There’s an old saying in sports. Whenever somebody asks how many more points are needed, the answer is always more.
It seems the Kenai River Brown Bears took that advice Saturday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, scoring a 7-1 victory over the Austin (Minn.) Bruins in the last of a three-game series. The Bears took two of three from the Bruins, and have a point in seven of their last eight contests.
The last time the Brown Bears scored seven goals in a game was nearly a year ago — March 15 against the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild. in a 7-5 win.
“We’ve been on the other side of that score sometimes, and it’s not easy, so it definitely feels good to be on the right side of that score,” said Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant.
Saturday’s win improved the Bears’ record to 23-18-6, leaving them in fourth place in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division with 52 points and a playoff bid, two points ahead of Wenatchee (22-19-6). Fairbanks (35-13) continues to lead the Midwest and the league with 70 points.
“It’s such an abnormality in our league, we can’t take things like this for granted,” Beauparlant said. “I liked a lot of the little things we did, we killed some five-on-three power plays, and Tyler Andrews was a beast on the back end, and (Kris) Oldham was solid in the net.”
Kenai River killed all eight Austin power plays, while Oldham earned his eighth win of the year with 24 saves on 25 shots. His shutout ended with just under 15 minutes left in the game.
The scoring started with Alec Butcher’s NAHL-leading 52nd point of the season just 1:08 into the game, and before the 13 minutes were up, Jacob Wolter and Christian Luiten had scored to give the Bears a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Tommy Dierl notched a goal in the second period, and Zack Zulkanycz, Conor Deal and Jack Gessert each scored in the third period as well.
Even in the waning minutes when the game seemed out of hand for Austin, Beauparlant had his players working hard to finish the game off.
“We’ve talked about playing a full 60 minutes no matter the score,” Beauparlant said. “We were still buzzing and executing, so it was exciting to watch. I’m sure the fans had a good time.”
Kenai River will take a week off before heading up to the Big Dipper in Fairbanks for a two-game series on Feb. 21 and 22.
Brown Bears 7, Bruins 1
Austin 0 0 1 —1
Kenai River 3 1 3 —7
First period — 1. Kenai River, Butcher (Zulkanycz, Stefan), 1:08; 2. Kenai River, Wolter (Deal, Stefan), 4:17; 3. Kenai River, Luiten (Karlsson), 12:47. Penalties — Austin 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 4. Kenai River, Dierl (Colwell), 16:18. Penalties — Austin 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Zulkanycz (Deal), 4:27; 6. Austin, Leclerc (Anderson), 5:19; 7. Kenai River, Deal (Zulkanycz), 6:59; 8. Kenai River, Gessert (Luiten, Dierl), pp, 18:58. Penalties — Austin 7 for 28:00; Kenai River 6 for 15:00.
Shots on goal — Austin 10-5-10—25; Kenai River 23-10-14—47.
Goalies — Austin, Kelley (47 shots, 40 saves); Kenai River, Oldham (25 shots, 24 saves).
Power plays — Austin 0 for 8; Kenai River 1 for 7.