The Alaska Avalanche of Wasilla scored two goals less than two minutes apart midway through the first period en route to a 5-1 win over the Kenai River Brown Bears in North American Hockey League action Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center. With an 8-3 win Friday, the third-place NAHL West Division Avs (19-12-6) swept the two-game series with the fourth-place Brown Bears (10-28-2).
With the sweep and two Fairbanks losses to Wenatchee this weekend, Alaska closed the 10-point gap between it and the second-place Ice Dogs to six.
Zack Smith started the scoring for Alaska 9:58 into the first. Tyler Schwartz added another Avs goal about a minute and a half later.
Alaska scored two second-period goals. The first came from Logan Rounds about eight minutes in. Matthew Friese added a power-play goal at the 10:19 mark.
Kenai River's Clayton Glick scored the Brown Bears' lone goal of the game inside of the opening two minutes of the third period. Alaska's Berkley Scott netted the Avs' fifth goal at 8:22 on the power play.
The Avs went 2-for-6 on the man advantage. Kenai River went 0-for-4. Alaska's goaltender Landon Peterson turned away 27 of 28 Brown Bears shots. Kenai River net minder Dainis Vasiljevs stopped 25 of 30 shots faced.
The Alaska Avalanche of Wasilla coaching staff wanted their team to open its two-game series with the Kenai River Brown Bears vitalized. Message received.
Alaska's coaching staff wanted the Avs to start the series Friday night with energy. The Avalanche did just that, scoring four first-period goals.
"We made it a goal tonight to come out with a lot of energy," Avalanche assistant coach Brian Huebel said. "I think we did that."
Brown Bears head coach Oliver David agreed.
"They were ready to go," he said of the Avs. "They looked like a team full of confidence."
Huebel, filling in for suspended head coach Dave Boitz, said Kenai always plays strong games against Alaska.
The Avalanche struck first less than five minutes into the game. Kenai River had control in its zone, but Alaska's Kyle Pichler stripped the puck and ripped a shot high-glove past Kenai River net minder Mike Martin.
Less than a minute later, Daniel Hildebrandt was called for hooking and the Brown Bears went on the power play. It took Kenai just over a minute to make the Avs pay for the infraction.
Blue-liner Raymond Stenehjem slid a pass to his defensive partner, Brett Lubanksi. He moved it to Brad Duwe. Duwe gave a cross-ice pass to Johan Skinnars, positioned to the left of Avs goalie Landon Peterson. Skinnars buried a shot past the Avs net minder to knot the game at 1-all.
The Avalanche regained the lead 27 seconds later. With traffic in front of Martin, the puck came out to the point and Chase Van Allen put it through a maze of bodies and past the Kenai goaltender.
Alaska spread its offense around. Seven different Avs scored goals and 13 players tallied points on the night.
"All four lines really contributed well," Huebel said.
Alaska added two more goals in quick succession before the first period ended.
With Martin down, the puck came out in front of the cage and Logan Rounds found the back of the net. Forty-two seconds later, the Avs struck again.
Robb Haider stripped the puck from Brown Bears defeseman Chris Rial and went into Kenai's zone two-on-one with Zack Smith. Haider slid a pass to Smith, who controlled the puck then made a move to his backhand as he cut across the crease and put the biscuit past an outstretched Martin.
Dainis Vasiljevs replaced Martin after the first period. Martin gave up four goals on 21 shots.
The Avs competed hard the entire game and let the scoreboard do the talking, David said.
"Anytime you score eight goals in this league ... you're doing a lot of things right," he said. "They competed hard and let their actions speak for themselves. They took it to us."
The Brown Bears started the second period off with a Ryan Townsend power-play goal. He took a pass in close to the Avs net and put a shot past Peterson.
Alaska answered back with a power-play goal of its own. With traffic in front of Vasiljevs, Hildebrandt threw a shot on net from the point. It hit the traffic in front and tipped off of the post to Vasiljevs' left and went in.
Three minutes later the Avalanche netted another goal. Pichler had three chances in close on Vasiljevs, but the Kenai River goalie bested him each time with his left leg pad. Matthew Friese finally put a rebound past Vasiljevs for the goal.
Another three minutes passed before the Avs struck again. After Vasiljevs made a save on the initial shot and rebound, he was sprawled out on the ice. The puck came to Jake Parenteau and he buried an on-ice slap shot in the back of the net.
With the four West Division teams playing a majority of their season against one another, it can be difficult to keep the team motivated for games, Huebel said. But Friday his team was ready.
"They were up for the game," he said.
"For various reasons, we were not sharp," David said. David said he made some costly decisions against his gut feeling at the beginning of the night. He accepts full responsibility for those choices, David said.
Kenai River started the third period off fast, scoring a goal 1:14 in. The Brown Bears won an offensive zone faceoff and got the puck to defeseman Matt Bennett. He put an on-ice shot past Peterson from the point.
Later in the period, Kenai River was on the power play. But Rounds spoiled the man advantage with a short-handed goal.
Rounds had the puck behind Kenai's net. The left-hander came around the cage with his back to Vasiljevs. Rounds whipped around and ripped a shot top shelf for his second goal of the game.
Despite the loss, David said he was happy with the 45 shots his team threw at Peterson.
"I'm looking for the offense to pick up," he said, "and 45 shots is a start."
Avalanche 8, Brown Bears 3
Alaska 4 3 1 -- 1
Kenai River 1 1 1 -- 3
First period -- 1. Alaska, Pichler (un), 4:28; 2. Kenai River, Skinnars (Lubanski, Duwe), pp, 6:22; 3. Alaska, Van Allen (Huppert, McGlasson), 6:49; 4. Alaska, Rounds (Svoboda), 17:32; 5. Alaska, Smith (Haider, Scott), 18:14. Penalties --Alaska 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period -- 6. Kenai River, Townsend (Bayagich, Beck), pp, 3:04; 7. Alaska, Hildebrandt (Haider, Smith), pp, 9:32; 8. Alaska, Friese (Pichler, Walker), 12:31; 9. Alaska, Parenteau (McGlasson, Huppert), 15:24. Penalties -- Alaska 5 for 10:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period -- 10. Kenai River, Bennett (Kiel, Beck), 1:14; 11. Alaska, Rounds (un), sh, 11:24. Penalties --Alaska 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goals -- Alaska 21-18-7 -- 46; Kenai River 10-20-15 -- 45.
Goalies -- Alaska, Peterson (45 shots, 42 saves); Kenai River, Martin (21 shots, 17 saves), Vasiljevs (25 shots, 21 saves).
Power plays -- Alaska 1 for 4; Kenai River 2 for 7.
Avalanche 5, Brown Bears 1
Alaska 2 2 1 -- 5
Kenai River 0 0 1 -- 1
First period -- 1. Alaska, Smith (Haider, Hildebrandt), 9:58; 2. Alaska, Schwartz (Rounds, Williams), 11:28. Penalties -- Alaska 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Second period -- 3. Alaska, Rounds (Svoboda), 7:53; 4. Alaska, Friese (Hildebrandt), pp, 10:19. Penalties -- Alaska 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period -- 5. Kenai River, Glick (Bayagich, Ramsey), 1:53; 6. Alaska, Scott (Haider, Williams), pp, 8:22. Penalties -- Alaska 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 4 for 8:00.
Shots on goal -- Alaska 11-8-11 -- 30; Kenai River 6-13-9 -- 28.
Goalies -- Alaska, Peterson (28 shots, 27 saves); Kenai River, Vasiljevs (30 shots, 25 saves).
Power plays -- Alaska 2 for 6; Kenai River 0 for 4.
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