The Kenai River Brown Bears completed a three-game sweep of the host Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild on Sunday and now stand on top of the North American Hockey League.
The Bears won their eighth in a row and 12th in 13 games to run their record to 12-3, good for 24 points. Wichita Falls (Texas) is next in the league with 23 points.
"They've come together as a team quickly and they play for each other," Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant said. "That's huge.
"It's so early, but we're excited with where we are at."
Kenai River also earned more breathing room in the Midwest Division, where the Minnesota Wilderness are second with 21 points and Fairbanks is third with 20 points.
Sunday, the Bears came back from a 2-0 deficit after the first period in front of 2,158 at the Town Toyota Center.
Ryan Gotelaere and Trey Bradley scored in the first for the Wild as they outshot the Bears 16-6.
"We came out flat," Beauparlant said. "We weren't moving our feet and we were throwing pucks away. They came out with a lot of energy and put pressure on us."
Beauparlant said goalie Kris Oldham, who made 36 saves, had several huge stops in the first period to keep the game close. Oldham improved to 3-1 this season, giving the Bears a solid tandem along with Zach Quinn.
"It's nice to have a one-two punch we can rely on," Beauparlant said. "The boys believe that either Kris or Zach can get us two points."
Beauparlant gave his squad credit for turning it around in the second period. Alec Butcher, on an assist from Zack Zulkanycz, scored just 18 seconds into the second period. Butcher leads the NAHL with 22 points, on 10 goals and 12 assists.
With 16:20 left in the game, Kenai River tied it on a short-handed goal from Zulkanycz, assisted by Butts.
Beauparlant said Butts set up a two-on-one with Zulkanycz by beating a pinching defenseman in Kenai River's zone.
With 6:09 to play, Nathan Colwell gave the Bears a 3-2 lead by sliding the puck through the legs of Chase Perry, who made 20 saves. Albin Karlsson and Christian Luiten had assists.
With 3:49, Chris Jones tied the game for Wenatchee, but the Bears continued to execute in the final two minutes.
With 1:38 to play, Butcher played the puck to Zulkanycz, who played the puck to an open area. Karlsson skated into that area and snapped the puck into the net.
The Bears play Friday and Saturday at the Austin (Minn.) Bruins, a team which leads the Central Division with a 10-3 record.
"They are a very good hockey club," Beauparlant said. "We are expecting two hard-fought games."
Beauparlant also said the Bears have not heard from the league on the suspension of Judd Loewenstein.
Loewenstein was supsended Saturday after a five-minute major for head contact Friday.
Beauparlant said Loewenstein could have played Sunday, but he didn't in hopes that the league will deem two games sufficient.
Brown Bears 4, Wild 3
First period — 1. Wenatchee, Gotelaere (Loggins, Tuomie), 8:05; 2. Wenatchee, Bradley (Rymsha, Loggins), 11:16. Penalties — none.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Butcher (Zulkanycz), 0:18. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Wenatchee 5 for 10:00.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Zulkanycz (Butts), sh, 3:40; 5. Kenai River, Colwell (Karlsson, Luiten), 13:51; 6. Wenatchee, Jones (Koukis, Gotelaere), pp, 16:11; 7. Kenai River, Karlsson (Zulkanycz, Butcher), 18:22. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Wenatchee 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 6-8-10—24; Wenatchee 16-11-12—39.
Goalies — Kenai River, Oldham (39 shots, 36 saves); Wenatchee, Perry (24 shots, 20 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 5; Wenatchee 1 for 5.