The Kenai River Brown Bears finished undefeated at the North American Hockey League Showcase at the Schwans Super Rink in Blaine, Minn.
The Bears finished up their perfect run with a 4-1 win over defending Robertson Cup champ Amarillo (Texas) on Friday, and a 4-3 shootout victory over Brookings (S.D.) on Saturday.
The Bears are now 4-2 and in second place in the Midwest Division. Fairbanks, which opened the season with two wins over Kenai River in Soldotna, is in first at 6-0.
The rest of the division also fared very well at the showcase. The only time a Midwest team did not pick up a point in a game against a team from another division was Saturday, when the Minnesota Magicians lost to the Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes 5-3.
Kenai River stays on the road to face those Magicians on Saturday and Sunday.
Brown Bears goalie Zach Quinn finished off an impressive showcase by stopping four of five in the shootout Saturday.
Quinn also won a shootout Thursday against the Janesville (Wis.) Jets. He bookended that by taking down defending champ Amarillo on Friday and 2012 champ Lone Star (Texas) Brahmas on Wednesday. Quinn made 21 saves on 24 shots Saturday for the Bears, who outshot Brookings 30-24.
Conor Deal gave Kenai River the lead in the first period when he scored on assists from Brad LeLievre and Frankie Spellman.
In the second period, Brookings took six penalties and Kenai River had five. The Blizzard got the better of the special teams play.
Nick Nitta had a power-play goal to tie the game, then Conor Andrie scored short-handed with nine seconds left in the period for a 2-1 lead.
The Bears quickly bounced back in the third.
Spellman, on an assist from Deal, scored 2:06 into the period to tie it, and a little more than a minute later, Alec Butcher, on an assist from Jake Bushey, scored on the power play.
An Eric Brenk goal with 12:20 to play forced overtime, where the Bears outshot the Blizzard 5-1 but couldn’t score.
In the shootout, Albin Karlsson gave the Bears a 1-0 lead, but Andrie answered. Butcher, who leads the Bears with eight points, scored as the Bears’ fifth and final shooter for the win.
In Friday’s game against Amarillo, forward Sebastian Fuchs broke a 1-1 tie 6 minutes, 52 seconds, into the third period with a power-play goal with assists from Butcher and Bushey.
The power play proved to be especially effective for the Bears, who converted 2 of 7 opportunities into goals. Both came in the third period.
“It was a really good hockey game, both teams played tough, entertaining, pretty solid hard-hitting hockey all around,” said Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant. “We were solid on the penalty kill, and Zach Quinn made the saves he had to make.”
Quinn staved off a crucial penalty shot taken by Amarillo early in the third period that kept the Bulls from taking a lead, which led to Fuchs’ goal minutes later.
“That really gave us a spark,” Beauparlant said.
Quinn ended an impressive performance with 28 saves on 29 shots.
Kenai Central product Zach Zulkanycz opened the scoring Friday with a quick goal only 23 seconds into the game, with assists from Matt Rudin and Sam Bratten.
Amarillo’s lone goal came 1:38 into the second period on a power play, but after Fuchs’ score gave Kenai the lead in the third, Jacob Davidson and Bratten added goals to seal the win. Davidson, Bratten and Deal each ended up with two points.
“I think we’ve learned a lot from last weekend,” Beauparlant said of the season-opening sweep at the hands of the Ice Dogs. “Some of the newer guys are learning what it takes to play at this level.
“We made a couple line changes, but the big thing is we’re playing as a group. The depth we have is starting to show.”
Brown Bears 4, Bulls 1
Kenai River 1 0 3 —4
Amarillo 0 1 0 —1
1st Period — 1. Kenai River, Zulkanycz (Rudin, Bratten), :23. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Amarillo 3 for 6:00.
2nd Period — 2. Amarillo, Gernhofer (Ammirato, Vetter), pp, 1:38. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Amarillo 2 for 4:00
3rd Period — 3. Kenai River, Fuchs (Butcher, Bushey), pp, 6:52; 4. Kenai River, Davidson (Berglund, Deal), pp, 11:30; 5. Kenai River, Bratten (Deal, Davidson), empty net, 19:22. Penalties — Amarillo 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 10-13-7—30; Amarillo 6-15-8—29.
Goalies — Kenai River, Quinn (29 shots, 28 saves); Amarillo, Delia (29 shots, 26 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 2 for 7, Amarillo 1 for 4.
Brown Bears 4, Blizzard 3, SO
Brookings 0 2 1 0 0 —3
Kenai River 1 0 2 0 1 —4
First period — 1. Kenai River, Deal (LeLievre, Spellman), 9:05. Penalties — 4 for 8:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 2. Brookings, Nitta (Brenk, Hesse), pp, 14:21; 3. Brookings, Andrie (Anderson), sh, 19:51. Penalties — Brookings 6 for 12:00; Kenai River 5 for 10:00.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Spellman (Deal), 2:06; 5. Kenai River, Butcher (Bushey), pp, 3:11; 6. Brookings, Brenk (Schmidt), 7:40. Penalties — Brookings 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — none.
Shootout — Brookings 1 (Lindquist NG, Brenk NG, Andrie G, DeCenzo NG, Hesse NG); Kenai River 2 (Stefan NG, Karlsson G, Fuchs NG, Colwell NG, Butcher G).
Shots on goal — Brookings 7-8-8-1—24; Kenai River 8-9-8-5—30.
Goalies — Brookings, Genest (30 shots, 27 saves); Kenai River, Quinn (24 shots, 21 saves).
Power plays — Brookings 1 for 5; Kenai River 1 for 9.