied it with 3:33 left to set up McCabe’s heroics.
Danny Fraga saved 18 for Kenai River, while Dysen Skinner stopped 37 for the Magicians.
“I think Friday night we played really well and probably deserved a little better fate there,” Murdock said. “I think if we consistently play more games like that, we’ll start getting a few bounces and find a way to win a few games.”
Saturday, Sagissor had Minnesota up just 30 seconds into the game. Ryan Tucker, assisted by Laudon Poellinger and JJ Boucher, sent the Bears out of the first period all square.
Trevor Kikkonen put Minnesota up in the second period, but Logan Ritchie, assisted by Max Osborne of Anchorage and Adam Szubert, equalized on the power play midway through the second.
Josh Bohlin and Kanta would score for the Magicians before the end of the second, then Bohlin scored again in the third.
Raythan Robbins had 30 saves for the Bears, while Dysen Skinner stopped 25 for the Magicians. Robbins is a 17-year-old Anchorage goaltender who got a look from the Bears.
“I thought he played pretty well once he settled in there,” Murdock said of Robbins.
Editor’s note: This story corrects the date of the Bears’ next game.
Magicians 6, Brown Bears 5
Kenai River 1 3 1 —5
Minnesota 2 1 3 —6
First period — 1. Minnesota, Oravitz (Reifenberger, Bohlin), 1:17; 2. Minnesota, Kanta (Kryska, Oberle), 6:13; 3. Kenai River, Ritchie (Krajnik, Scahill), pp, 17:27. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Minnesota 5 for 18:00.
Second period — 4. Kenai River, Green (Boucher, Hadfield), 1:51; 5. Kenai River, Scahill (Osborne, Morgan), 10:01; 6. Minnesota, Kanta (Sagissor, McCabe), pp, 12:25; 7. Kenai River, Helgeson (Quinn, Moline), 19:13. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 8. Minnesota, Sagissor (un.), 7:09; 9. Minnesota, Konin (Kryska, Oberle), 11:56; 10. Kenai River, Helgeson (Quinn, Moline), 16:27; 11. Minnesota, McCabe (Oberle, Reifenberger), 18:58. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 11-20-11—42; Minnesota 10-6-8—24.
Goalies — Kenai River, Fraga (24 shots, 18 saves); Minnesota, Skinner (42 shots, 37 saves).
Magicians 5, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 1 1 0 — 2
Minnesota 1 3 1 —5
First period — 1. Minnesota, Sagissor (Konin), 0:30; 2. Kenai River, Tucker (Poellinger, Boucher), 6:07. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Minnesota, Kukkonen (Reifenberger, Foss), 6:05; 4. Kenai River, Ritchie (Osborne, Szubert), pp, 10:01; 5. Minnesota, Bohlin (Konin, Sagissor), 11:03; 6. Minnesota, Kanta (Oberle, Christy), pp, 13:53. Penalties — Kenai River 5 for 18:00; Minnesota 4 for 16:00.
Third period — 7. Minnesota, Bohlin (Konin, Donovan), 11:00. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 27:00; Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 13-6-8—27; Minnesota 11-18-6—35.
Goalies — Kenai River, Robbins (35 shots, 30 saves); Minnesota, Skinner (27 shots, 25 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 3; Minnesota 1 for 4.