Another road game, another extra-time victory for the Brown Bears.
Kenai River continued its torrid and dramatic play on the road by defeating the Fairbanks Ice Dogs 4-3 in a game that went to a shootout on Friday in front of 2,242.
The Brown Bears improve to 14-4-1 and now lead the North American Hockey League West Division by five points over Fairbanks, which is 9-5-6. Kenai River has the third-best winning percentage in the NAHL.
The Brown Bears are 7-0-1 on their current nine-game road trip, which will conclude with a 7:30 p.m. game against Fairbanks on Saturday.
Six of Kenai River's seven victories on the road trip have come in extra time. Friday's shootout victory lifted Kenai River's record to 4-1 this year in shootouts.
"It's good right now in our locker room and in Brown Bear country," Kenai River coach Oliver David said via cell phone. "When this keeps happening there still are teaching points. We still discuss the errors we make.
"But right now, I'm pretty happy."
Goalie Austin Severson, who had 30 saves, was the hero of the shootout, stopping all four Ice Dogs he faced, including Gabe Levin and JT Osborn — the league's top two scorers.
Sean Muller and Austin Sture scored for Kenai River against Fairbanks goalie Steve Perry. The Ice Dogs are now winless in their last six games.
David said Severson did a good job of bearing down even though the Brown Bears were trailing 3-1 in the final period. It was similar to what Severson did when the Brown Bears fell behind 3-1 in the second period on Nov. 4 in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. The Bears recovered to win that game 5-3.
"He got better as the evening went on," David said of the goalie.
Alec Hajdukovich gave Fairbanks a 1-0 lead with the lone goal of the first period.
After that, the power play for both teams took over. All three of Kenai River's goals came on the man advantage, as the Brown Bears finished 3 for 5. Fairbanks was 2 for 5.
"It's confidence, and it's the same with their power play," David said. "All their guys, no matter what you do, they have two or three options and you can't take them all away.
"They automatically move to the area you're giving up. We do the same thing."
Each team scored on the power play in the second period, with Kenai River's Bobby Murphy scoring on assists from Ryan Walker and Brett Lubanski, and Fairbanks' Tayler Munson lighting the lamp.
Munson scored just 1 minute, 39 seconds, into the third period to put the Ice Dogs up 3-1.
Jesse Ramsey notched a goal with 16:36 left on an assist from Raymond Stenehjem, and Alex Frere tied the score with 7:25 to play on assists from Brett Lubanski and Sture.
David said Lubanski has been doing the same power play for three years, while players like Frere, Murphy and Walker have been at it for two years.
"They know how to execute and their timing is super," he said. "They're moving right up the chart. It's nice to see."
The Brown Bears are ninth in the league with a success rate of 19.05 percent on the power play. David said the power play was one reason the Bears outshot the Ice Dogs 41-33.
He also said his top four defensemen — Ramsey, Stenehjem, Sture and Walker — continue to roll. Ramsey and Stenehjem have five points in the last five games, while Sture and Walker each have four.
David said the four have been so good that players like Soldotna product Brandon Fisher have to fight to get in the lineup. David said Fisher was the practice player of the day in two of this week's three practices.
"He's not seen as much ice time as he has in the past and he's not happy with that," David said. "He came in this week, and he was the player of the game for tonight for a great all-around effort, and a great all-around effort for the week.
"That's the heart and soul of this team — working hard and believing it will pay off."
Brown Bears 4, Ice Dogs 3, SO
First period — 1. Fairbanks, Hajdukovich (Clemment, Racklin), 3:44. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Walker (Lubanski, Murphy), pp, 5:46; 3. Fairbanks, Munson (Levin, Osborn), pp, 16:28. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 4. Fairbanks, Munson (Osborn, Levin), pp, 1:39; 5. Kenai River, Ramsey (Stenehjem), pp, 3:24; 6. Kenai River, Frere (Sture, Lubanski), pp, 12:35. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — none.
Shootout — Kenai River 2 (McKnight NG, Muller G, Frere NG, Lubanski NG, Sture G); Fairbanks 0 (Levin NG, Hajdukovich NG, Munson NG, Osborn NG).
Shots on goal — Kenai River 14-13-12-2—41; Fairbanks 15-8-8-2—33.
Goalies — Kenai River, Severson (33 shots, 30 saves); Fairbanks, Perry (41 shots, 38 saves).
Power play — Kenai River 3 for 5; Fairbanks 2 for 5.