Chase for playoffs heats up

Posted: Friday, February 04, 2011

The Kenai River Brown Bears would qualify for the postseason if it started now, but coach Oliver David is well aware it's too early to start printing playoff tickets.

After three weeks on the road, the Bears host the Fairbanks Ice Dogs at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center in a series with playoff implications. Kenai River is 21-18-4 with 46 points, holding the fourth and final postseason spot in the North American Hockey League West Division. The first-place Ice Dogs are 27-11-2, good for 56 points.

David's squad is five points behind the third-place Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild and six behind the Alaska Avalanche of Palmer.

Perhaps more importantly, the Bears hold an eight-point advantage over the fifth-place Dawson Creek (British Columbia) Rage, winners of five straight.

"They are closing in on our coattail," David said. "We have our work cut out for us."

This is the only home series of the month for the Bears, who after this weekend visit the Ice Dogs for two games and Avalanche for two more before they return to the sports center March 4, hosting a pair of games against the Monsters.

Coming off a nine-game road trip in which his squad went 5-3-1 and maintained its hold on fourth place, David said the Bears must earn points against Fairbanks.

"Winning is important, but we need pick up points any way we can," David said.

Inside the crease: The Bears have dubbed the series "Pink in the Rink" for cancer awareness and will wear special uniforms both nights, auctioning them to fans after each game and donating the money to the Central Peninsula Hospital ... Kenai River's Joe Blake, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound defenseman, will face his former squad for the first time since being acquired Jan. 6 in a trade from Fairbanks ... The Bears are 3-2-1 against the Ice Dogs this season, winning the first three but losing the past three, including an overtime loss at Fairbanks on Dec. 10 ... Doug Beck, who has 23 goals and 25 assists, is the league's sixth-leading scorer with 48 points.

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