Alex Frere netted a hat trick as the Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Alexandria (Minn.) Blizzard 5-1 at the North American Hockey League Showcase Tournament in Blaine, Minn., on Friday.
The Brown Bears improve to 4-1 overall, the best start in club history, while Alexandria drops to 0-2-1. Kenai River also is 3-0 at the Showcase.
The Brown Bears wrap up play at the tournament today at 6:45 a.m. ADT against Janesville (Wis.) Jets, a team which is also 3-0 at the tourney.
Kenai River coach Oliver David said the game will pose a test because Janesville is a quality team and because his team will only get five or six hours of sleep after playing the late game Friday.
"It's quite a turnaround," David said Friday via cell phone.
The Brown Bears will look to carry the momentum of Friday's victory to today.
Alexandria scored first just 2 minutes, 7 seconds, into the game when Michael Mooney lit the lamp.
Kenai River then seized the momentum from the Blizzard despite committing five penalties in the first period.
"We got into trouble early," David said. "I don't agree with several of the scenarios we were left with due to penalties being called, but that's a situation we have to play through."
Frere scored the first of his three goals with 11:45 left in the first. He was assisted by Brett Lubanski, who would tally three assists on the night to give him five for the season.
Miikael Arkimo followed with his first Brown Bears goal a little over four minutes later, assisted by Bobby Murphy and Sean Muller.
With 5:51 left in the first, Frere notched the first power-play goal of the year for the Bears. Lubanski and Raymond Stenehjem assisted.
"Our power play was phenomenal," David said. "We have not spent a ton of time working on it, but we have spent a lot of time talking about it and trying to figure stuff out."
Neither team scored in the second period, but Alexandria's Trey Olson and Kenai River's Chris Nuth did get in a fight with 6:15 left in the second. David said Nuth won the fight and gave his team momentum.
The Brown Bears stayed out of the penalty box and outshot Alexandria 21-11 in the third period en route to a 37-35 advantage for the game.
Frere completed his hat trick with 5:25 to play on assists from Skyler McKnight and Lubanski. Frere now has five goals in five games.
"Alex is a gifted player down around the net," David said.
The coach was quick to point out, though, that Frere took advantage of a lot of great plays on offense from players like Lubanski and McKnight.
"Two of the goals were created by great passing," David said. "That's what I mean by depth. Every guy gets the memo. We've got a lot of guys working to impress and earn a permanent spot on the roster."
McKnight closed the scoring with a power-play goal on assists from Arkimo and Jesse Ramsey.
Paul Bourbeau made 34 saves on 35 shots to earn his first win for Kenai River. With Auston Severson already 3-0, David is excited about his goalies.
"We have two guys capable of being No. 1," David said. "As long as ego and other things don't get in the way, and if they're willing to share, they have the ingredients to be one of the best tandems in the league. I think that's safe to say."
Brown Bears 5, Blizzard 1
Alexandria 1 0 0 -1
Kenai River 3 0 2 -5
First period - 1. Alexandria, Mooney (Gyesbreghs, Knochenmus), 2:07; 2. Kenai River, Frere (Lubanski), 8:15; 3. Kenai River, Arkimo (Murphy, Muller), 12:38; 4. Kenai River, Frere (Lubanski, Stenehjem), pp, 14:09. Penalties - Alexandria 2 for 12:00; Kenai River 5 for 10:00.
Second period - none. Penalties - Alexandria 3 for 14:00; Kenai River 3 for 14:00.
Third period - 5. Kenai River, Frere (McKnight, Lubanski), 14:35; 6. Kenai River, McKnight (Arkimo, Ramsey), pp, 19:07. Penalties - Alexandria 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal - Alexandria 16-8-11-35; Kenai River 13-3-21-37.
Goalies - Alexandria, Woodman (37 shots, 32 saves); Kenai River, Bourbeau (35 shots, 34 saves).
Power plays - Alexandria 0 for 7, Kenai River 2 for 6.