The Kenai River Brown Bears finished off a 5-1 trip to the Lower 48 with a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Magicians on Sunday in Richfield, Minn.
“It was good getting out on the road,” Brown Bears coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “I think the guys kind of came together. We’re proud of our accomplishments over the last 10 days or so.”
The trip leaves Kenai River tied for second place in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division.
The Brown Bears (5-3-0) and Coulee Region (Wis.) are in second with 10 points, while the 7-1 Fairbanks Ice Dogs lead the way with 14 points.
Kenai River hosts Coulee Region at the Soldotna Sports Center on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
In Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Magicians, the Brown Bears were outshot 15-10 in the first period and Beauparlant was not happy with the energy early in the game.
Kenai River outshot Minnesota 15-8 in the first Sunday.
“We definitely came out with a lot more jump in the first period,” Beauparlant said. “The shots were pretty much the reverse of last night.”
However, Minnesota did create some good chances early. Derick Kuchera put the Magicians up 1-0 just 1:34 into the game.
Beauparlant said Kenai River goalie Kris Oldham then made two excellent saves to keep the Magicians from taking a bigger lead.
With 8:57 left in the first, Conor Deal scored on the power play on an assist from Nathan Colwell to tie the game. Deal now has three goals and seven points this season.
After a paucity of penalties Saturday, Beauparlant said Sunday’s game was more physical. The Bears got 12 power-play chances to Minnesota’s 10.
The Bears won the battle of special teams by notching two power-play goals and allowing none.
The Bears took a 2-1 lead in the second when Albin Karlsson, assisted by Alec Butcher, scored on the power play.
“I though Albin was a warrior tonight,” Beauparlant said. “Late in the game, with about 10 minutes to go, (Sebastian) Fuchs took a big hit in the corner and he was right there to stand up for his teammate.”
Karlsson had a goal and an assist and now has five points on the season.
With 3:45 left in the second, Jacob Davidson, on assists from Fuchs and Karlsson, scored the eventual game-winner for a 3-1 lead. It was Davidson’s third point of the year.
“Jake Davidson was really good tonight,” Beauparlant said. “He’s just been solid. He doesn’t get a lot of accolades, but he’s solid game in and game out.”
Tony Uglem cut the gap to 3-2 with just 28 seconds left in the second period.
Beauparlant was then happy with the way the Bears closed out the game in the third. The shots were 8-8, leading to 33 shots for each squad in the game.
“We talked about learning to close a game out, and we did that very well,” Beauparlant said. “We didn’t take any risks but we still applied pressure when the opportunity was there.”
Beauparlant said Oldham was solid in the final period in picking up his first win for the Bears this year.
“It was a great confidence booster for him,” Beauparlant said. “He had a good week of practice. He worked hard and competed, and it showed tonight.”
The Magicians pulled their goalie with 1:20 left, and just 14 seconds later Alec Butcher scored an unassisted, empty-netter to ice the game. Butcher now has 11 points in eight games.
“I think these guys believe in battling for the logo,” Beauparlant said. “We really put a good effort forward.
“The biggest thing I am proud of is our resiliency game in and game out. Even within a game, we never get too high or too low. We battle for 60 minutes for the most part.”
Brown Bears 4, Magicians 2
Kenai River 1 2 1 —4
Minnesota 1 1 0 —2
First period — 1. Minnesota, D. Kuchera (Milligan), 1:34; 2. Kenai River, Deal (Colwell), pp, 11:03. Penalties — Kenai River 5 for 10:00; Minnesota 6 for 12:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Karlsson (Butcher), pp, 4:03; 4. Kenai River, Davidson (Fuchs, Karlsson), 16:15; 5. Minnesota, Uglem (Milligan), 19:32. Penalties — Kenai River 5 for 10:00; Minnesota 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 6. Kenai River, Butcher (un.), 18:54. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 8:00; Minnesota 5 for 10:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 15-10-8—33; Minnesota 8-17-8—33.
Goalies — Kenai River, Oldham (33 shots, 31 saves); Minnesota, Tolvanen (32 shots, 29 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 2 for 12; Minnesota 0 for 10.