Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Sebastian Johansson out-skates Texas Tornado forward Sam Goodwin to the puck in the second period Friday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Kenai River coach Mike Flanagan sensed something was amiss during his team's early morning skate Friday.
"I was concerned about it for the rest of the day, that the guys weren't sharp this morning at their skate," he said. "Sometimes you're not sharp in the morning but you play well in the evening."
Unfortunately for the Brown Bears, that wasn't the case at all.
Consistently surrendering odd-man rushes while failing to convert on five power-play opportunities, Kenai River dropped its fifth consecutive game Friday night at the Soldotna Sports Center, a 5-1 thrashing by fourth-place Texas.
"Definitely didn't have one of our better games, that's for sure. It was disappointing," Flanagan said. "In this case we weren't sharp this morning at the pre-game skate and I think it showed on the ice. We didn't have any get up and go (Friday)."
It didn't get any better on Saturday, either, when the Fairbanks Ice Dogs arrived in town.
Fairbanks extended its season mark against Kenai River to 7-0 with a 4-1 victory, leaving them as the only South Division team that the Brown Bears have yet to beat this year.
On Friday, though, Kenai River appeared to have lost any momentum built up during their 3-2 overtime loss to the Tornado on Tuesday.
Texas Tornado's Andrew Blazek (front) and Kenai River Brown Bears' Justin Hancock collide while going after the puck early in the second period Friday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Outshot 17-8 and outplayed throughout most of the first, Kenai River fell behind 1-0 just 7:40 into the game when John Kruse patiently skated in on a Brown Bears defender, waiting until the last moment to feed Mike Cifelli, who lifted the puck over Kenai River goaltender Matt Wichorek (28 saves).
Texas (19-30-4) extended its lead to 2-0 with 4:16 to play in the period when Augie Hoffmann corralled a pass that beat the defender just inside Kenai River's zone, darted in all alone on Wichorek and fired the rubber off the goalie's body and into the back of the net.
"They were the better team. There's no question," Flanagan said. "You can't expect to win games after 20 minutes of play when you're down (17-8) in shots and 2-0 on the scoreboard. You've already dug yourself a hole. ... It's just bad."
Just when it seemed the Brown Bears were primed to storm back, slicing the deficit in half 2:51 into the second when Brett Englebright dropped the puck on a two-on-one break to Adam Krefski, who lifted a wrister to the right of Texas goalie Thomas Callaghan, things actually got worse.
The Brown Bears (10-32-8) couldn't capitalize on a Texas penalty with 8:56 to play in the second and on another power play five minutes later, Garrett Bossert received a perfect pass in front of the goal from Nick Simson but found the post instead of the back of the net.
"Our power play has not been that consistent throughout the season. Again, just bad puck luck," Flanagan said. "We make a nice play and then we hit the goalpost. It was just a bad bounce."
Instead of knotting the game, the Brown Bears fell behind 3-1 only 2:36 later when Ben Van Lare started a rush the other way, stopped short to beat the defender toward the inside and rifled a laser past Wichorek.
Following another squandered power-play opportunity by the Brown Bears, this time a five-on-three for 1:23, Van Lare slid a cross-ice pass through traffic to a streaking Andrew Blazek for a beautiful one-timer by the right leg of Wichorek.
The Tornado then made it 5-1 with 2:21 remaining in the game when Sam Goodwin fired a shot from the side of the net which somehow managed to find its way by the Kenai River goaltender, capping the Brown Bears 17th loss in their last 19 games.
"We were missing our assignments in a lot of areas on the ice. We didn't get the rotations that we had worked on in practice. Just didn't execute at all (Friday), really," Flanagan explained. "It doesn't help that we're in the position that we're in, battling, trying to win games. To come out and play flat, it's disappointing.
"We didn't have any energy. We didn't have any life," he added. "It was flat on the bench. Just didn't play with a lot of passion like we normally do."
Matthew Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TORNADO 5, BROWN BEARS 1
Texas 2 1 2 5
Kenai River 0 1 0 1
First period 1. Texas, Cifelli (Kruse, Korostin), 7:40; 2. Texas, Hoffmann (Roadhouse, Zawacki), 15:44. Penalties Texas 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period 3. Kenai River, Krefski (Englebright, Johansson), 2:51; 4. Texas, Van Lare (Bowman, Blazek), 18:39. Penalties Texas 7 for 17; Kenai River 3 for 9:00.
Third period 5. Texas, Blazek (Van Lare, Tennyson), 4:20; 6. Texas, Goodwin (Puente), 17:39. Penalties Texas 1 for 2:00, Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal Texas 17-4-12 33; Kenai River 8-11-10 29.
Goalies Texas, Callaghan (29 shots-28 saves); Kenai River, Wichorek (33 shots-28 saves).
Power Plays Texas 0 for 1; Kenai River 0 for 5.
ICE DOGS 4, BROWN BEARS 1
Fairbanks 0 1 3 4
Kenai River 1 0 0 1
First period 1. Kenai River, Jenkins (Johansson, Christianson), 9:16. Penalties none.
Second period 2. Fairbanks, Bennis (Guran), 4:46. Penalties Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Third period 3. Fairbanks, Lennartson (Shelgren, McRae), 2:43; 4. Fairbanks, McRae (Horien, Darwitz), 5:55; 5. Fairbanks, Stonacek (un.), en, 19:31. Penalties none.
Shots on goal Fairbanks 8-15-15 38; Kenai River 9-10-10 29.
Goalies Fairbanks, Reichard (29 shots, 28 saves); Kenai River, Madej (37 shots, 34 saves).
Power plays Fairbanks 0 for 0, Kenai River 0 for 1.
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