The Kenai River Brown Bears return home to play their first home game after a season opening eight-game road trip that saw the team go 3-2-3.
The Fresno (Calif.) Monsters face off against the Bears tonight and Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center, and the puck drops at 7:30 p.m. both nights. The same two teams drop the puck at 5 p.m. Sunday at the sports center.
“We’re starting fresh tomorrow, a 10-game homestand leading into first week of November is our next segment, and we’d like to start it off on the right note,” Kenai River head coach Oliver David said.
Not only will the game be the first division game of the season for Kenai River, but it will be against the team with which they are tied in the North American Hockey League West Division standings. Although it is still early in the season, the Bears are tied with Fresno for third with nine points each, while Wenatchee (Wash.) leads the West with a perfect 16 points.
“The idea is to make sure we’re competing well enough to hit a certain amount of points by the end of the year,” David said. “We don’t necessarily put an emphasis on wins and losses, it’s more of an emphasis on the bigger picture, not necessarily to win three out of three games. We obviously compete for that to happen, but our goal expands to beyond this weekend.”
After eight games (of 60) this season, David has the team focused on smaller segments and specific goals relating to those segments. In this case, David is spotlighting the next 10 games, all of which are home games.
“We had an eight-game road trip, which we called segment one,” David said. “Our goal was to be at .500 in regular time, and we accomplished that. Therefore, our goals have been met. We have goals leading into this weekend that we are aware of, and we know what’s at stake in trying to reach our goals.
“For instance, our power play did not reach the percentage we’d like, but our penalty kills have exceeded the goal we set for the first segment. We look at that data, and refocus our energy, but we have only 90 minutes a day on the ice each day to address any shortcomings.”
Kenai River has been the victim of a few overtime games this season already. In four matches that have seen extra time, the Bears are 1-3, only winning their most recent game against Janesville in a 4-3 shootout, but it appears there is no cause for concern.
“Those games were due to us not closing out,” David said. “Two of the overtime games were due to us coming from behind and tying it, and the other two were due to the other team catching us. That stat is even, so we’ve done just as much coming from behind as we’ve done being caught from behind.”
The early games of the season have also seen a different cast of characters for Kenai River, as expected. Forwards Lucas Kohls and Matt Seidel have seven points each, and for Kohls, four of those have been goals.
First-year player Albin Karlsson from Sweden has also put up four goals, and he has only taken 11 shots total, a scoring percentage of .364.
“Albin possesses a very high level of knowledge of the game. He’s an intellectual person by nature, he’s a logical thinker, and has athletic ability through the roof,” David said. “Overall, we’re pretty much one of the youngest teams in the league. I’m pretty optimistic that if things continue the way they have, we’ll do fine.”