The Kenai River Brown Bears rallied in the third period to top the Fairbanks Ice Dogs 5-3 on Saturday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena in Fairbanks, notching their first victory over Fairbanks this season and snapping a nine-game winning streak for the Ice Dogs.
Albin Karlsson brought home the game-winner with 4 minutes, 4 seconds, left in the game, his ninth goal of the year. Matt Rudin set it up with a goal of his own two minutes prior that tied it up at 3-3. Rudin had two goals and an assist on Saturday, a feat that Jack Gessert also produced.
“It was a great team effort, a big win for this group of guys,” said Brown Bears coach Geoff Beauparlant. “We’ve talked about how close we were before in other games, and in the first eight games we could’ve won a few and the series could be closer. But it’s good to pull one out on the road.”
The win helped Kenai River (14-11-3) to retain its spot in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division standings, keeping Coulee Region (Minn.) Chill from overtaking them for third place. The Bears hold 31 points, one better than the Chill, while Fairbanks is still stuck in a tie for the division lead with the Minnesota Wilderness with 38 points.
On Saturday night, Gessert got the Bears on the board first just over seven minutes into the game, but a penalty shot early in the second period by Fairbanks’ Ethan Somoza knotted it up, and less than three minutes later, Taylor Munson gave the Ice Dogs a 2-1 lead.
Gessert scored again late in the second period on a power play to make it a tie game heading into the third stanza.
“We did a lot of little things on both goals, whether it was a good dump or taking the puck to the net,” Beauparlant said. “We had good puck protection and it was fun to watch them execute everything we’ve worked on these last few weeks.”
Hans Gorowsky dimmed Kenai River’s mood early in the third period, getting a goal that put Fairbanks up 3-2, but the Bears were not finished yet.
Rudin’s score with 6:20 left in the game left the game open for any shot to be the game-winner, and Karlsson — with the help of Alec Butcher and Sebastian Fuchs — managed to chip the puck in past Fairbanks goalie Kevin Aldridge. Rudin added an insurance goal on an empty net with seven seconds remaining.
“Butcher released it to Fuchs, who had a nice move to protect the puck, and Albin went right over the goaltender’s shoulder,” Beauparlant said.
Even though Kenai River was outshot by Fairbanks 38-26 (and outshot 140-65 over the last four games), Beauparlant said he believes his squad is starting to improve on getting the puck to the net with players around to knock it in.
“(Fairbanks) can get it to the net from everywhere,” Beauparlant said. “They’re not afraid to shoot it from any angle, and I think we’re getting there too. Playing here is a big difference, it’s definitely not a friendly environment.”
Zach Quinn had the win for Kenai River in goal, saving 35 of 38 shots, earning the congratulations from Beauparlant.
“(Quinn) was tracking the puck well, he played confident, and I think it was a big step forward for him,” Beauparlant said.
Friday, the Ice Dogs received a hat trick from Colton Wolter to win in front of 1,829.
Wolter scored just 1 minute, 26 seconds into the game on a shot from the outside.
“I know (goalie Zach) Quinn would have liked to have that one back,” Beauparlant said.
Wolter then scored on the power play with 14:34 left in the first period for a 2-0 lead.
“They came with some energy and I thought we matched it at first,” Beauparlant said. “Obviously, giving up goals in the first couple of minutes of a hockey game puts you behind the eight-ball, especially in a place like the Dipper.”
Kyle Lee scored for a 3-0 lead in the second period due to a Kenai River turnover in its own zone. Alec Butcher, assisted by Eric Purcell and Sebastian Fuchs, came back to make it 3-1 just 22 seconds later.
Both Purcell and Butcher ended up in a fight with Ice Dogs after the goal.
“I guess they were unhappy we were around their net,” Beauparlant said. “I saw them celebrating a goal, and the next thing I knew a fight was breaking out.”
Quinn (28 saves) and Kevin Aldridge (16 saves) kept clean sheets for the rest of the game. Wolter finished off his hat trick and the game with an empty-netter.
Although the shots were 32-17 in favor of Fairbanks, Beauparlant had the Grade A scoring chances at 8-5 for the Ice Dogs.
“We have to look at the positives,” the coach said. “We executed the game plan extremely well. We made two big mistakes that cost us.”
Beauparlant said affiliate player Blake Brazil had a solid game, drawing a penalty for the Bears’ lone power play of the night. The coach also said Jake Bushey had his best game since returning from the United States Hockey League.
The Brown Bears have another two-game weekend series with the Ice Dogs looming ahead on Dec. 13 and 14 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Ice Dogs 4, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 0 1 0 —1
Fairbanks 2 1 1 —4
First period — 1. Fairbanks, Wolter (Gervais, Ege), 1:26; 2. Fairbanks, Wolter (Ege, Burgess), pp, 5:26. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 3. Fairbanks, Lee (Vedel, Somoza), 15:40; 4. Kenai River, Butcher (Purcell, Fuchs), 16:02. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 22:00; Fairbanks 4 for 22:00.
Third period — 5. Fairbans, Wolter (Munson, Clary), en, 19:13. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 4-7-6—17; Fairbanks 10-11-11—32.
Goalies — Kenai River, Quinn (31 shots, 28 saves); Aldridge (17 shots, 16 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 1; Fairbanks 1 for 2.
Brown Bears 5, Ice Dogs 3
Kenai River 1 1 3 —5
Fairbanks 0 2 1 —3
First period — 1. Kenai River, Gessert (Rudin, Loewenstein), 7:04. Penalties — Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Fairbanks, Somoza (penalty shot), 5:46; 3. Fairbanks, Munson (Gorowsky), 8:19; 4. Kenai River, Gessert (Bushey, Butcher), pp, 16:58. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 5. Fairbanks, Gorowsky (Munson), 7:15; 6. Kenai River, Rudin (Zulkanycz, Gessert), 13:40; 7. Kenai River, Karlsson (Fuchs, Butcher), 15:56; 8. Kenai River, Rudin (un.), en, 19:53. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 7:00; Fairbanks 2 for 7:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-9-8—26; Fairbanks 12-13-13—38.
Goalies — Kenai River, Quinn (38 shots, 35 saves); Fairbanks, Aldridge (25 shots, 21 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 4; Fairbanks 0 for 2.