Alex Jackstadt scored three goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Fresno (Calif.) Monsters 5-4 on Friday at Selland Arena in front of 3,809 fans.
"It was a huge victory for us," Kenai River assistant Nick Shackford said. "No. 1, it was an overtime win. Anytime you are on the road, you're sick and you have some injury problems, it's big when a team comes together like that when things aren't going great.
"From a coaching standpoint, that shows a lot in the team's character. Tonight, we really learned a lot about character. It's a good start to the second half of the year."
Winning for the first time in overtime this season in three tries, the Bears moved to 14-14-4 in the North American Hockey League West Division, while Fresno is 8-17-5.
The Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild lead the division with 50 points, while Fairbanks has 43, Kenai River has 32 and Fresno has 21.
The Bears dressed only 16 skaters and two goaltenders for the game. Forward Dylan Meier was out with a concussion, while Albin Karlsson continues to be sidelined with a shoulder injury.
"There were also a couple of guys that were sick that were playing," Shackford said.
Shackford said the team battled some tired legs in the third period, forcing Evan McCarthy to come up big in net. McCarthy got his first win as a Brown Bears player with 29 saves.
The Bears picked up McCarthy when he was released by the Wild.
"Obviously, we put him in tonight and we had high expectations for him," Shackford said. "He met those expectations."
Jackstadt's hat trick gave him 10 goals and 18 points.
"He was just crafty tonight," Shackford said. "He was slippery and he got the puck in and out of guys. He had some goals that were not just goals, but real highlights. He had a heck of a game."
Ryan Walker, Chris Nuth and Alec Butcher also had multipoint nights for the Bears. Each picked up two assists.
Jackstadt had the lone goal of the first period, but Fresno equalized just 36 seconds into the second period. However, Jackstadt scored just six seconds later for the lead.
Fresno then tied the score at 2 with a power-play goal. The Monsters would go 3 for 5 with the extra man on the night.
Bryan Hodges and Brad Duwe, a Soldotna product, scored for a 4-2 lead. Duwe has five points in his last four games. Fresno came back to tie it on power-play goals by Gordon Wells and Mitchell Snyder.
With just 36 seconds left in overtime, the Bears came down on a two-on-two and dumped the puck on the net. Shackford said Jackstadt got to the puck and scored.
"The team refused to lose, even though we ran out of steam in the third period," Shackford said.
The Bears face the Monsters at 6:35 p.m. AST Saturday and 4:05 p.m. AST Sunday.
Brown Bears 5, Monsters 4, OT
First period — 1. Kenai River, Jackstadt (Nuth, Butcher), 6:39. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fresno 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Fresno, Sherer (Snyder, Salituro), 0:36; 3. Kenai River, Jackstadt (un.), 0:42; 4. Fresno, Snyder (Herlofsky, Sherer), pp, 7:21; 5. Kenai River, Hodges (Walker, Butcher), 7:51; 6. Kenai River, Duwe (Kohls, Lazzaro), pp, 11:20; 7. Fresno, Wells (Fuller, Salituro), pp, 18:23. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Fresno 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 8. Fresno, Snyder (Fuller, Salituro), pp, 19:33. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fresno 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 9. Kenai River, Jackstadt (Walker, Nuth), 4:24. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-9-10-2—30; Fresno 4-12-14-3—33.
Goalies — Kenai River, McCarthy (33 shots, 29 saves); Fresno, Haight (30 shots, 25 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 5; Fresno 3 for 5.