With their roster cut down to 23 as of Wednesday, the Kenai River Brown Bears are set to take on the Minot (North Dakota) Minotauros today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
In the process of getting down to 23, the Bears of the Tier II North American Hockey League have completed several transactions in the past week:
• Forward Nathan Colwell was traded to the Corpus Christi (Texas) IceRays for right-handed defenseman Jason Lem.
Colwell played 49 games for the Bears last season, notching nine goals, 12 assists and a minus-9.
He was drafted by the Dubuque (Iowa) Fighting Saints of the Tier I United States Hockey League, but failed to stick.
Lem played 57 games for the IceRays last season, with two goals, six assists and a minus-14.
“He’s a veteran right-handed defenseman to complement Tyler Andrews and the rest of the D corps,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said.
Since another player from Corpus Christi decided not to report, the Bears also got some assets from the IceRays.
• Forward Jack Murphy has been added to the roster. He had been with the Minnesota Magicians, but he was released while the Bears were in town to play the Magicians.
Beauparlant liked what he saw, and Murphy scored the game-winner Saturday against Minnesota.
• Clay Cross and Doc Gentzler, a pair of free agents, and Logan Wendling, who had been acquired in a trade, have been released.
The Bears actually still have 24 on their roster, because they are carrying three goalies.
Beauparlant said he has decided to create a competition for two spots among three goaltenders.
Zach Quinn is the veteran who went 17-18-4 with a .924 save percentage and 2.55 goals-against average last season.
Josh Creelman was recently cut from the USHL and picked up the victory for the Bears on Saturday.
Alec Derks just joined the team after also recently getting cut by the USHL.
“We’re going to make a little bit of a competition there, and we felt it was needed,” Beauparlant said. “It’s kind of wide open. We’ll see which two emerge as guys who deserve to be here.”
The coach said he doesn’t expect the competition to last very long.
With most of the roster moves behind him, Beauparlant is looking forward to getting on with the season.
“This is always the most difficult part of the year, because these guys have put time in for the logo since the start of the year,” he said. “It’s the toughest part of junior hockey for the player and coach.”
The Bears, who are 3-5, get a Minot team this is 3-2 after losing its first two games of the season. In their last game, the Minotauros handed previously unbeaten Austin (Minnesota) its first loss of the season.
“Minot is always a well-coached team by Marty Murray,” Beauparlant said. “They play a sound system and give a lot of hard work.
“They bring their work boots and we’re going to have to match their work ethic and intensity.”
Beauparlant wants to sustain the momentum from a 5-1 victory over Minnesota on Saturday.
“I thought we played as a unit the entire game,” he said. “We cracked down on defense and kept the shots limited to outside scoring chances. At the same time, we found the back of the net.”
Notes: Andrews, of Anchorage, was named the Easton NAHL Defenseman of the Month on Thursday by the league.
Andrews had nine points during the month, which led the Brown Bears and led all defensemen in the NAHL.
The Bears were outscored 31-24 during the month, but the Bears captain was able to keep his plus-minus even. …
Friday will be GCI night, while Saturday is Ravn Alaska night.