Road weary: Bears must overcome tough travel schedule for home opener

Posted: Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The North American Hockey League schedule makers were not kind when it came time to plot the home opener for the Kenai River Brown Bears.

The Brown Bears open their home slate with games against Fresno (Calif.) tonight and Wednesday at 7 p.m. After a season-opening, 11-game road trip, the Brown Bears will play their next seven games at the Soldotna Sports Center.

The Brown Bears concluded the road trip on Sunday with a 3-2 victory over Dawson Creek (B.C.) to improve their record to 5-5-1 and move up to third place in the West Division.

After the game Sunday afternoon, Kenai River took a 7.5-hour bus trip to Edmonton. In Edmonton, the team slept on the floor of the airport for four hours before going through customs and flying two hours to Seattle on Monday morning.

There, the team slept on the airport floor for a little over three hours before flying to Anchorage and taking a three-hour bus ride to Soldotna, arriving at about 7:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Fresno, which played at the Alaska Avalanche of Palmer this weekend, arrived in town on Sunday and got to practice on the Sports Center ice on Monday.

That's a stark contrast to the Brown Bears, who haven't even moved into their locker room yet.

"Everyone is extremely exhausted and excited at the same time," Brown Bears coach Oliver David said. "There are no excuses, but the reality is we just got off a 26-day road trip and have yet to be moved into our locker room.

"There's a lot of things going on. It's just a glitch in the schedule."

David had no idea what kind of crowd to expect, because Tuesday is not only a school night, but also a local election night.

"There will be the diehard fans and the people who are connected to the team," David said. "We're in third place, which is excellent.

"We'll see who has been following Brown Bears hockey."

Those who have been following the Brown Bears will know that David has the team in a much better situation than last year.

Last season, the Brown Bears opened with a 12-game road trip and finished 2-9-1. Coach Marty Quarters was fired after that trip and David took over.

"Last year, for various reasons, we didn't get off to a good start," David said. "If you don't start well and lay the foundation for good habits right out of the gate, you're going to come off the road trip with the type of record we had."

The team went on to finish 12-40-6 last year after finishing 14-37-8 in 2008-09 and 12-38-8 in 2007-08. Last year, the team did not get its fifth win of the year until Oct. 23.

"What's nice to see on this team is depth and quite a bit of chemistry," David said.

Doug Beck has five goals and five assists, while Brett Lubanski has three goals and seven assists to lead the Brown Bears.

Fresno is 3-2-1 and has an average attendance of 2,850 fans in two games.

"It's a desirable destination with a fully capable, well-equipped coaching staff," David said. "They'll be able to field a strong team.

"I'd imagine we'll have our work cut out for us."

David said the Brown Bears recently traded for 20-year-old defenseman Erick Ware from the Texas Tornado. Josh Royston was moved in the deal. Ware will make his debut tonight or Wednesday. "We definitely can't sit on 5-5-1," David said. "We could just as easily be 5-10-1 20 days from now."

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