It took the Kenai River Brown Bears 97 shots to score two goals in their first two games combined following winter break.
It took them 21 shots to score six goals in the third game.
After struggling to find the back of the net in a pair of losses post-winter break Thursday and Friday, the Bears (16-15-3) rebounded with a 6-4 win over the Alaska Avalanche of Palmer before 848 fans Saturday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Six different Bears scored in the series finale, and it took them just 21 seconds to get on the board. Brad Duwe, Chris Rial, Doug Beck, Blake Stenejhem, Alex Frere and Bobby Murphy all scored for the Bears, who salvaged two points in the series after firing 97 shots over the first two games but only scoring twice.
"If you're getting 60 shots, no matter how you shape it, something is clicking," Bears coach Oliver David said following a 3-1 loss Friday, when the team shot 60 times. "The reality is, if we keep doing what we are doing, it's difficult to keep up with that kind of pressure."
Sure enough, the Bears found their offense when it mattered most.
The Bears play their next nine games on the road and must hold off the Fresno (Calif.) Monsters for fourth place while trying to close the gap on Alaska, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and the Wenatchee (Wild) for one of the top three spots in the North American Hockey League West Division. The top four squads advance to the playoffs.
Kenai River, which moved a game above .500 with Saturday's win, visits the Wild Jan. 13 to 15, the Dawson Creek (British Columbia) Rage Jan. 21 to 23 and the Monsters Jan. 26 to 29.
"The reality of it is, we may end up in a playoff spot without having an above .500 season," David said. "But (Alaska) is the type of the team we will be playing. It's important that we compete against these guys, but it's also important we get points against them."
Landon Peterson made 59 saves and killed eight power plays in nine tries as the Alaska shut down the Bears for a 3-1 victory before 892 fans Friday at the sports center.
"You can't say enough good things about Landon," Alaska coach Brian Huebel said. "He shut them down. He played well."
A night after he made 36 saves in 37 chances and blanked the Bears on six power plays in a 2-1 win, Peterson was even more impressive.
Kenai River's lone goal came with 3:49 to play in the first period when Ryan Walker scored his fourth of the season, tying the game at 1 on assists from Doug Beck and Brad Duwe.
It was Peterson who stole the show after that, making 27 saves in the second period alone.
Duwe nearly beat the goaltender on two separate occasions in the second but came up short on both, hitting the post inside 12 minutes and failing to convert when forward Beck sent a perfect cross from left to right on a two-on-one breakaway less than three minutes later with the Avs on a power play.
A goal would have given the Bears a 2-1 advantage. Instead, they never scored again.
"That would have changed the momentum," David said. "Missing a potential goal like that has plagued us for 24 hours now, two games now."
Kenai River posted 48 of its 60 shots in the first and second periods combined, coming on the heels of a 2-1 loss Thursday in which it pressured Peterson most of the night but only beat him once. Duwe managed 18 shots, Oliver said, while Beck had 15.
The Bears were just 1-of-15 on power players Thursday and Friday combined.
"Their goalie was able to control rebounds and seemed pretty calm with head-on shots," David said. "The times he did get legitimately challenged and we had a chance, we didn't bury it."
Evan Hesse scored what proved to be the game-winner with 6:20 to play in the second on assists from Daniel Senkbiel and Cody Bisbing. Wehebe Darge extended Alaska's lead to 3-1 at the 5:05 mark of the third.
Joe Blake, recently acquired from the Ice Dogs, made his Kenai River debut Friday. The Bears landed the 6-foot-3, 215-pound defenseman to give their back line more beef.
On Friday, Blake was the aggressor when he was around the puck, pushing and shoving Avs players.
"That's a very productive player who completely understands what he's supposed to be doing," David said. "He won't put a lot pucks in the net, but his job is very difficult and requires a lot of energy."
Another recent acquisition, Branden Fisher, a 17-year-old product of Soldotna, will join the team for the upcoming road trip. Fisher also is a defender and figures to see significant playing time after the Bears acquired him from the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League.
Fisher will meet the his new team on a high note thanks to Saturday's win.
"It's a big month for us," David said.
Avalanche 3, Brown Bears 1
Alaska 1 1 1 --3
Kenai River 1 0 0 --1
First period -- 1. Alaska, Huppert (Smith), 4:50; 2. Kenai River, Walker (Duwe, Rial), 16:11. Penalties - Alaska 3 for 4:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Second period -- 3. Alaska, Hesse (Senkbeil, Bisbing), 13:40. Penalties -- Alaska 4 for 8:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period -- 4. Alaska, Darge (Williams, Whitehill), 5:05. Penalties -- Alaska 3 for 6:00 ; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal -- Alaska 13-10-7--30; Kenai River 21-27-12--60.
Goalies -- Alaska, Peterson (60 shots-59 saves); Kenai River, Benton (30 shots-27 saves).
Power plays - Alaska 0 for 6; Kenai River 1 for 9.
Brown Bears 6, Avalanche 4
Alaska 0 1 3 --4
Kenai River 2 1 3 --6
First period -- 1. Kenai River, Duwe (Beck, Ramsey), 0:21; 2. Kenai River, Murphy (Muller, Walker), sh, 16:39; Penalties -- Alaska 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 5 for 10:00
Second period -- 3. Alaska, Dye (Whitehill, Van Allen), 2:07; 4. Kenai River, Frere (Capozza, Keenan), 12:35. Penalties -- Alaska 3 for 17:00; Kenai River 4 for 19.:00
Third period -- 5. Alaska, Smith (Friese, Tryggeseth), 0:26; 6. Kenai River, Rial (Beck, Duwe), pp, 1:46; 7. Alaska, Andy Pearson (Williams), sh, 13:17; 8. Kenai River, Beck (Walker, Lubanski), pp, 14:04; 9. Alaska, Smith (Huppert, Van Allen), pp, 16:40; 10. Kenai River, Stenehjem (unassisted), 19:32. Penalties -- Alaska 2 for 4; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Shots on goal -- Alaska 20-11-11--42; Kenai River 8-6-7--21.
Goalies -- Alaska, Mendenhall (20 shots-15 saves); Dahlstrom 42 shots-38 saves).
Power plays -- Alaska 1 for 8; Kenai River 2 for 4.
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