The Kenai River Brown Bears swept the Wichita Falls (Texas) Wildcats on Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center in North American Hockey League play.
The Bears won 9-3 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday.
The Wildcats were unable to slow down what is one of the most potent offenses in the NAHL. Kenai River is third in the league with 60 goals, and has scored five or more goals in six of 16 games.
Forward Matt Seidel is second in the league with 22 points, while Lucas Kohls is tied for seventh with 19 points.
The Bears move to 8-5-3, good for 19 points and third in the West Division. The Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild lead with 25 points, while Fairbanks has 24. The Fresno (Calif.) Monsters are in last with 12.
The Wildcats fall to 5-10-2.
On Friday, the Brown Bears gave up multiple breakaways, let the Wildcats score on 40 percent of their power plays, and the Bears only outshot the Wildcats by one.
When a team has offensive firepower like Kenai River, though, on some nights none of those stats matter.
The Brown Bears got two points or more from six players, including two-goal efforts from Brad LeLievre, Kohls and Ansel Duesenberg.
“We score goals in bunches,” Kenai River coach Oliver David said after Friday’s game. “That’s evident to anyone who follows this team.
“Getting at least five goals in 5 of 15 games has never happened here before. It doesn’t happen in this league very often.”
With so much scoring going on, the last choice for the most important player for the Brown Bears would appear to be the goaltender. But David sang the praises of Gustaf Johansson, who had 23 saves.
“Gustaf was the sole reason we won this game,” David said. “He was our backbone.”
If not for some stellar work by Johannson and a fluky bounce, the Bears easily could have trailed in the first period instead of taking a 3-0 lead.
Duesenberg scored the first goal of the game when his centering pass bounced into the net off a Wichita Falls defender.
Within a minute, the Wildcats’ Jake Townsend was turned away on a point-blank chance after an odd-man rush, then Johansson stuffed Tyler Ledford on a breakaway 30 seconds later.
Alex Jackstadt scored with 4:57 left in the period, then Johansson stopped yet another breakaway from George Pagonis with 50 seconds left in the period.
Kohls then put the Brown Bears up 3-0 just 17 seconds later when he ripped a shot across his body and into the far upper corner.
“That’s an NHL shot,” David said. “He has a lot of things to work on, but shooting is one of his strengths.”
Kohls was at the end of his shift when he scored.
“I was just trying to shoot to get off the ice,” he said. “I whiffed the first one so I had to regroup. It was just improv.”
From there, the rout was on. Kohls scored again to open the second period, then Brad LeLievre scored twice in the sixth minute of the second period for a 6-0 lead.
Both LeLievre’s goals were set up by turnovers and were prime examples of how that line, which also includes Kenai Central product Zack Zulkanycz and Conor Deal, operates.
“Our whole line has great chemistry,” said LeLievre, 17. “We have a grinder line. We’re all speedy guys and we had a few nice plays with some tic-tac-toe passing.”
Still in the second period, the Wildcats cut the gap to 6-2 with a pair of power-play goals and had two more minutes of power play when Seidel dashed hopes of a comeback.
Just 14 seconds after the Wichita Falls goal, the lefty Seidel swooped in for a wraparound, shorthanded tally.
Seidel executed the move so quickly and casually that the crowd didn’t initially react, perhaps because at this level of hockey wraparounds are rarely executed so cleanly.
“You or I couldn’t do that,” David said. “He’s 6-3. I always say, ‘You can’t teach reach.’”
Duesenberg and Dylan Meier added goals in the third period for Kenai River.
The Brown Bears showed their four-line depth in the game, getting three goals from the Kohls-Seidel-Lazarro line, two from the Meier-Jackstadt-Albin Karlsson line, two from the LeLievre line, and two from the Duesenberg-Jude Warner-Chris Nuth line.
“We have a team that is deep,” Kohls said. “Every line is capable of scoring multiple goals.”
Saturday, the Wildcats took a 1-0 lead but Kenai River answered with goals from LeLievre, Lazzaro and Vincent Stefan.
After Wichita Falls cut the lead to 3-2 in the third period, Seidel scored unassisted. Duesenberg iced the game with an empty-netter.
Johannson made 30 saves for the win.
The Bears host Corpus Christi at the sports center Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Brown Bears 9, Wildcats 3
Wichita Falls 0 2 1 —3
Kenai River 3 4 2 —9
First period — 1. Kenai River, Duesenberg (Warner, Walker), pp, 7:57; 2. Kenai River, Jackstadt (Shand), 15:03; 3. Kenai River, Kohls (un.), 19:27. Penalties — Wichita Falls 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 4. Kenai River, Kohls (Lazzaro, Davidson), 4:25; 5. Kenai River, LeLievre (Zulkanycz), 6:31; 6. Kenai River, LeLievre (Deal, Zulkanycz), 6:57; 7. Wichita Falls, Vosejpka (Oullette, Kucera), pp, 8:58; 8. Wichita Falls, Hemstrom (Tema), pp, 11:57; 9. Kenai River, Seidel (Kohls), sh, 12:05. Penalties — Wichita Falls 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 5 for 20:00.
Third period — 9. Kenai River, Duesenberg (Davidson), 8:24; 10. Wichita Falls, Dau (Hemstrom), 9:49; 11. Kenai River, Meier (Vance, Lazzaro), 18:51. Penalties — Wichita Falls 5 for 10:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Wichita Falls 5-13-8—26; Kenai River 7-11-9—27.
Goalies — Wichita Falls, Cowley (27 shots, 18 saves); Kenai River, Johansson (26 shots, 23 saves).
Power plays — Wichita Falls 2 for 5; Kenai River 1 for 5.
Brown Bears 5, Wildcats 2
Wichita Falls 1 0 1 —2
Kenai River 1 2 2 —5
First period — 1. Wichita Falls, O’Neal (Ledford), 8:06; 2. Kenai River, LeLievre (Wasell, Arnold), 15:49. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Lazzaro (Stefan, Seidel), pp, 3:06; 4. Kenai River, Stefan (Kohls, Seidel), pp, 13:22. Penalties — Wichita Falls 4 for 14:00; Kenai River 4 for 14:00.
Third period — 5. Wichita Falls, Staub (Hemstrom), 0:31; 6. Kenai River, Seidel (un.), 5:26; 7. Kenai River, Duesenberg (Stefan), 19:10. Penalties — Wichita Falls 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Wichita Falls 5-10-17—32; Kenai River 8-13-8—29.
Goalies — Wichita Falls, Cowley (28 shots, 24 saves); Kenai River, Johansson (32 shots, 30 saves).
Power plays — Wichita Falls 0 for 4; Kenai River 2 for 3.