The Kenai River Brown Bears put together a big third-period effort to win the final game of a three-game series against the Dawson Creek Rage 5-2 Saturday night at the Soldotna Sports Center, in front of a crowd of nearly 1,200.
Kenai was down 2-1 after two periods, after goals by Dawson Creek’s Ryan Matthews and Luke Ripley put the Rage up front.
However, Kenai did not let the Rage do any more damage in the third period, as Jesse Ramsey tied the game up 6 minutes, 24 seconds, into the period on a power play, with an assist from Brett Lubanski and Matt Thompson.
“We crashed the net, which is what we needed to do,” Kenai head coach Oliver David said. “(Rage goalie Paul) Bourbeau is the most agile goalie I’ve ever coached. You cannot score very often point blank, because he’s going to see it and catch it.”
Ryan Walker scored the tiebreaker for Kenai at 10:01 into the third period with an assist from Kellen Wasell and Matt Thompson. Chris Blessing netted the puck at 15:32, and Sean Muller scored on an empty Rage net with 38 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
“We needed to get traffic on the net,” David said. “Our goals were boxing and scrumming in front of the net, and we banged away and we chipped them in.”
Kenai goalie Austin Severson saved 26 of 28 shots on net for the night, and the Rage’s Bourbeau blocked 34 of 39 shots.
“We had a good talk during the second intermission, and these guys didn’t want to give up,” David said. “Our third period was the best executed period, so that’s good enough for me tonight.”
Saturday also featured some bad news for the Brown Bears, as the team they are fighting with for the playoff spot, Fresno (Calif.) (27-21-10), won its game against Wenatchee 3-2 in overtime.
With the weekend games over, Kenai is now facing a two-point deficit behind Fresno in the North American Hockey League West Division standings. Fresno’s win was also the team’s third straight, and fourth straight game in which the Monsters received points.
“We’re going into the final series of the season, which will determine if we make the playoffs, a lot better than if we lost it tonight, so it gives us a fighting chance,” David said.
Kenai’s final two regular season games have them facing off against the Alaska Avalanche (34-18-4) next Friday and Saturday in Palmer. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.
With their two-point deficit, Kenai needs at least one win against the Avs to have a chance to make the playoffs.
“That would give us the push we need to get us in the playoffs,” David said. “Other than that, we can’t control how it all plays out.”
On a lighter note, David mentioned that the Brown Bears have 29 wins in 58 games this season, which is the most they have ever had in a season, as well as 62 points total, also a club record.
Brown Bears 5, Rage 2
Dawson Creek 0 2 0 —2
Kenai River 0 1 4 —5
First period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 1. Kenai River, Walker (Lubanski, Muller), pp, 1:07; 2. Dawson Creek, Matthews (McCallum), 1:52; 3. Dawson Creek, Ripley (Fellnermayr, Page), 12:29. Penalties — Dawson Creek 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Ramsey (Lubanski, Thompson), pp, 6:24; 5. Kenai River, Walker (Wasell, Thompson), 10:01; 6. Kenai River, Blessing (Hemsky, Lubanski), 15:32; 7. Kenai River, Muller (Lazzaro), en, 19:27. Penalties — Dawson Creek 4 for 16:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Dawson Creek 10-11-7—28; Kenai River 14-15-10—39.
Goalies — Dawson Creek, Bourbeau (38 shots, 34 saves); Kenai River, Severson (28 shots, 26 saves).
Power plays — Dawson Creek 0 for 4; Kenai River 2 for 5.