The hot Wenatchee (Washington) Wild notched a sweep of the Kenai River Brown Bears on Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Wild, winners of four straight, finished up the sweep with a 4-0 victory in front of 954 on Saturday. Wenatchee had won 6-1 on Friday.
“I thought we played hard and competed,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said Saturday. “I thought the difference tonight was they capitalized on their chances and we didn’t.”
The coach said that one goal in two games is not going to get it done.
“I think it’s just a matter of confidence right now,” he said. “I think we’re a little bit snakebit. We’ve got to get back to the process and keep working.”
The Bears are 10-13-0 and two points behind the Minnesota Magicians in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division. Wenatchee moves to 9-9-4.
David Powlowski and Shane Cuckovich put the Wild up 2-0 after the first period, then Colin Burston and Mike Coyne upped the advantage to 4-0 after two.
In the third, Sam Carlson dropped the gloves for the Bears and Beauparlant gave him credit for changing the momentum.
The coach also liked the play of Ben Campbell and the line of Joey Sardina, Tanner Schachle and Colton Fletcher.
Zach Quinn, traded from the Bears to the Wild earlier in the year, recorded the shutout on 25 saves. Josh Creelman had 36 saves for the Bears.
Despite the results, Beauparlant said it was nice to see a big Saturday crowd for military appreciation weekend.
“It’s exciting to see that support even though we didn’t get any points this weekend,” he said.
Friday, the Friday funk continued for the Bears at home.
The Bears lost 6-1 to the Wild in front of 717 to fall to 2-4 in Friday home dates this season. In Saturday home contests, the Bears are 4-2.
The anti-TGIF vibe is even stronger when the losing scores are listed in progression — 3-1, 4-1, 6-2 and 6-1.
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.
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, Sardina curled behind the net and found Quinton Wunder out front for a 1-1 game.
Just 42 seconds later, 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 video, 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 Quinn entered the game and 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 Coyne, who along with Bryant and 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 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 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, Schachle and Fletcher with a solid game, as well as veteran defenders 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.
Wild 4, Brown Bears 0
Wenatchee 2 2 0 —4
Kenai River 0 0 0 —0
First period — 1. Wenatchee, Powlowski (Hamacher), 16:56; 2. Wenatchee, Cuckovich (Harris, Pison), 17:29. Penalties — none.
Second period — 3. Wenatchee, Burston (Coyne, Bryant), 2:16; 4. Wenatchee, Coyne (Bryant, Burston), 7:35. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 16:00.
Third period — none. Penalties — Wenatchee 2 for 15:00; Kenai River 2 for 15:00.
Shots on goal — Wenatchee 12-16-12—40; Kenai River 5-7-13—25.
Goalies — Wenatchee, Quinn (25 shots, 25 saves); Kenai River, Creelman (40 shots, 36 saves).