The late-game magic finally ran dry for the Kenai River Brown Bears.
The Bears lost 5-3 to the host Austin (Minn.) Bruins on Friday to halt an eight-game North American Hockey League winning streak.
In five of those wins, the Bears scored the game-winning goal in the final two minutes of the game, or in overtime or the shootout.
Friday in front of 1,113, the Bears faced a 4-1 deficit to start the third period and cut it to 4-3 before a empty-net goal by Jake Arroyo with 21 seconds left sealed the deal.
The game featured two of the NAHL's top squads. The Bears, at 12-4 and atop the Midwest Division, still have the most points in the league at 24. The Bruins lead the Central Division with an 11-3 mark, good for 22 points.
"It was a well-played hockey game," Beauparlant said. "They will come up and play us, but these are two teams that could see each other later in the season."
Austin took the lead 4:52 in, when Guillaume Leclerc scored the first of his two goals.
"I thought we came out a little sluggish," Beauparlant said. "We got behind the eight-ball and down 1-0 a little bit, but we rebounded and had a good couple of shifts to swing the momentum in our favor."
With 13:35 remaining in the first, Albin Karlsson tied it on an assist from Kenai Central product Zack Zulkanycz.
Karlsson, who has the team's lone Division I commitment, also had an assist and now has eight points in his last four games.
Niagara University signed Karlsson early last season, and Beauparlant said Karlsson is realizing the potential that Niagara saw.
"He's turned into a complete hockey player," Beauparlant said. "He's a warrior that wants to win so badly.
"He makes things happen with his speed and he has learned to play greedier and take more pucks to the net."
The Kenai River bench boss said his team came out fine in the second period, but former Bears player Lucas Kohls scored just over five minutes in.
Beauparlant said the goal threw his team off.
"We got away from what works for us," he said. "That's working hard, keeping the game simple, not making turnovers and playing good defense."
The Bruins outshot the Bears 12-4 in the period an added goals by Drew Anderson and Leclerc to take the three-goal advantage into the third.
"In the third, we executed our forecheck, move the puck quickly, created pressure in the right area and forced some turnovers," Beauparlant said. "That allowed us to climb back in the game."
With 12:14 to play, Christian Luiten scored, assisted by Karlsson.
With 4:53 left, Frankie Spellman punctuated a fine performance with a goal assisted by Nathan Colwell.
"He brings an element that not too many bring for us," Beauparlant said of Spellman, listed at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds. "He brings size and farm-boy strength. He's put together. He's a big boy that's difficult to move."
The Bears had a power play with 4:12 left, then Beauparlant said they had several chances with the extra attacker.
"Lady Luck was not on our side tonight," Beauparlant said. "We can't keep tempting fate. It came back to bite us tonight."
Zach Quinn made 26 saves for the Bears, while Nicholas Lehr had 21 saves for the Bruins.
"It was an average night for Zach in net," Beauparlant said. "For the first time, he gave up a questionable goal.
"I know he was upset. He'll be in net tomorrow night — that's how much confidence we have in him."
Veteran defensemen Judd Loewenstein was serving the third game of a three-game suspension, and veteran defenseman Jake Bushey was still in the United States Hockey League.
That put a lot of pressure on the Bears' young defensemen against a team featuring Jay Dickman, tied for second in the league in scoring. Dickman had an assist.
"Our younger guys rose to the challenge against a veteran team that was right there last year and won the (NAHL) Showcase with Fairbanks this year," Beauparlant said.
The Bears and Bruins play Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ADT.
Bruins 5, Brown Bears 3
First period — 1. Austin, Leclerc (Dodd, Manley), 4:52; 2. Kenai River, Karlsson (Zulkanycz), 6:25. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 7:00; Austin 3 for 9:00.
Second period — 3. Austin, Kohls (Leclerc), 5:02; 4. Austin, Anderson (Nelson, Dickman), 11:20; 5. Austin, Leclerc (Bretner, Petersson), 17:28. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Austin 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 6. Kenai River, Luiten (Karlsson), 7:46; 7. Kenai River, Spellman (Colwell), 15:07; 8. Austin, Arroyo (un.), en, 19:39.
Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Austin 4 for 8:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 6-4-14—24; Austin 11-12-8—31.
Goalies — Kenai River, Quinn (30 shots, 26 saves); Austin, Lehr (24 shots, 21 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 4; Austin 0 for 3.