The Kenai River Brown Bears dropped a road game against the Coulee Region (Wisc.) Chill 2-1 Friday night at the Omni Center in Onalaska.
Entering the night, Kenai River was on a 3-game win streak but failed to continue the momentum, even while outshooting the Chill 39-30.
"I thought we came out with some good jump and really controlled about the first six or seven minutes of the game," said Bears coach Geoff Beauparlant. "They're a resilient team that worked hard and pushed back."
The loss drops the Brown Bears to a 17-15-3 season record, leaving them clinging to the final playoff spot in the North American Hockey League Midwest division with 37 points, good for fourth place. The Chill — in third place — closed up to within one point of the Minnesota Wilderness.
The Bears topped Coulee Region in two games in early October, but the Chill struck first on Friday with a power play goal by Andy Faust midway through the first period, and added to the total in the second period when Dunk Abbott beat Kenai River goalie Zach Quinn, putting the Chill up 2-0.
The first goal came on a 2-on-2 rush, but Kenai River was caught looking the wrong way when Faust found a hole in the defense and put it away.
"We got caught with our hand in the cookie jar," Beauparlant said. "We were just trying to score underhanded and it cost us."
It only took 1 minute, 36 seconds for the Bears to respond, when Judd Loewenstein and Matt Rudin were able to set up Eric Purcell for the goal that allowed Kenai River to close back to within one. Jack Gessert sent the puck across the rink to Loewenstein, who put a shot on net, and Purcell caught the rebound to score.
"It was a good momentum swing for us," Beauparlant said. "A couple times in the third we hit the post, we had two power play chances but nothing worked."
In the third period, the Bears outshot the Chill 12-9, but each chance was turned away by Blake Cates, who saved 38 of 39 shots Kenai River sent his way.
Zach Quinn was in net, saving 28 of 30 shots on goal for Kenai River.
The Brown Bears have a shot at redemption on Saturday night before returning home, contending with Coulee Region for a 4 p.m. (ADT) tilt at the Omni Center. After Saturday, Kenai River returns for an 11-game homestand.
"I think our guys will be motivated," Beauparlant said. "We spent a lotof unnecessary energy tonight, we had bad penalties that put us behind the eight ball, a couple scrums."
Friday, Omni Center
Chill 2, Brown Bears 1
Kenai River 0 1 0 —1
Coulee Region 1 1 0 —2
First period — 1. Coulee Region, Faust (Rafferty, Kelley), pp, 9:55. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 14:00; Coulee Region 5 for 18:00.
Second period — 2. Coulee Region, Abbott (Wells, Kelley), 11:41; 3. Kenai River, Purcell (Loewenstein, Rudin), 13:17. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Coulee Region 2 for 4:00.
Third period — no scoring. Penalties — Kenai River 5 for 18:00; Coulee Region 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 11-16-12—39; Coulee Region 7-14-9—30.
Goalies — Kenai River, Quinn (30 shots, 28 saves); Coulee Region, Cates (39 shots, 38 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 3; Coulee Region 1 for 4.