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Bears rookie hits his stride: Frere collects 10 points over final 6 games of road trip

Posted: Friday, February 04, 2011

With each missed shot, each deflection, each save, Alex Frere wondered when the goals would come.

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Kenai River's Alex Frere tangles with Zach Vierling of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs earlier this season.

He had 12 points through 37 games -- six goals, six assists.

Not quite the level of production the offensive-minded center envisioned entering his first season with the Kenai River Brown Bears.

Not even close.

"I was just waiting for them to start dropping in," he said.

The Bears are 43 games into their most successful season in club history now, in fourth place in the North American Hockey League West Division and in position to reach the playoffs, and Frere's numbers look a whole lot different.

The 5-foot-9, 155-pounder amassed 10 points over the final six games of a recently completed nine-game road trip, boosting his point total to 22 in less than one-sixth the time it took to reach 12.

He scored five goals, tallied five assists and tied captain Brett Lubanski as Kenai River's leading scorer in three-game series against the Dawson Creek (British Columbia) Rage and Fresno (Calif.) Monsters.

The Bears (21-18-4, 46 points) return to the Soldotna Sports Center to host the first-place Fairbanks Ice Dogs (27-11-2, 56 points) at 7:30 p.m. today and at the same time Saturday.

Expect to see Kenai River's hottest point-getter on the ice for the team's only home series this month.

"Once one got in, they just kind of kept going," Frere said of the scoring outburst before practice Wednesday. "It was about time they started coming."

This is the first season in the NAHL for Frere, 18, a native of Novi, Mich. The Junior A league is more competitive than high school hockey, featuring more talent and a faster pace, so it's common for rookies to struggle -- especially when the year is young.

Kenai River coach Oliver David said Frere, who along with Matt Thompson is tied for fifth on the team in points, had scoring opportunities early in the campaign. He didn't convert them.

Frustrating? Sure. Surprising? Not so much.

"When you start your first season up a level, it's pretty normal that it takes the first half of the season to get your legs under you," David said. "He's always around the puck. It looks like he has a goal on his stick, but it just wasn't coming together."

The first-year center had just two points in the previous 11 games entering the second series of Kenai River's road trip.

Then he received a break. Then he had breakthrough.

Frere was inserted into the lineup at Dawson Creek on Jan. 21 in place of Soldotna product Brad Duwe, a starter who missed the series because of obligations to school.

Three goals, an assist and perhaps a season-defining performance later, Frere led the Bears to a 7-6 victory.

"I just knew I needed to make the most of it," he said, referring to Duwe's absence. "It definitely was a good morale booster, just to know I've been working all season for the goals to start coming, and they finally did. It was a good step."

Since then, Frere has posted six points in five games.

Although he plays on the left wing when the Bears are on the power play, Frere spends much of his time as a center on the squad's second line between left-hander Kyle Keenan and right-hander Zach Capozza.

David said the trio continues to gain more chemistry, but he wants Capozza to shoot more, and shoot quickly. The coach called Keenan a crafty and explosive player.

Keenan and Capozza are tall and powerful, 6-0 and 6-1, respectively, complimenting the shorter, speedy Frere.

"They do a lot of the dirty work," Frere said.

Fine by Frere. Fine by the Bears.

Just keep the pretty performances coming.

"It's not really a surprise to us or his teammates. We've always known that he, along with other guys, have that kind of potential," David said. "Consistency, as with anything, will be the telltale sign."



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