What Allen Butcher started in Anchorage when Alex Jackstadt was 5 years old is still paying dividends now that Jackstadt is an 18-year-old playing for the Kenai River Brown Bears.
Allen is the father of Alec Butcher, also an 18-year-old forward for the Bears. Because Allen was one of Jackstadt's first coaches, Alec and Jackstadt enjoy an synaptic familiarity that was responsible for setting up three goals in the Bears' 4-1 victory over the Fresno (Calif.) Monsters on Friday at the Sports Center.
Jackstadt had two goals and an assist while Butcher had three assists. Jackstadt now leads the team with 35 points and 19 goals, while Butcher has 27 points in 33 games since arriving on the Peninsula in early November.
"I was excited when he came here and coach put us on a line," Jackstadt said of Butcher. "We've been going ever since. I have a lot of confidence playing with him. I've known him forever."
The duo also has a lot of confidence playing against the Monsters. Jackstadt now has 15 points in 11 games against Fresno, while Butcher has 12 points in eight games.
"I've had Fresno's number this year," Jackstadt said. "It just seems like they're a team I like to play against."
After last weekend's series against Fairbanks, coach Oliver David, who took over the Bears in 2009, said Jackstadt and Butcher may have the best chemistry of any Brown Bears duo he has coached. He said the only players that compare is the Doug Beck-Brett Lubanski-Brad Duwe line of 2010-11 that combined for 177 points.
Jackstadt and Butcher opened the scoring 27 seconds into the second period when a crisp give-and-go driving to the net left Jackstadt with a wide-open chance. Vincent Stefan started power-play scoring sequence.
About three minutes later, Butcher hit a low shot that bounced off the pads of Fresno goalie Tomas Sholl and straight to Jackstadt, who pounded it in.
"We had a goal exactly like that in Fresno," Jackstadt said. "Ollie always says to go to the net hard with your stick on the ice."
After Fresno cut it to 2-1 on a Jacob McDowell goal, the Anchorage connection decided to get the Peninsula in on the action.
Tic-tac-toe passing between Butcher, Jackstadt and Kenai Central product Zack Zulkanycz led to a point-blank shot in the slot that Zulkanycz slung into the twine.
In the third period, Jacob Davidson iced the game on a short-handed goal from Mikhail Bushinski that leads to this fun stat of the day — in its last 18 games, Kenai River is only trailing the opposition 3-2 when the opposition is on the power play. And this fun-stat bonus — both Davidson and Bushinski played at prep powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary's.
While Butcher and Jackstadt grabbed the headlines, David also lauded the players who took to this week's theme of effort, specifically mentioning forwards Conor Deal, Zulkanycz and Brad LeLievre and all the defensemen. The defensemen were in on eight of the nine goals scored Thursday and Friday.
Fresno came to Kenai River as winners of three of four, but the Brown Bears have stopped that momentum in its tracks.
"We haven't shown up the last two nights," said Monsters coach Eric Ballard. "Kenai River is a good team and a well-coached team.
"If you don't show up and compete and show intensity against them, you end up losing 5-1 and 4-1."
The Bears outshot Fresno 54-29, which was key because Sholl will be playing for Division I school Bowling Green next year even though he will still be age eligible for junior play.
"He still had a save percentage of over .900," David said. "That is a potential Hall of Fame career in the NHL — .900 is where you want to be.
"We were fortunate enough to throw a lot of rubber at him."
For the fifth straight game, Bears goalie Evan McCarthy also stayed above the .900 mark.
"Evan did a great job keeping us in the game," Jackstadt said.
On Feb. 9, McCarthy had the tough task of being a rusty goalie taking over for a hot goalie. He hadn't played since Jan. 12 because Marcus Zelzer was leading the team on a nine-game point streak.
After allowing six goals on 26 shots at Fairbanks on Feb. 15, McCarthy has steadied the ship.
"I started a little rough," he said. "I was giving up one to two bad goals a game and I felt that was taking us out of those games.
"I've been able to fix that lately."
The Bears, owners of a 23-23-6 record and winners of five straight against Fresno (15-31-6), drop the puck with the Monsters at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Notes: Astute fans of junior hockey in the area will recognize Ballard as the one-time bench boss for the Mat-Su Sinbad Sailors, a rival of the Peninsula Chinooks squad for which David played. … In addition to the victory, the 632 in attendance saw two fights, a successful marriage proposal at intermission and the head fall off the fish that is thrown on the ice after the first Bears goal. … Don't use pen on those playoff brackets just yet. Fairbanks defeated Wenatchee (Wash.) 3-1 on Friday and is now just five points behind the Wild. If the Ice Dogs pass the Wild, Kenai River would get Wenatchee in the first round of the playoffs.
Brown Bears 4, Monsters 1
First period — none. Penalties — Fresno 4 for 11:00, Kenai River 2 for 7:00.
Second period — 1. Kenai River, Jackstadt (Butcher, Stefan), pp, 0:27; 2. Kenai River, Jackstadt (Butcher, Vance), 3:16; 3. Fresno, McDowell (un.), 4:11; 4. Kenai River, Zulkanycz (Butcher, Jackstadt), 16:00. Penalties — Fresno 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Davidson (Bushinski), sh, 3:25. Penalties — Fresno 4 for 11:00; Kenai River 3 for 9:00.
Shots on goal — Fresno 9-9-11—29; Kenai River 13-22-19—54.
Goalies — Fresno, Sholl (54 shots, 50 saves); Kenai River, McCarthy (29 shots, 28 saves).
Power plays — Fresno 0 for 2; Kenai River 1 for 5.