"This was a painful loss," said a fan as he was leaving the game between the Kenai River Brown Bears and Janesville (Wis.) Jets on Friday at the Soldotna Sports Center. "I want to hear them talk about the pain. I want to read about the pain!"
The fan should have stayed to watch Brown Bears coach Oliver David bring his team out after the 3-2 loss for some extra skating. There was pain aplenty.
The snake has no skin left to bite.
Visiting goalies are so hot it's a wonder there's any ice left in the sports center.
The Bears have lost their fifth straight game.
Four of those five losses have come by one goal. The shot totals in those losses have been as follows, Kenai River listed first: 33-22, 35-16, 42-30, 39-32 and Friday's 52-23.
"I don't have much to say," David said outside the locker room as he herded his squad back onto the ice. "We need to figure out how to win.
"This is getting ridiculous."
Special teams and goaltending can take a hockey team a long way. Friday, 691 fans saw just how far.
Austin Priebe, the sixth-ranked goalie in the North American Hockey League with a 2.26 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, made 50 saves.
Jets coach Joe Dibble was asked if this was Priebe's best game of the year. After initially saying this was one of Priebe's better games, Dibble reconsidered: "I'll go out on a limb and say this was his best game."
Priebe was particularly solid in the first and second periods, when Kenai River outshot Janesville 20-11 and 24-7.
"At the end of the day, he's the reason we got out of here with a win," Dibble said. "We didn't play well at all for the first 2 1/2 periods."
The exception was special teams. Janesville went 2 for 3 with the extra man, while the Bears were 0 for 6 against a penalty kill that was ranked sixth in the league coming into the game.
The Jets took the lead with 4 minutes, 10 seconds, left in the first period when Todd Koritzinsky scored a power-play goal on an assist from Jason Ford. Koritzinksy had two goals and an assist, while Ford had two assists.
Koritzinksy was playing in his first game with the Jets after getting traded from the Youngstown (Ohio) Phantoms of the United States Hockey League. He flew into Kenai on Thursday and had just two practices with the team before Friday's game.
Dibble said his team used a new power-play system Friday, and Koritzinsky made that system dangerous.
"He's a great addition to the power play," Dibble said. "He knows how to score goals."
Rusian Pedan, who had an assist, runs the power play for the Jets. Pedan has committed to Division I Bemidji State University in Minnesota.
"He has a really heavy shot," said Dibble, adding Pedan might get drafted this year by the NHL. "It's like an NHL shot."
The Bears fought back with a recent addition of their own. Mikhail Bushinski, who joined the team last weekend, found Zac Lazzaro for a goal with 1:46 left in the first period.
"Bushinski was unbelievable," David said. "A lot of guys were unbelievable. It doesn't matter."
Bushinski created another goal in the second period, when he got the puck to Jake Bushey at the point and Bushey blasted it home for a 2-1 lead with 10:57 left.
But the Bears left the door open in the second period by failing to capitalize on three power plays, although Alec Butcher rung the pipe with 5:22 left.
The third period was much more even, with the Bears earning an 8-5 advantage on shots. Koritzinsky scored on the power play with 6:56 left. Then with 2:11 left, Koritzinsky won a battle for the puck in front of the net and slipped it to a wide-open Ryan Dau, who notched the game-winner.
Ryan Walker hit the pipe for the Bears with 9:56 to play. Kenai River pulled the goalie for the final 1:02, and created some great chances, including multiple shots in front of the net with 6 seconds left.
"We went through what they're going through this season, too," Dibble said of the Bears. "We had an eight-game losing streak.
"The Brown Bears deserved to win this game, but you saw tonight one lucky bounce can change a game, a month or a season."
The same two teams play at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the sports center. Kenai River enters the game 14-19-4, still in third place in the West Division but now just five points ahead of the last-place Fresno (Calif.) Monsters, who continued their recent strong play by defeating the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild 3-1 on Friday. Janesville is 16-18-6.
Jets 3, Brown Bears 2
Janesville 1 0 2 —3
Kenai River 1 1 0 —2
First period — 1. Janesville, Koritzinsky (Ford), pp, 15:50; 2. Kenai River, Lazzaro (Bushinski, Vance), 18:14. Penalties — Janesville 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Bushey (Bushinski), 9:03. Penalties — Janesville 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 4. Janesville, Koritzinsky (Pedan, Kucerovy), 13:04; 5. Janesville, Dau (Koritzinsky, Ford), 17:49. Penalties — Janesville 1 for 2; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Janesville 11-7-5—23; Kenai River 20-24-8—52.
Goalies — Janesville, Priebe (52 shots, 50 saves); Kenai River, Zelzer (23 shots, 20 saves).
Power plays — Janesville 2 for 3; Kenai River 0 for 6.