For the second straight night, the Kenai River Brown Bears had to skate extra.
The difference was the Bears got a victory out of Saturday’s extra skating.
After a frustrating 3-2 loss to the Janesville (Wis.) Jets at the Soldotna Sports Center on Friday, Kenai River coach Oliver David brought his team back on the ice for some extra skating.
Saturday, the Bears didn’t have a choice, as they went to overtime and shootout tied at 2 with the Jets.
After a scoreless overtime, Kenai River made quick work of Janesville in the shootout. Albin Karlsson and Alex Jackstadt both scored goals, and goalie Marcus Zelzer stopped the first four shooters to earn his first win for the Bears.
Saturday, Ryan Walker gave the Bears a 1-0 lead in the first period, scoring on assists from Judd Loewenstein and Mikhail Bushinski.
Janesville tied the game up in the second period, with Daniel Kucerovy scoring on an assist from Zach Diamantoni.
In the third period, Alec Butcher put the Bears in the lead at the 4:32 mark, assisted by Alex Jackstadt.
But with 1:14 left, Jason Ford tied the game up on a goal assisted by Ryan Dau and Jordan Himley.
It was the first time in the last six games that the Bears won a game in which they outshot their opponent. Kenai River outshot Janesville 32-24 on Saturday, and the team’s season record is now 15-19-4, which is good for 34 points and third in the North American Hockey League West division.
On Friday, the Bears 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 Bears travel to Wenatchee, Wash., for a three-game series with the Wild on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
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.
Brown Bears 3, Jets 2, SO
Kenai River 1 0 1 0 1 —3
Janesville 0 1 1 0 0 —2
First period — 1. Kenai River, Walker (Loewenstein, Bushinski), 14:25. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Janesville 2 for 15:00.
Second period — 2. Janesville, Kucerovy (Diamantoni), 9:10. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 9:00; Janesville 5 for 13:00.
Third period — 3. Kenai River, Butcher (Jackstadt), 15:28; 4. Janesville, Ford (Dau, Himley), 18:46. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Janesville 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — None. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shootout — Kenai River 1 (Karlsson G, Jackstadt G, Walker NG); Janesville 0 (Himley NG, Koritzinsky NG, Ford NG, Diamantoni NG).
Shots on goal — Kenai River 10-11-7-3-1—32; Janesville 9-5-8-2-0—24.
Goalies — Kenai River, Zelzer (24 shots, 22 saves); Janesville, Kautz (31 shots, 29 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 5; Janesville 0 for 5.