Alec Butcher had two goals and two assists to lead the Gold team to a 5-2 victory over the Black team on Friday night in the 2013 Brown and Gold Game at the Soldotna Sports Center.
The scrimmage serves as a dress rehearsal for the Kenai River Brown Bears’ regular season, which starts Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the sports center when the Fairbanks Ice Dogs come to town.
With 10 returners playing in the scrimmage, the event was an invaluable way to help break in the team’s rookies.
“It gave the young guys a chance to experience a few parts of the game they may not have experienced, like three 20-minute periods or long intermissions,” said Jake Bushey, a returning defenseman who picked up an assist for the Gold squad.
The Bears lost a lot of firepower from last year’s team, as leading scorer Matt Seidel was traded and second-leading scorer Alex Jackstadt was drafted by the United States Hockey League and is currently sticking with the league. Zac Lazzaro was third in points and aged out.
Butcher, who had 10 goals and 20 assists in 41 games for the Bears last season, showed where some of the lost offense can be made up.
He skated on a line with Albin Karlsson, a Division I recruit who had 11 goals and 18 assists last season, and German newcomer Sebastian Fuchs. Karlsson had two assists, while Fuchs had a goal and an assist.
“I love playing with them,” said Butcher, who played on the same line at times with Karlsson last season. “They are smart hockey players and they make good plays with the puck.”
Brown Bears head coach Geoff Beauparlant, in his first season taking over for the departed Oliver David, said a lot can’t be read into Friday’s lines.
“I told them they have to be ready to play with anyone,” the coach said. “It depends on who we are playing against, where we are playing and what time of year we are playing.”
Butcher and Jackstadt grew up playing together in Anchorage, and that chemistry was apparent last year on the ice. But Friday showed Butcher can produce without his Anchorage linemate.
“I thought Butcher was the best player on the ice tonight,” Beauparlant said.
Beauparlant wants a high-tempo, high-pressure brand of hockey. He said that after a jittery start, the team settled in and provided just that.
The four returning defensemen for the Bears — Bushey and Loewenstein for the Gold, Vincent Stefan and Jake Davidson for the Black — were on the ice, but the Bears still found plenty of ways to create scoring chances.
“I don’t think the goalies could have done anything on the goals that were scored,” Beauparlant said. “It wasn’t necessarily defensive breakdowns. Our guys were just c reative getting the puck to the net.”
Bushey is happy with the way the defense is shaping up.
“We feel we’re really solid all the way around,” he said. “We have eight guys that can play every night.
“We’re all good in the D zone, and can hit and move the puck up the ice.”
Newcomer Tyler Andrews, a defenseman, had a goal and an assist for the Gold to show there’s promise in more than just the returning defenseman.
Andrews comes to the Bears from the Under-18 Junior Aces and Dimond High School, where he helped the Lynx to back-to-back state titles. Last season, he was the team’s captain.
The game featured eight affiliate players from Southcentral, as well as Anchorage players Butcher, Conor Deal, Kris Oldham and Andrews, Wasilla’s Chancie Hanson and Kenai Central product Zack Zulkanycz.
“Players like coming here,” Andrews said. “It’s a nice city. The Brown Bears have been doing better and better ever since they started.”
Zulkanycz led the Black team with a goal and an assist, while Matt Rudin added two assists.
After playing in a mainly defensive role on the fourth line last season, Zulkanycz worked hard at upping his game in the summer.
“I want to be more of an offensive threat with the puck,” he said. “I want to be on the ice for the hard minutes and the important times.”
Beauparlant also credited Jack Gessert, who had a Gold goal, and Deal with solid outings.
Adding assists for Gold were Tommy Dierl and affiliates Miles Giorgione and Kris Tomazevic. For Black, Nathan Colwell had a goal and Hanson had an assist.
Gold 5, Black 2
Gold 1 1 3 —5
Black 0 1 1 —2
First period — 1. Gold, Gessert (Andrews, Dierl), 10:50. Penalties — Black 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Black, Colwell (Zulkanycz, Rudin), 4:25. 3. Gold, Fuchs (Bushey, Butcher), pp, 9:27. Penalties — Black 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 4. Gold, Andrews (Butcher, Karlsson), 6:58. 5. Gold, Butcher (Fuchs, Tomazevic), 9:03; 6. Black, Zulkanycz (Rudin, Hanson), 14:24; 7. Gold, Butcher (Karlsson, Giorgione), 17:12. Penalties — none.