The Kenai River Brown Bears held off a late charge from the first-place Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild to win 7-5 on Thursday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Matt Seidel scored a hat trick for the Brown Bears, who are still sitting third in the North American Hockey League West division standings with 15 points. The Wild continue to lead the division with 19 points, with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs one point back in second.
Conor Deal knocked in the first goal of the night, and was followed by teammates Seidel, Zac Lazzaro and Zack Zulkanycz.
Facing a 4-0 deficit after one period, Wenatchee attempted to make a comeback, but only dropped into a deeper hole, as they were outscored 3-1 in the second period and were facing a 7-1 score.
“In the first two periods, things went our way, we had some bounces and capitalized on some things in transition,” Kenai River coach Oliver David said. “But one goal on the board for a team like that, and they can pump in four more. After 40 minutes, a team can’t be too depressed, because it’s 60 minutes long.”
Wenatchee came back with a vengeance in the final frame, outshooting Kenai River 13-1 and scoring four goals, ending with Noah Nelson’s goal with 47 seconds left in the game. Ultimately, it was the Bears that escaped with the victory.
“They were pretty opportunistic,” Wenatchee head coach Bliss Littler said. “I got to give them credit for being in the right spot in the right time, and we did some good things, but it’s fair to say that they came out ready to play, and we came out reading too many press clippings.”
Overall, the Brown Bears were outshot 43-24, and two of their goals came on a power play. The Bears did manage to hold the Wild at bay on all five of their power plays.
“I think we got complacent, which is a little different than thinking we had it in the bag,” David said. “If they thought they had it, then there’s their rude awakening. Wenatchee was playing in their patterns all night, but not connecting. Those same types of passes and goals that they had in the third period, they just didn’t have in the first two periods.
“In this circumstance, two points is good for us, but we have a lot of things to work on.”
The Bears are faced with two more opportunities to knock off the Wild, with matchups on Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
However, it can be certain that Wenatchee will be back with a chip on its shoulder.
“We had the majority of chances, but until they change the way they decide a winner in this game, they judge by goals,” Littler said. “They were able to score on their chances early. We’ll come back better tomorrow evening.”
Brown Bears 7, Wild 5
Wenatchee 0 1 4 —5
Kenai River 4 3 0 —7
First period — 1. Kenai River, Deal (Zulkanycz, LeLievre), 8:27; 2. Kenai River, Seidel (Lazzaro, Kohls), 12:25; 3. Kenai River, Lazzaro (Davidson), pp, 14:30; 4. Kenai River, Zulkanycz (LeLievre, Shand), 19:13. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 5. Kenai River, Meier (Nuth), 1:55; 6. Kenai River, Seidel (Davidson, Lazzaro), 9:49; 7. Wenatchee, Hartley (Davis), 10:32; 8. Kenai River, Seidel (un.), 19:12. Penalties — Wenatchee 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 9. Wenatchee, Kerr (un.) 8:36; 10. Wenatchee, Roubos (Kuchera, Hartley), 11:33; 11. Wenatchee, Luedtke (Kerr, Barber), 17:11; 12. Wenatchee, Nelson (un.), 19:12. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal — Wenatchee 13-17-13—43; Kenai River 12-11-1—24.
Goalies — Wenatchee, Nichols (24 shots, 17 saves); Kenai River, Healy (43 shots, 38 saves).
Power plays — Wenatchee 0 for 5; Kenai River 2 for 6.