The Kenai River Brown Bears continued their hot streak by scoring a 4-3 overtime victory over the Corpus Christi (Texas) Ice Rays at the Soldotna Sports Center on Saturday night. Vincent Stefan tallied the game-winner only 2 minutes, 46 seconds, into overtime.
The win gives the Bears a sweep of the Rays for the weekend, after another close game on Friday netted a shootout win for Kenai River.
Kenai River has won nine of its last 10 games, putting them in a tie with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for the Midwest Division lead with 18 points apiece, which is also tied for most points scored in the North American Hockey League this year, as Wichita Falls (Texas) and Port Huron (Mich.) have also captured 18 points.
However, Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant said he and his team are not content to rest on their laurels just yet.
“It’s a long season and we’re proud of where we’re at, but there’s a long way to go,” Beauparlant said. “We have a lot to learn and the group is still jelling.”
After a scoreless first period on Saturday night, Corpus Christi struck first with two goals early in the second from Martin Hojbjerg and Tony Roisum, but Kenai River ended strong with a goal from Brad LeLievre with 1:45 left that closed the gap for the Bears.
Nathan Colwell tied the game with under eight minutes to go in the third period, but Corpus Christi’s Maurin Bouvet managed to slip the puck past Brown Bears goalie Kris Oldham to give the Rays a 3-2 lead with 1:37 left. Oldham saved 20 of 23 shots on net to get the win for Kenai River.
“We’ve been in that position a number of times this year, and we’re comfortable playing like that,” Beauparlant said. “We know our guys know their responsibilities, and we’re always trying for a good defense first, and try to put pucks on net on the offensive end.”
Only 24 seconds after the Ice Rays took the lead, Jake Bushey tied it up again with assists from Stefan and Alec Butcher, and the game went to overtime.
Beauparlant said the read on the net by Stefan is what clinched the game-winning goal for Kenai River.
“It was a slow roll by Albin (Karlsson), he got to the middle of the ice, and Vinny got to the net,” Beauparlant said. “He beat his guy to the inside and it was a great effort.”
Stefan’s game-winning shot ensured the Bears will take momentum into an off week, before they take to the road for a three-game series with Wenatchee (Wash.) starting on Oct. 25.
Brown Bears 4, IceRays 3, OT
Corpus Christi 0 2 1 0 —3
Kenai River 0 1 2 1 —4
First period — none. Penalties — Corpus 3 for 14:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 1. Corpus, Ma. Hojbjerg (Dini, Michaud), 1:47; 2. Corpus, Roisum (Bennett), 2:52; 3. Kenai River, LeLievre (Decker, Rudin), 18:15. Penalties — Corpus 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Colwell (Rudin, Zulkanycz), 13:47; 5. Corpus, Bouvet (Durflinger), 18:23; 6. Kenai River, Bushey (Stefan, Butcher), ea, 18:47. Penalties — Corpus 5 for 10:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Overtime — 7. Kenai River, Stefan (Karlsson, Chavez), 2:46.
Shots on goal — Corpus 9-9-3-2—23; Kenai River 8-8-5-2.
Goalies — Corpus, Ploszaj (23 shots, 19 saves); Kenai River, Oldham (23 shots, 20 saves).
Power plays — Corpus 0 for 5; Kenai River 0 for 8.