After the Corpus Christi (Texas) IceRays and the Kenai River Brown Bears avoided the big mistake for three periods of regulation and overtime Friday, the Bears finally slipped up — just a little — in the third round of the shootout.
And it won them the game.
Sebastian Fuchs scored the lone goal of the shootout to give the Bears a 1-0 North American Hockey League victory in front of 930 fans at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Fuchs skated in on Corpus goalie Ben Myers and flipped a backhand over his glove side.
"I tried to go backhand up top and I missed the puck, but it went in," Fuchs said.
So he wasn't trying to loft the puck so deftly over the goalie's glove?
"It went in, so maybe I was," Fuchs said.
The Bears have now won eight of nine and move to 8-3, good for second in the Midwest Division behind the 18 points of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
The IceRays fall to 4-5-2. The same two teams play at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the sports center.
Fuchs' tally would be the only time a puck got past Myers and Kenai River goaltender Zach Quinn all evening.
Quinn stopped all five IceRays shooters and is now 3-0 in shootouts this year, having allowed just two shooters to score.
"We have some guys that are pretty talented," Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said when asked about the shootout success. "At the same time, coaches say they never want to go to a shootout because it's a crapshoot or a circus and you never know what is going to happen."
The Bears now have their 8-3 record despite outscoring opponents just 34-28.
"We keep finding a way early in the year," Beauparlant said. "That's big with the young group that we have."
The IceRays gave up 89 shots in their previous two games against the Ice Dogs.
Beauparlant did not expect a team coached by John Becanic to keep yielding so many shots. Becanic's Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild set an NAHL record by allowing just 1.70 goals per game in 2011-12.
"They defended well, and that's always the case when you play a team coached by coach Becanic," Beauparlant said. "You have to be very disciplined and structured because they play that way."
The Bears passed that test in getting Quinn his first Bears' shutout and improving his numbers to 7-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
"They had a couple good chances, but the D played really well and kept the shots to the outside," Quinn said.
The IceRays also frustrated the Bears' offense, and both teams finished with 22 shots.
"We didn't get much offense," Fuchs said. "When we did get chances, they always had guys in the shooting lanes."
Beauparlant said the key was the Bears didn't get frustrated and make a mistake leading to an IceRays' counterattack.
"We were able to stay patient the entire game," he said.
Even power plays couldn't break the ice, with the IceRays going 0 for 3 and the Bears finishing 0 for 6.
"We took too many penalties and didn't give ourselves a chance," Becanic said. "Our best players were killing penalties instead of getting chances to score."
Myers continued a torrid trip to Alaska, where he has stopped 94 of 97 shots, bumping his save percentage to .947.
"I think we played well in front of him tonight, but he has been good," Becanic said after his team fell to 0-2 in shootouts.
The game finished with twice as many fights as goals, as Kenai River's Conor Deal and the IceRays' Nick Govig scrapped in the second, and the Bears' Frankie Spellman and Frank Dini of Corpus dropped the gloves in the third. Beauparlant said the fights helped stir his team.
"We didn't have much energy, especially the first half of the game," Beauparlant said. "They answered the bell and brought us some energy."
Brown Bears 1, IceRays 0, SO
First period — none. Penalties — Corpus Christi 1 for 2:00.
Second period — none. Penalties — Corpus Christi 5 for 13:00; Kenai River 5 for 13:00.
Third period — none. Penalties — Corpus Christi 5 for 13:00; Kenai River 3 for 9:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — Corpus Christi 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shootout — Corpus Christi 0 (Ville NG, Mi. Hojbjerg NG, Ma. Hojbjerg NG, Bennett NG, Michaud NG); Kenai River 1 (Stefan NG, Rudin NG, Fuchs G, Butcher NG).
Shots on goal — Corpus Christi 8-13-1-0—22; Kenai River 5-10-7-0—22.
Goalies — Corpus Christi, Myers (22 shots, 22 saves); Kenai River, Quinn (22 shots, 22 saves).
Power plays — Corpus Christi 0 for 3; Kenai River 0 for 6.