The Kenai River Brown Bears lost in a shootout to the host Fresno (Calif.) Monsters on Friday in North American Hockey League action, but rebounded for a 2-1 overtime victory against the same squad Saturday.
The Brown Bears are 10-4-1, good for second place in the West Division, while third-place Fresno is 8-5-3. Kenai River is the first team in the West to reach 10 wins.
Coach Oliver David said it’s also the first time in club history the Bears are six games over .500.
“The discipline of the group and the buy-in of the group is pretty good right now,” David said Saturday night via cell phone. “It’s a really good start.”
Friday, the Brown Bears suffered their first loss in extra time this season after winning their first five extra sessions, including two against the Monsters.
The score of the game was 3-2, with the Monsters taking the nine-round shootout 4-3 in front of 3,012 fans.
The Bears jumped to a 3-1 lead in the shootout thanks to goals by Alex Frere, Sean Muller and Miikael Arkimo in the first three rounds. Riley Borer had the tally for Fresno.
Monsters goalie Macauley Haight would stop the next six Kenai River shooters to allow his team to come back.
Zack Wallace and Jeffrey Pauluk scored in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively, to push the shootout to extra rounds.
After Haight and Brown Bears goalie Austin Severson each stopped the first three shooters in the extra rounds, Fresno’s Kyle Sucher finally got the game winner in the fourth extra round.
“It was a very good point for us,” David said Friday night via cell phone. “We remain undefeated on the road trip.”
Kenai River is in the midst of a nine-game stretch away from the Soldotna Sports Center. The Brown Bears started the trip with two wins in Wenatchee, Wash., before Friday’s overtime loss.
Fresno took a 1-0 lead just 4 minutes, 22 seconds, into the game when Mikhail Bushinski lit the lamp.
“The first five to eight shifts were not good,” David said. “Then we were even, if not better, for the rest of the game.”
Matt Thompson drew the Brown Bears even when Jacob Davidson and Arkimo assisted on a power-play goal with 14:25 left in the second. It was the first of two goals on the night for Thompson, increasing his season total to four.
Fresno came back with a power-play goal by Brendan Bradley with 10:50 left in the second. The Monsters, who have the best power play in the league, were 1 for 4 with the extra man.
Thompson scored again before the close of the second period when he teamed with Jesse Ramsey for a two-on-one.
The third period was tight, with Fresno getting six shots and Kenai River tallying four. Both teams had 23 shots on the night.
David said his squad had some good chances. Jeffrey McMinimy went to the box for four minutes with 6:42 left in regulation, but Kenai River could not convert.
Sucher then had a two-minute penalty with 15 seconds left, but the Brown Bears came up empty four-on-three in the first 1:45 of overtime. Kenai River finished 1 for 9 on the power play.
Kenai River was able to kill off a penalty by Chris Nuth with 1:45 left in overtime.
“I wish we were a lot better than they are, but we’re not,” David said. “We’re pretty much even. We’ve played them four times, and three times we’ve gone to overtime.”
Saturday, David said he wanted the team to play conservatively at the beginning to avoid falling behind, like the 1-0 deficit the Bears faced on Friday.
The squads played to a scoreless tie through two periods.
“The game plan tonight was to kind of settle in and have a better start from last night,” the coach said. “Last night we started kind of slow and had to weather the storm. It was good enough for (Fresno) to hold on for a tie in regulation, and we had to come back twice just to get to overtime."
Ryan Walker notched the game-winner Saturday for the Bears, who finished 2 of 10 on the power play in winning 2-1. Walker finished an assist from Brett Lubanski less than a minute into the extra frame.
Walker also had an assist on the Bears’ first goal, scored by Lubanski.
Paul Bourbeau earned the win in goal, making 33 saves on 34 shots. He also was named player of the game by his coaches and teammates.
Saturday’s victory makes the Bears 6-1 in overtime games. The team faces Fresno at 6:05 p.m. ADT Sunday.
Monsters 3, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 0 2 0 0 0 —2
Fresno 1 1 0 0 1 —3
First period — 1. Fresno, Bushinski (Winkler, Borer), 4:22. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fresno 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Thompson (Davidson, Arkimo), pp, 5:35; 3. Fresno, Bradley (McMinimy, Borer), pp, 9:50; 4. Kenai River, Thompson (Ramsey), 14:44. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fresno 2 for 4:00.
Third period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fresno 6 for 22:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shootout — Kenai River 3 (Frere G, Muller G, Arkimo G, Granato NG, Thompson NG, Sture NG, Lazzaro NG, Wasell NG, Murphy NG); Fresno 4 (Borer G, Bradley NG, Bittner NG, Wallace G, Pauluk G, Winkler NG, Bushinski NG, Sisk NG, Sucher G).
Shots on goal — Kenai River 8-9-4-2—23; Fresno 10-5-6-2—23.
Goalies — Kenai River, Severson (23 shots, 21 saves); Haight (23 shots, 21 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 9; Fresno 1 for 4.
Brown Bears 2, Monsters 1 OT
Kenai River 0 0 1 1 —2
Fresno 0 0 1 0 —1
First period — None. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fresno 1 for 2:00.
Second period — None. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4; Fresno 4 for 8.
Third period — 1. Kenai River, Lubanski (Sture, Walker), pp, 10:13; 2. Fresno, McMinimy (Haskell), 12:12. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fresno 6 for 33:00.
Overtime — 3. Kenai River, Walker (Lubanski), 0:43.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 4-7-16-1—28; Fresno 12-15-7-0—34.
Goalies — Kenai River, Bourbeau (34 shots, 33 saves); Fresno, Sholl (28 shots, 26 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 2 for 10; Fresno 0 for 3.