The Friday funk continues for the Kenai River Brown Bears at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Bears lost 6-1 to the Wenatchee (Washington) Wild in front of 717 to fall to 2-4 in Friday home dates this season. In Saturday home contests, the Bears are 4-1.
The anti-TGIF vibe is even stronger when the losing scores are listed in progression — 3-1, 4-1, 6-2 and 6-1.
Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant was hoping his squad had left the Friday blues behind with a home sweep of the Minnesota Magicians last weekend, but the Wild scored the last five goals of the game to once again put the Friday problem front and center.
Kenai River falls to 10-12-0 and is two points behind the fourth-place Magicians in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division.
Wenatchee, which won its third straight, moves to 8-9-4 and is in sole possession of fifth place in the South Division.
Wild coach Bliss Littler said his squad has 13 players in high school, making Wenatchee the youngest outfit in the league.
He said refining that youth can take time, but feels his squad has been playing well enough to win even some games that the Wild have lost lately.
“Sometimes when you’re a young team you’re finding ways to lose rather than ways to win,” he said.
Friday, the Wild found a way to win by getting the puck in front of the net and winning the battles it took to whack that puck home. Andre Pison did just that for the lone goal of the first period.
With 12 minutes, 42 seconds, left in the second period, Joey Sardina curled behind the net and found Quinton Wunder out front for a 1-1 game.
Just 42 seconds later, Joey Sardina took down Wild goalie Michael Bullion, who is from Anchorage and recently saw action in the major junior Western Hockey League, while chasing a puck to the corner.
Bullion left the game due to injury. Without looking at the tape, Littler didn’t think there was any bad intent on the play. Beauparlant didn’t either.
Neither team was particularly worked up about the play, either, but after goalie Zach Quinn, who was traded from the Bears to the Wild earlier this season, entered the game, Wenatchee would roll up a 5-0 advantage.
It started with 10:47 left in the second period, when Chris Jones took advantage of some bad Bears passing in the defensive zone for a backhand tally.
Then Mike Coyne, who along with Steve Bryant and Colin Burston had two points on the night, patiently waited for a puck to drop from the sky before blasting it past Bears goalie Alec Derks for a 3-1 game with 4:47 left in the second.
“He’s one of our best players but he’s been snakebit,” said Littler of Coyne, who now has four points in three games. “He leads us in chances. He gets a lot of chances every night. It was nice to see some go in.”
Despite the 3-1 deficit, Beauparlant was satisfied with the way his team was playing entering the third.
“We played a pretty good game through two periods,” he said. “Even though it was a 3-1 game, that is not insurmountable. Then we veered from the game plan and the process and it cost us.”
Beauparlant said before the series that Wenatchee likes to play with a controlled-chaos style, and that controlled chaos on the ice meant trouble of the Bears.
The first 7:05 of the third looked chaotic on the ice, and the scoreboard quickly registered goals by Burston, Mitch Demario and Stevie Bryant to put the game out of reach.
“I thought the puck had eyes a little bit in the third period,” Littler said after a game where the shots ended up 30-28 in favor of Wenatchee. “It obviously wasn’t a 6-1 hockey game.”
Beauparlant said the Bears did not manage the puck well in the third.
“We told the group afterward that at 3-1 and even 4-1 you can chip one in and get something started,” he said. “But not at 5-1 and 6-1.”
The coach did credit the young line of Sardina, Tanner Schachle and Colton Fletcher with a solid game, as well as veteran defenders Ben Campbell, Gustav Berglund and Austin Chavez.
Derks had 24 saves for the Bears, while Quinn saved all 15 for the Wild. Bullion made 12 saves before departing. Littler said Bullion appeared OK, but he would be checked out Saturday morning.
Wild 6, Brown Bears 1
Wenatchee 1 2 3 —6
Kenai River 0 1 0 —1
First period — 1. Wenatchee, Pison (Bondarenko, Harris), 10:59. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Wunder (Sardina, Nickels), 7:18; 3. Wenatchee, Jones (Ahlgren), 9:13; 4. Wenatchee, Coyne (Cuckovich), 15:13. Penalties — Wenatchee 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 5. Wenatchee, Burston (Bryant, Coyne), 3:40; 6. Wenatchee, Demario (Shane Bennett, Mangano), 5:47; 7. Wenatchee, Bryant (Burston, Rockwell), 7:05. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Wenatchee 6-10-14—30; Kenai River 11-8-9—28.
Goalies — Wenatchee, Bullion (13 shots, 12 saves), Quinn (15 shots, 15 saves); Kenai River, Derks (30 shots, 24 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 2.