For the fourth time in as many tries, the Kenai River Brown Bears went to overtime against their Canadian counterparts only to fall short.
The Dawson Creek (British Columbia) Rage came from three goals behind to force overtime and prevailed 4-3 in a shootout before 367 fans Thursday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
It was the fourth time this season the Rage defeated the Bears in extra time. Dawson Creek is now 4-0-0 against Kenai River at the sports center and the only team in the division the Bears have yet to defeat at home.
The squads square off again at 7:30 p.m. today and at the same time in Saturday's regular-season finale. Both games are at the sports center.
"They capitalized on their chances," Kenai River's Matt Thompson said. "They took every chance we gave them."
Dawson Creek scored all three of its regulation goals while on the power play, finishing 3 of 7 on the advantage.
After the sides played a scoreless overtime, Lucas Recknagle tallied the game-winner for the Rage in the sixth frame of the shootout. He beat Kenai River goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom, who had 30 saves in 65 minutes in goal.
Kenai River's Doug Beck had a chance to force a seventh round in the shootout, but he shot the puck directly into the chest of Jack Surgenor, who ended the game with 43 saves.
The Rage, which trailed 3-1 going into the final 20 minutes, entered the game with a 1-23-1 record when trailing after two periods.
Kenai River's Sean Muller beat the buzzer for a goal on a breakaway at the end of the second, but the play was called back because of a tripping infraction against Thompson, who wasn't anywhere near the play.
The infraction put the Rage on the power play to open the third, and the Bears quickly went two men down when Bobby Murphy was called for slashing less than a minute into the period.
Dawson Creek then converted two goals in a span of 14 seconds, both on the power play, to tie the game at 3.
Kenai River moves to 26-23-7 overall (59 points) and 14-9-4 at home, its best record on friendly ice in club history, while Dawson Creek has 48 points with a record of 23-31-2.
The Bears, who hold fourth place in the North American Hockey League West Division, have clinched a playoff berth. The fifth-place Rage are eliminated from postseason contention. Kenai River is 3-3-4 on the year against Dawson Creek.
"We just need to go in a little bit hungrier," Thompson said of the plan for Friday's game. "Go in with the same game plan and maybe be a little more physical, push them off the puck and make them scared to play against us."
Thompson scored twice in the span of 10 minutes to give the Bears a 2-0 lead in the first period.
With the Bears holding a 5-on-3 advantage after a pair of Dawson Creek infractions, Thompson took a deflection on the left wing and beat Surgenor on assists from Ray Stenehjem and Murphy at the 10:21 mark.
The forward then netted his 13th goal of the season by burying a shot from close range after a scramble for the puck in front of the net, finishing assists from Murphy and Muller.
"The second one was almost exactly the same," Thompson said. "It really wasn't that much work. I was just in the right spot at the right time."
Alex Frere gave the Bears a three-goal cushion when he converted assists from Brad Duwe and Erick Ware with 13:18 remaining in the second.
The goal, Frere's 13th this season, came six seconds after the Rage got back to full strength following a Kenai River power play.
Dawson Creek cut the lead to 3-1 on a power-play goal with 1:09 to play in the second.
Josh Hartley fired a shot from just inside the blue line on the left wing and the puck skipped past Kenai River goaltender Dahlstrom, who looked surprised by the long-distance shot.
The Bears, who entered the contest with a 17-4-2 record when leading after two periods, went on the power play for the final 1:24 with a chance to win the game.
Stenehjem had two open shots from the left wing inside the final minute, but both cracks were blocked by Surgenor. The power play continued into the first 30-plus seconds of overtime, but the Bears again came away with nothing.
In overtime, the Bears closed on yet another power play, once again failing to score. They finished 1 of 7 on the advantage.
With two chances to beat the Rage before opening the playoffs against the first-place Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Thompson said it's important for the squad to end the regular season on a high note.
"It's huge," he said.
Rage 4, Brown Bears 3 (SO)
Dawson Creek 0 1 2 0 1--4
Kenai River 2 1 0 0 0--3
First period -1. Kenai River, Thompson (Murphy, Stenehjem), pp, 9:39; 2. Kenai River, Thompson (Murphy, Muller), 18:03. Penalties - Dawson Creek 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period - 3. Kenai River, Frere (Duwe, Ware), 6:42; 4. Dawson Creek, Hartley (Ripley, Fellnermayr), pp, 18:51. Penalties - Dawson Creek 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 4 for 8:00.
Third period - 5. Dawson Creek, Hartley (Page, Johannesson), pp, 1:56; 6. Dawson Creek, Fellnermayr (Smith, Matthews), pp, 2:10; 7. Penalties - Dawson Creek 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Overtime - No scoring. Penalties - Dawson Creek 1 for 2:00; Kenai River none.
Shootout - Dawson Creek 3 (Rossiter, Zarazun, Recknagle); Kenai River 2 (Ware, Muller).
Shots on goal - Dawson Creek (6-12-12-3--33); Kenai River (13-15-14-1--43).
Goalies - Dawson Creek, Surgenor (43 shots, 40 saves); Kenai River, Dahlstrom (33 shots, 30 saves).
Power plays - Dawson Creek 3 of 7; Kenai River 1 of 7.
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