The Kenai River Brown Bears split a pair of games with the Fresno (Calif.) Monsters on Friday and Saturday at Selland Arena.
The Brown Bears notched a 5-4, overtime win on Friday before falling 3-2 on Saturday.
Kenai River is 14-15-4 in the North American Hockey League West Division, while Fresno is 9-17-5.
The Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild lead the division with 51 points, while Fairbanks has 45, Kenai River has 32 and Fresno has 23.
In Saturday’s game, Matt Seidel got the Bears on the board first, but Sean Kalbak and Newton Fuller scored as the Monsters led 2-1 after the first period.
“We were extremely flat coming out,” Kenai River head coach Oliver David said. “Unfortunately, that’s become a trademark, if you will, on Saturday. We are trying to figure out how to combat that.”
In the second period, the Bears took four penalties and it finally cost them when Mitchell Snyder scored on the power play with 6:47 left in the second for a 3-1 lead.
Fresno was 1 for 8 on the power play. David said his team averages giving up below five power plays per game.
Despite dressing only 17 skaters and two goalies due to injury, the Brown Bears mounted a charge in the third period, outshooting Fresno 14-6 en route to a 33-22 advantage for the game.
But Tomas Sholl, a Division I recruit, stood tall in net with 31 saves. Gustaf Johannson had 19 saves for the Bears.
“Gustaf was good, but Sholl was better,” David said.
David said Sholl preserved the lead at the end of the game by making a save off his face when the Bears were skating six-on-five.
Chris Nuth had the goal in the third period for the Brown Bears, giving him three points in his last two games.
“Nuth had a good, breakout weekend pointwise,” David said.
Matthew Meier flew in from Denver to give the Bears 19 players to dress, and Meier will play again Sunday, when the Bears face the Monsters at 4:05 p.m. AST.
Dylan Meier remains sidelined with a concussion, while Albin Karlsson is out with a shoulder injury.
David said Sunday is a big game because it would put the Bears at .500 on a six-game trip to Wenatchee and Fresno.
On Friday, Alex Jackstadt scored three goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Bears defeated the Monsters 5-4 at Selland Arena.
“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.”
The Bears won for the first time in overtime this season in three tries.
The Bears dressed only 16 skaters and two goaltenders for the game.
“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 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.
Brown Bears 5, Monsters 4, OT
Kenai River 1 3 0 1 —5
Fresno 0 3 1 0 —4
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.
Monsters 3, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 1 0 1 —2
Fresno 2 1 0 —3
First period — 1. Kenai River, Seidel (Stefan, Loewenstein), 4:40; 2. Fresno, Kalbak (Shipstad, Fuller), 10:53; 3. Fresno, Fuller (Wells, Buffardi), 18:17. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Fresno 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 4. Fresno, Snyder (Sucher, Salituro), pp, 13:13. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 8:00; Fresno 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Nuth (Lazzaro, Walker), 13:02. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fresno 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 11-8-14—33; Fresno 9-7-6—22.
Goalies — Kenai River, Johansson (22 shots, 19 saves); Fresno, Sholl (33 shots, 31 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 2; Fresno 1 for 8.