The Kenai River Brown Bears continued to show they are great at making adjustments between Friday and Saturday games at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Brown Bears lost to the Minot (North Dakota) Minotauros 6-3 on Friday before notching a 2-1 North American Hockey League victory Saturday. In its other Friday-Saturday home series this season, Kenai River lost 6-2 and 7-1 on Friday before coming back Saturday to claim a 5-4 shootout win and a 2-1 overtime triumph.
Now Kenai River head coach Josh Petrich would like to see the adjustments come quicker.
“We talked this morning that we’re making good adjustments game to game, but now we’ve got to start making adjustments midgame,” Petrich said.
Minot, of the Central Division, moves to 7-9-1-0, while Kenai River is a 8-10-1-0.
The Minotauros got on the board first Saturday on a power-play goal by Miroslav Mucha. Minot was 3 for 5 with the extra man Friday, but Petrich said this wasn’t more of the same. The Minotauros were 1 for 3 on Saturday.
“The shot was going wide and a stick off to the side directed it through,” Petrich said. “Our structure was good the rest of the night. Our penalty kill was awesome.”
With 4:26 left in the second period, Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik tipped in a shot by Michael Spethmann to tie it.
“We talked about how if you want to make good stuff happen, go to the net,” Petrich said.
The game-winner came with 10:09 left, when Markuss Komuls finished off a three-on-two with a clean shot.
Petrich said Artur Pavliukov was calm and collected in slamming the door with 39 saves. Samu Lonkila stopped 24 for the Minotauros.
“This is a young team that continues to grow,” Petrich said. “I hate to use the words over and over, but they show resilience and perseverance.”
Carter Wade served the first game of a two-game suspension Saturday.
Friday, the Minotauros came into the game fresh off getting swept at home last weekend, including losing the final game 7-1.
And just 20 seconds into Friday’s game, Kenai River’s Luke Radetic whistled a shot past Lonkila, who was pulled after allowing five goals in that 7-1 loss.
At that point, Lonkila and the Minotauros decided enough was enough. Minot scored four unanswered goals to take control of a 6-3 victory.
“The guys were ready to go,” Minot assistant Shane Wagner said. “Last weekend, we didn’t have a very good weekend. We wanted it a little more tonight.”
The Brown Bears, meanwhile, were coming off a tough overtime victory against the rival Fairbanks Ice Dogs. But that momentum was stopped quickly.
“I think we just got complacent,” Kenai River assistant Nick Sova said. “We got a good early goal and, I can’t speak for the guys, but I think they decided it would be a cakewalk.”
The way the Minotauros tied the game at 1 set the pattern for the rest of the evening. Kenai River took a penalty that Sova described as dumb, then Minot’s Mucha scored a power-play goal on a rebound.
Five of the six Minotauros goals came off rebounds, including a first-period goal by Keenan Lund that made it 2-1 and second-period goals by Andrew Kangas, on the power play, and Austin Dollimer that made it 4-1.
“Our net-front presence was not as strong as it had been,” Sova said. “We didn’t protect our house as well as we needed to.”
The assistant also was not happy with the penalties that led to penalty kills, and the penalty kills themselves. Minot was 3 for 5 with the extra man.
“I think they were selfish penalties, guys doing something out of spite,” Sova said. “We want to be tough and stick up for teammates, but not when it puts the team at a disadvantage.”
Wagner said his team kept going to the tough areas and this happened to be a night where that effort was constantly rewarded.
“The penalty kill is all about working hard, and we didn’t work hard enough,” Sova said.
The Bears showed life in the third, with Gil Garcia scoring on the power play with 17:02 left to only to be answered by another power-play goal from Mucha with 12:43 showing on the scoreboard. Spethmann scored with 11:58 left, but Minot answered again on a goal by Rykr Cole. The strike at 6:41 was the only Minotauros goal that didn’t happen on a rebound.
Wagner said Lonkila settled in after the early goal, and added that all of Kenai River’s goals came on great shots.
“He looked like his old self,” Wagner said of his goaltender.
Lonkila had 26 saves, while Gavin Enright made 35 for Kenai River.
The Bears host the Bismarck (North Dakota) Bobcats on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The weekend will support the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. Fans will get a raffle ticket for a $250 gift card for each item of food donated.
Minotauros 6, Brown Bears 3
Minot 2 2 2 — 6
Kenai River 1 0 2 — 3
First period — 1. Kenai River, Radetic (un.), 0:20; 2. Minot, Mucha (Sawchuk), pp, 2:46; 3. Minot, Lund (McGinnis), 11:11. Penalties — Minot 2 for 4, Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 4. Minot, Kangas (Kimball, Dahl), 12:03; 5. Minot, Dollimer (Ganske, Cole), pp, 13:02. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Garcia (C. McDonald, Komuls), pp, 2:58; 6. Minot, Mucha (Loven, Erne), pp, 7:17; 7. Kenai River, Spethmann (Krajnik, Scahill), 8:02; 8. Minot, Cole (Dollimer, Kangas), 13:19. Penalties — Minot 3 for 8:00; Kenai River 5 for 23:00.
Shots on goal — Minot 13-18-10—41; Kenai River 10-11-8—29.
Goalies — Minot, Lonkila (29 shots, 26 saves); Kenai River, Enright (41 shots, 35 saves).
Power plays — Minot 3 for 5; Kenai River 1 for 3.
Brown Bears 2, Minotauros 1
Minot 0 1 0 — 1
Kenai River 0 1 1 — 2
First period — none. Penalties — Minot 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 1. Minot, Mucha (Erne, Loven), pp, 11:10; 2. Kenai River, Krajnik (Spethmann, Sterne), 15:34. Penalties — Minot 1 for 4:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 3. Kenai River, Komuls (Kaplan, Fedorek), 9:51. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Minot 10-17-13—40; Kenai River 9-9-8—26.
Goalies — Minot, Lonkila (26 shots, 24 saves); Kenai River, Pavliukov (40 shots, 39 saves).
Power plays — Minot 1 for 3, Kenai River 0 for 2.