The Kenai River Brown Bears swept the host Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild on Friday and Saturday in North American Hockey League play.
Both victories came in extra time — Friday’s 3-2 win in a shootout and Saturday’s 3-2 win in overtime.
Kenai River is now 5-0 this year in overtime. Dating back to last season, the Brown Bears have also won four of their last five games in Wenatchee, which is a tough place to play. Saturday night’s contest drew 3,007 fans.
“There’s no other way to describe what I’m seeing and feeling on the bench — these guys get angry about losing,” Kenai River coach Oliver David said. “I think that stat — 5-0 in overtime — is telltale.
“It turns into something different on the bench. Nobody gets anxious. Everybody gets hungry.”
David said he has only been a part of one other team that takes that attitude in overtime. That was in David’s first year of coaching and the team lost just six games out of 75.
Kenai River is now 9-4-0 and was in second place in the West Division pending the result of the late game between the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Alaska Avalanche on Saturday night. The Wild are 4-4-2.
David said his team actually did not play well for most of Saturday’s game. The Wild play a defensive style that looks to capitalize on turnovers.
“They’re happy to win 1-0 and comfortable winning 1-0,” David said.
The Brown Bears fell right into Wenatchee’s trap, giving up goals to Shawn Pauly and Ben Carey on turnovers. Carey’s goal put the Wild up 2-0 with 5:55 left in the game.
David said that normally, a team has no chance of coming back from a deficit like that against the Wild. Perhaps the biggest play of the game came when Wenatchee’s Matt Cope rammed Brandon Fisher’s head into the boards.
Cope was given a five-minute major, and David said Fisher was being evaluated for a concussion after the game.
The major meant the Brown Bears would be on the power play for five minutes even if they scored, and the Brown Bears scored three times in the next five minutes to win the game.
With 2:33 to play, Ryan Walker scored on an assist from Lubanski. David then pulled goalie Paul Bourbeau, who made 28 saves, and Alex Frere scored on an assist by Lubanski with 16 seconds left to tie the game.
Frere now has 12 goals in 13 games, while Lubanski has 13 assists in 13 games.
Just 55 seconds into overtime, the Brown Bears, skating four-on-three, got the game winner from Matt Thompson. Frere and Walker assisted.
“We were very lucky to come back to win,” David said. “That five-minute major made the difference.”
Friday’s 3-2 shootout victory came in front of 2,370 fans.
Last year, the Brown Bears were just 3-7 in games that went into overtime.
“It’s 180 degrees from last year’s team,” David said. “These guys are really hungry and the goalies are capable of keeping the pucks out of the net.”
After an overtime session that saw the Wild record three shots and the Brown Bears get two, Kenai River got busy in the shootout when defenseman Jacob Davidson scored in the first round.
“He probably won’t have 10 points on the season, but he made a very skilled move and went five-hole,” David said. “That got the bench fired up.”
Pauly also scored in the first round for the Wild, but he would be the only one to solve Brown Bears goalie Austin Severson.
Walker, another defenseman, scored in the second round to put Kenai River ahead to stay.
“He ripped a shot off the crossbar and post,” David said. “It chimed like three times like a cow bell coming in for dinner.”
After Lubanski and Bobby Murphy missed, Zac Lazzaro scored to end the game. Lazzaro also ended an overtime contest on Oct. 7 against the Monsters with a goal.
In regulation, David said his team did a good job of grinding out a tie against Wenatchee’s defensive style. The Brown Bears finished with 27 shots, while the Wild had 33.
After getting torched on the power play in a recently completed set with the Monsters, Kenai River held the Wild to 0 for 7 on the man advantage. The Brown Bears also got the first goal of the game on a shorthanded tally by Alex Frere, who now has 11 goals in 12 games.
David said Frere pounced on a mistake at the point and scored on a breakaway.
Wenatchee tied the game when Carey scored the second period’s lone goal. With 16:36 to play, Jesse Ramsey, on assist by Skyler McKnight put the Bears ahead. Pauly tied the game with 12:46 to play.
“To be honest, both of their goals were soft,” David said. “We were not beaten and we were not out of position.”
The coach said those two negative plays do not take away from the positive of getting a win in Wenatchee.
The Brown Bears stay on the road, playing three games at Fresno Friday, Saturday and Oct. 30.
Brown Bears 3, Wild 2, SO
Kenai River 1 0 1 0 1 —3
Wenatchee 0 1 1 0 0 —2
First period — 1. Kenai River, Frere (un), sh, 18:12. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Wenatchee 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Wenatchee, Carey (un), 3:24. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 8:00; Wenatchee 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 3. Kenai River, Ramsey (McKnight), 3:24; 4. Wenatchee, Pauly (Johnson), 7:14. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Wenatchee 4 for 8:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — none.
Shootout — Kenai River 3 (Davidson G, Walker G, Lubanski NG, Murphy NG, Lazzaro G); Wenatchee 1 (Pauly G, Redmond NG, Tafoya NG, McHugh NG).
Shots on goal — Kenai River 6-8-10-2—26; Wenatchee 7-6-17-3—33.
Goalies — Kenai River, Severson (33 shots, 31 saves); Wenatchee, Nichols (26 shots, 24 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 6; Wenatchee 0 for 7.
Brown Bears 3, Wild 2, OT
Kenai River 0 0 2 1 —3
Wenatchee 0 1 1 0 —2
First period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Wenatchee 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 1. Wenatchee, Pauly (Kerr, Vogel), 2:10. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 2. Wenatchee, Carey (un), sh, 14:05; 3. Kenai River, Walker (Lubanski), pp, 17:27; 4. Kenai River, Frere (Lubanski), ea, 19:44. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Wenatchee 3 for 9:00.
Overtime — 5. Kenai River, Thompson (Frere, Walker), pp, 0:55. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 4-5-16-2—27; Wenatchee 8-13-9-0—30.
Goalies — Kenai River, Bourbeau (30 shots, 28 saves); Wenatchee, Lewis (27 shots, 24 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 2 for 4; Wenatchee 0 for 4.