Brown Bears, Magicians split weekend series

The Kenai River Brown Bears shared a weekend series with the Minnesota Magicians in the North American Hockey League at Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

The Bears defeated the Magicians 7-5 on Friday before losing a 4-2 decision on Saturday.

The Magicians are now 21-18-4-3 and tied for fourth and final playoff spot in the Midwest Division. The Bears are 12-32-3-2 and last in the Midwest.

The Brown Bears are now taking a week off before hosting the Fairbanks Ice Dogs at the sports complex on March 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m.

On Friday, the Brown Bears held on for the 7-5 win.

Friday’s third period was filled with penalties, with Minnesota taking nine in 34 minutes and the Brown Bears taking 13 in 50 minutes.

Kenai River entered the final period with a 5-3 lead and Bears interim head coach Taylor Shaw said his team was able to hold the lead despite penalties. The coach said that at one point Kenai River had four defenders in the penalty area, so two attackers had to play defense and even kill a penalty.

“As the bench got shorter, guys got called on to do things that they don’t normally do,” Shaw said. “They found a way to do it, and that’s how you win games. It’s huge.”

The Bears have been a long way from qualifying for the playoffs for a while now, but Shaw said his team responded well to that. He said players always realize that the ultimate goal is to get into the United States Hockey League or the NCAA.

“To do that, they have to keep doing a job,” Shaw said. “It’s a culture that they still have a job to do, and until the end of the season they’re still going to come to work every day.”

Shaw said with many players traded in their past seasons of junior eligibility, current players also know they’re setting the stage for Kenai River next season. Shaw said the most important thing players need to learn is how to use their speed collectively.

Ryan Finch led the way for the Bears on Friday with two goals.

“Finch played well because he uses his speed,” Shaw said. “That’s what this group was built for. They are fast and they are good when they use that speed. But when you’re younger, you have to learn to do it regularly.

Minnesota took a 2-0 lead on goals from Trevor Kukkonen and Mason Campbell, but Kenai River then scored five unanswered goals – two from Finch and one from Hunter Newhouse, Caden Triggs and Kevin Enriquez. The flurry gave the Bears a 5-2 lead with 13:10 left in the second period.

The Magicians came back with goals from Cole Schneider and Hunter Longhi to cut it to 5-4 with 17:15 left in the game. Kaden Hjelm scored for the Bears, but Evan Tanos scored 6-5 with 9:48 left. Bryce Monrean scored an empty net with 1:52 to go to secure the win.

Bryant Marks made 37 saves for the Bears, while Josh Seeley made 28 saves for Minnesota. Marks, 17, of Wasilla, was playing his second game in a row after not playing for a month. Shaw said Marks is learning to trust the game process at this level, and it’s nice to see it paying off.

On Saturday, Triggs, aided by Finch and Tyler Behl, gave the Bears a 1-0 lead after the first period with a power play goal.

Minnesota came back to take a 2-1 lead after the second period on goals from Gavin Best and Longhi.

With 14:14 left in the game, Nick Stevens, assisted by Colin Doherty and Triggs, scored to tie the Bears.

Longhi secured the winner with 4:21 left in the game. Lucas Kanta added a late empty net.

Josh Langford made 36 saves for Minnesota’s victory, while Levi Gho made 37 saves for the Bears.

Friday

Brown Bears 7, Wizards 5

Minnesota 2 1 2 —5

Kenai River 3 2 2 —7

First half – 1. Minnesota, Kukkonen (Jacobs, Svenddal), pp, 5:18; 2. Minnesota, Campbell (Tanos, Mahony), 7:47; 3. Kenai River, Newhouse (Monrean, Holt), 9:16 a.m.; 4. Kenai River, Finch (Henry, Ostbloom), 5:25 p.m.; 5. Kenai River, Triggs (Braslavski, Marquette), pp, 19:48. Penalties – Minnesota 1 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Second Period – 6. Kenai River, Finch (Ostbloom, Braslavski), 5:01; 7. Kenai River, Enriquez (Newhouse, Monrean), 6:50 a.m.; 8. Minnesota, Schneider (Babbie, Mahony), 8:35 a.m. Penalties – Minnesota 2 for 4:00.

Third period – 9. Minnesota, Longhi (Jacobs), 2:45; 10. Kenai River, Hjelm (Lockwood, Cloutier), 6:12; 11. Minnesota, Tanos (Svenddal), 10:12 a.m.; 12. Kenai River, Monrean (Holt), in, 6:08 p.m. Penalties – Minnesota 9 for 34:00; Kenai River 13 for 50:00.

Shots on goal – Minnesota 12-14-16—42; Kenai River 13-11-11-35.

Goaltenders – Minnesota, Seeley (34 shots, 28 saves); Kenai River, Marks (42 shots, 37 saves).

Power plays – Minnesota 1 for 2; Kenai River 1 for 2.

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Noah Holt and Minnesota Magicians forward Samuel Jacobs battle for the puck Friday, Feb. 25, 2022 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Nick Stevens and Minnesota Magicians defenseman Evan Tanos battle for the puck in front of Minnesota Magicians goaltender Josh Seeley Friday, Feb. 25, 2022 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska.  (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Clarion Peninsula)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Nick Stevens and Minnesota Magicians defenseman Evan Tanos battle for the puck in front of Minnesota Magicians goaltender Josh Seeley Friday, Feb. 25, 2022 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Clarion Peninsula)


Brian L. Hartfield