Despite feeling the lingering effects of the flu, the Kenai River Brown Bears were able to easily cruise to a 7-2 win over the Dawson Creek (British Columbia) Rage on Thursday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Chris Blessing had two goals and an assist to lead the team while teammate Matt Thompson also had two goals. Dominic Granato, Marek Hemsky and Zac Lazzaro all had a goal apiece as well.
Head coach Oliver David stayed realistic when discussing the team’s performance and future goals.
“We had an offensive outburst that was part luck and part opportunity, and I imagine the ice will be a lot smaller tomorrow night,” David said. “We have a long way to go if we want to consider this a successful season.”
The scoring started early, as Dawson Creek scored just 1 minute, 1 second, into the first period as Scott Fellnermayr put the puck past Kenai goalie Austin Severson. Fellnermayr scored both goals for the Rage.
“When you score goals, the game is played a little different,” David said. “It’s a little looser, you may be more confident, and that happens all the time for us against Dawson Creek. They rattle off two or three goals against us, and anyone could do it, and that team plays confident and loose.”
Even with the early lead, Kenai managed to come back in the first period, netting four straight to put up a comfortable lead. Matt Thompson managed to score the goal that gave Kenai the lead with 6:51 left in the period, with assists from Sean Muller and Alex Frere.
With this win, the Brown Bears (28-25-3) receive two points and are now only one point behind Fresno (Calif.) in the North American Hockey League West Division standings. The Rage are 10-41-3. That one point also represents the difference between a playoff spot and going home early.
“Fresno and Wenatchee play tomorrow night, and we’re one point behind Fresno, so things may shift this weekend or they may not,” David said. “We need to win, but it’s a long haul, and we need to have a pretty short-term memory of tonight.”
David said the games ahead are dependant on how much energy the team has and whether or not the Bears have the spirit to get the job done. The flu symptoms the team has had in recent games are beginning to fade, David said.
“We’re not going to change anything. It’s all about your energy, and right now energy is depleted,” he said. “These kids hopefully go home, get a good meal, get some sleep, hydrate, and tomorrow do what they need to do to fill up their energy tank. If they don’t show up with energy tomorrow, if they don’t fill up their tanks in the next 24 hours, we’re screwed.”
Kenai will again play host to the Rage tonight and tomorrow night at the Soldotna Sports Center. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.
“Once they show up with energy, it’s about how much effort they’re willing to give,” David said.
“The average fan only sees the scoreboard or checks pointstreak, and I’m standing here watching these players fighting as hard as they can and look brutal doing it. They don’t forget how to play, it’s just hard to play when you’re sick.”