The Kenai River Brown Bears split two games against the Fresno Monsters (Calif.), winning Friday night’s home opener 4-0 and dropping Saturday night’s game 3-2.
The Brown Bears are now back to being tied with Fresno in the North American Hockey League West division, after breaking it Friday night, with 11 points each. Both are three points behind Fairbanks. The Brown Bears hold a 4-3-3 record.
In Saturday’s game, Kenai River took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal from Matt Seidel, assisted by Lucas Kohls a little over 16 minutes into the game.
Fresno, reeling from a loss the previous night, answered back early in the second period with goals from Daniel Rosse and Karl Anderson.
“They scored off a faceoff, and then they forechecked and took the puck from one of our defensemen and made a great pass for a quick goal on the ensuing shift,” Kenai River coach Oliver David recounted. “We were flat tonight and Fresno had some energy, and no one wants to lose. They kept it pretty simple and executed well and capitalized on two goals in the second period. Fresno goalie Tomas Sholl took 31 shots with 30 saves, and David said he was the difference in the loss for the Bears.
“Their goalie played very well, we outshot them and had more powerplays then them, and we were all around the net and they kept up,” David said.
Kenai River outshot Fresno 32-15, inluding 15 in the second period alone, but still lost the game.
Jake Bushey scored Kenai River’s final goal on an empty net with three seconds left in the game, but by that time, it made no difference.
“Trying to learn from losses, you’re not going to fix anything,” David said. “We figured some things out and other things need time to make sense, because some of this is pretty advanced. Learning how to win is pretty advanced, and being a consistent winner takes a great recipe, and over time you create a good recipe and you learn to master it.”
Kenai River will try to win their three game series against Fresno Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Soldotna Sports Center.
The Kenai River Brown Bears stifled the Fresno Monsters for a 4-0 victory in the first home game of the season Friday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Not only was it the first division game for Kenai River, but it broke a tie for third-place in the North American Hockey League West Division standings with Fresno, and now the team holds 11 points total, two ahead of Fresno and only three behind the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
“Fresno has been on the road for a month, and they are probably and understandably tired, and when you’re on the road, sometimes no matter what you put together is going to work,” Kenai head coach Oliver David said. “We got some opportunities that aren’t going to present themselves every game, but we have a little jump in our step. The team had a big effort, and tonight we were able to respond.
“I told the guys to remember what works and what doesn’t.”
The win kicked off a 10-game homestand for the Bears that includes the entire month of October.
While Kenai River was enjoying its victory, it was a different atmosphere in the opposing locker room. Fresno didn’t record a single goal despite 18 shots. Head coach Eric Ballard said the list of things that went right for Fresno was short.
“We didn’t come to play at all,” Ballard said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Kenai, because they played hard, and we didn’t. It’s that simple. We didn’t do anything good from the drop of the puck to the end of the game.”
The Brown Bears got the party started early, scoring exactly one minute into the game, as Alex Jackstadt shot at point blank into Fresno’s net, with the assist from Dylan Meier and Chris Nuth.
A little over five minutes later, it was Matt Seidel who managed a one-touch goal that was made possible by Albin Karlsson and Lucas Kohls.
“I feel that they didn’t have a chance,” Karlsson said. “In every part of the game, we were better. They can forecheck and get pucks, but we are stronger. We’ll see how they are tomorrow.”
A lead of 2-0 after the first period did not stop the Brown Bears, as Lucas Kohls extended the lead with a wide open shot early in the second period on a power play.
Just to add the icing to the cake, it was the home-town favorite, Zach Zulkanycz of Kenai Central fame, sending a bullet into the net with a little over three minutes to go to seal the win. The goal was Zulkanycz’s first of the season, and first ever playing for the Bears.
“Pretty good timing for him, I think he planned that, to score his first goal in front of the home crowd,” David quipped. “He has a very heavy shot, when he puts some muscle into it, and everyone’s happy for him. He’s kind of a locker room favorite, and everyone enjoys his presence.”
Zulkanycz led Kenai with four shots on goal, while teammates Jude Warner and Matt Seidel each had three.
Kenai River was missing its captain, Zac Lazzaro, along with a few other key players, including veteran Ryan Walker, due to injury and illness, but David is not worried.
“Our line combinations may not stay as consistent as in years past, but we have guys that can be plugged into the lineup at any given point,” David said. “We had our captain out of the game, and another big player out of the game with a leg infection, and so the team will look different night in and night out, but the guys we have here are believers at the moment. They’re trying to execute how they are being asked to.”
Brown Bears 4, Monsters 0
Kenai River 2 1 1 —4
Fresno 0 0 0 —0
First period — 1. Kenai River, Jackstadt (Meier, Nuth), 1:00; 2. Kenai River, Seidel (Karlsson, Kohls), 6:16. Penalties — none.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Kohls (Seidel) shorthanded, 4:09. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 9:00; Fresno 3 for 9:00.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Zulkanycz (Deal, Stefan), 16:39. Penalties — Fresno 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 8-8-7—23; Fresno 3-7-8—18.
Goalies — Kenai River, Johansson (18 shots, 18 saves); Fresno, Haight (23 shots, 19 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3; Fresno 0 for 1.
Monsters 3, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 1 0 1 —2
Fresno 0 2 1 —3
First period — 1. Kenai River, Seidel (Kohls), 16:09. Penalties — Fresno 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Fresno, Rosse (Mathias, Husch), 1:57; 3. Fresno, Andersen (Wells, Haskell), 2:29. Penalties — Fresno 4 for 8:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 4. Fresno, McDonald (Salvato, Janco), 2:31; 5. Kenai River, Bushey (Seidel, Nuth), pp, 19:57. Penalties — Fresno 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 8-15-9—32; Fresno 6-8-1—15.
Goalies — Kenai River, Johansson (15 shots, 12 saves); Fresno, Sholl (31 shots, 30 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 8; Fresno 0 for 5.