The Kenai River Brown Bears took their fourth straight loss on Saturday night in a 4-3 game against the Springfield (Ill.) Jr. Blues at the Soldotna Sports Center in North American Hockey League action.
It was also the fourth straight game in which the Bears have outshot their opponent, this time taking 39 shots to Springfield’s 32. Kenai River is now 14-18-4, while Springfield is 17-21-2.
Chris Nuth scored on a power play five minutes, 22 seconds, in to tie the game at one apiece, but Springfield took the lead back with a Jack Sloan goal in the final second of the first period.
Springfield built a 4-1 lead, but Kenai River’s Alex Jackstadt wasn’t ready to let things go. Jackstadt scored two goals, one late in the second period and one early in the third, to close the gap, but it proved futile.
The Bears were the attack late in the game, outshooting Springfield 13-8 in the second period and 17-8 in the third.
Evan McCarthy was credited with the loss for Kenai, saving 28 of 32 shots from the Blues.
The Springfield Jr. Blues weren’t in search of style points Friday night at the Sports Center.
The Jr. Blues picked up two points in the standings with a 2-1 victory over the Kenai River Brown Bears in North American Hockey League action in front of 1,004 fans.
“We played good road hockey,” said Springfield coach Tony Zasowski, whose team arrived on the central Peninsula on Thursday at 2:30 a.m. after 20 hours of travel. “Some nights, it isn’t pretty. Kenai is a tough team to play against.”
Springfield avenged two earlier defeats to the Bears, including a 5-1 blowout on Springfield’s home opener on Sept. 21.
Springfield used solid team defense, 41 saves from Ryan Kellenberger and two goals from the line of Jeff McFarland, Parker Johnson and Ryan Atkinson to pick up the win.
Kenai River continued to have a hard time finding the back of the net despite outshooting the opposition. For the third straight game, the Bears outshot the opposition and lost, this time putting 42 shots on net to Springfield’s 30.
“I think we played well, but everything’s magnified because we didn’t score goals,” Kenai River coach Oliver David said. “We didn’t score goals because of their goaltender and the guys in front of him.
“They won the game.”
The lone period where Springfield outshot Kenai River was in the first period, when McFarland, assisted by Johnson and Atkinson, stuffed in a goal with 12:19 left for a 1-0 lead.
“That line did a great job tonight,” Zasowski said.
David said his squad picked up its play in the second period, outshooting Springfield 19-9.
The Bears drew even with 7:20 left. New acquisition Mikhail Bushinski dug the puck out of the corner and got it to the front of the net, where Ryan Walker eventually knocked it in. Chris Nuth also was credited with an assist on the play.
Bushinski played in Port Huron, Mich., Wednesday. After getting traded for Lucas Kohls, he made the long trip to Soldotna and arrived Friday afternoon.
Bushinski didn’t even have a chance to take a pregame skate with his team before playing.
“He executed and did what we asked,” David said. “He’s a playmaker and a team-first guy. He has above-average habits and he’s a two-year veteran of the league.”
Kenai River outshot Springfield 13-10 in the final period, but both Kellenberger and Bears goalie Gustaf Johansson were called upon to make good saves.
Atkinson, assisted by Johnson, got the game-winner with 8:46 to play.
“He got a turnover deep in their zone and he was able to take it to the front of the net and score,” Zasowski said.
The Bears pressed hard for the equalizer, calling timeout and pulling Johansson with 53 seconds left. Springfield had a penalty for delay of game with 43 seconds left, but the Bears could not take advantage of the 6-on-4.
Johansson was likely playing his last game in a Brown Bears sweater for quite some time. He has a lingering knee injury and backed up McCarthy on Saturday, according to David.
Johannson will then go back to Sweden to receive treatment on his knee. The extent of the injury will determine his future with the club.
Jr. Blues 2, Brown Bears 1
Springfield 1 0 1 —2
Kenai River 0 1 0 —1
First period — 1. Springfield, McFarland (Johnson, Atkinson), 7:41. Penalties — Springfield 1 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Walker (Nuth, Bushinski), 12:40. Penalties — Springfield 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 3. Springfield, Atkinson (Johnson), 11:14. Penalties — Springfield 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Springfield 11-9-10—30; Kenai River 10-19-13—42.
Goalies — Springfield, Kellenberger (42 shots, 41 saves); Kenai River, Johansson (30 shots, 28 saves).
Power plays — Springfield 0 for 3; Kenai River 0 for 5.
Jr. Blues 4, Brown Bears 3
Springfield 2 2 0 —4
Kenai River 1 1 1 —3
First period — 1. Springfield, Skibba (Severson, Carkeek), 5:07; 2. Kenai River, Nuth (Walker, Lazzaro), pp, 5:22; 3. Springfield, Sloan (Skibba, Leabo), 19:59. Penalties — Springfield 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 4 for 8:00.
Second period — 4. Springfield, Stone (Tydingco), 7:35; 5. Springfield, Skibba (Severson), 12:34; 6. Kenai River, Jackstadt (Butcher, Walker), 17:08. Penalties — Springfield 0; Kenai River 0.
Third period — 7. Kenai River, Jackstadt (Zulkanycz, Butcher) 1:55. Penalties — Springfield 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Springfield 16-8-8—32; Kenai River 9-13-17—39.
Goalies — Springfield, Leon (39 shots, 36 saves); Kenai River, McCarthy (32 shots, 28 saves).
Power plays — Springfield 0 for 5; Kenai River 1 for 3.