The Kenai River Brown Bears lost to the host Fresno (Calif.) Monsters 3-2 in overtime Monday in North American Hockey League action in front of 885 fans.
The overtime loss snapped a five-game pointless streak for the Bears, but it did them no good in their bid to make the playoffs because the Bears are chasing the Monsters for the final playoff spot.
Fresno improves to 18-13-8, while the Bears fall to 18-15-2. Kenai River is now six points behind the Monsters.
“We started the night five behind, now we’re six behind them,” Kenai River head coach Oliver David said. “That’s who we are chasing and they climbed a little bit on us tonight.
“Though we battled, we have to score more than two goals. That’s the bottom line. Guys have to figure out how to do it.”
After a scoreless first two periods, Alex Frere gave the Brown Bears the lead with 12:07 left in the game. Jesse Ramsey assisted.
Then came a pair of Monsters goals that David said show that his team is a bit snakebitten right now.
Zack Wallace tied the game for Fresno with 10:45 to play. David said a high stick infraction allowed Wallace to get freed up for the goal, but the infraction was not called.
Just 49 seconds later, Luke Sandler scored to give the Monsters a 2-1 lead. David said the goal came while Fresno had six men on the ice, plus he said the Monsters committed an infraction behind the play.
“In the end, it’s a developmental league for referees just like it is for players and coaches,” David said. “Nothing can be done about it.
“There were a lot of questionable scenarios. I don’t really know what else to tell the guys. They’re playing smart.”
Frere tied the game with 3:47 to play on an unassisted goal. The line of Frere, Lazzaro and Nuth has been generating goals since David put them together five games ago.
Frere had been playing wing on captain Brett Lubanski’s line, but David said Frere’s natural position is center.
“That’s out hottest line right now, but there’s not many nights one line gets three goals,” David said. “It’s been Frere’s line every night. We need more contributions.”
Mark Bittner of Fresno ended the game 3:51 into overtime with a goal.
The Brown Bears continued to kill power plays, holding Fresno to 0 for 3, but also continued to struggle on the power play.
Kenai River went 0 for 6 on the man advantage after recently being held scoreless on the power play in a two-game series against the Alaska Avalanche of Palmer.
David said a defenseman is the quarterback of a power play. He said the decisions of a defensemen determine if the Bears are able to set up their power play in the opponents’ zone.
“The defensemen are not moving pucks quick enough, they’re not making decisions quick enough, it’s just not working,” David said.
Austin Severson made 24 saves for the Bears, while Tomas Sholl had 26 saves for the Monsters.
“Severson was good tonight,” David said. “Unfortunately, the three goals were point-blank shots. It was just him and a shooter at the top of the circles.”
The Bears stay in Fresno for a 6:05 p.m. AST game tonight. Gabe Grunwald will get his first start in net for the Bears.
Monsters 3, Brown Bears 2, OT
First period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fresno 4 for 8:00.
Second period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 1. Kenai River, Frere (Ramsey), 7:53; 2. Fresno, Wallace (Sandler, Durfee), 9:15; 3. Fresno, Sandler (Wallace, Sucher), 10:04; 4. Kenai River, Frere (un.), 16:13. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fresno 2 for 4:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 11-4-10-3—28; Fresno 7-11-5-4—27.
Goalies — Kenai River, Severson (27 shots, 24 saves); Fresno, Sholl (28 shots, 26 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 6; Fresno 0 for 3.