The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated Fresno (Calif.) 5-3 on Tuesday in the Bears' home opener at the Soldotna Sports Center.
The win moved the Brown Bears to 6-5-1 and into second place in the North American Hockey League West Division. The Monsters fall to 3-3-1 and are tied for last in the division.
The same two teams play tonight at 7:05 p.m. at the Sports Center.
The home opener was on a school night and election night, so the Brown Bears drew about 450 fans.
"The 450-plus people that were here were very supportive," David said. "They were as loud as a thousand people from my recollections from last season."
That energy from the crowd was needed because the Brown Bears traveled from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, on Sunday, and didn't get back to Soldotna until Monday night.
With 11:06 left in the game, Doug Beck scored an unassisted power-play goal to give the Bears a 5-3 lead.
Kenai River then took two-minute penalties at 9:57, 7:54 and 5:57 to make things interesting.
Brown Bears head coach Oliver David said Dominic Granato and Shane Topf saved the game for the team. Both were voted co-players of the game by the team afterward.
"They both started every penalty kill and sometimes they couldn't get off the ice for two minutes," David said. "They blocked shot after shot.
"They were very tactically sound. They made zero mistakes."
David also said goalie Josh Benton, who had 22 saves, stood tall at the end of the game.
"He was great," David said. "He was a big part of the penalty kill and made a lot of point-blank saves."
Johan Bjorklund started the game with a goal for the Monsters, but Kenai River stormed back with four straight tallies.
In the first period, Bobby Murphy scored on assists from Raymond Stenehjem and Sean Muller, Chris Rial scored on an assist from Doug Beck and Connor Wright scored on assists from Murphy and Miller.
Rial started the second period with his second goal of the game, with Brett Lubanski and Kegan Kiel registering helpers.
Riley Borer and Mike Cox scored before the end of the second to bring the Monsters back to 4-3.
David said Louis Pulg replaced Peter Megariotis in the net after the Brown Bears' fourth goal. The coach said Pulg helped get his team back in the game.
"Fresno is a high-powered, potent team," David said. "I saw flashes of elite-level creativity out of more than one of their players.
"I don't expect anything but a high level of competition tomorrow."
Brown Bears 5, Monsters 3
Fresno 1 2 0 --3
Kenai River 3 1 1 --5
First period -- 1. Fresno, Bjorklund (un), 11:33; 2. Kenai River, Murphy (Stenehjem, Muller), 12:18; 3. Kenai River, Rial (Beck), 14:37; 4. Kenai River, Wright (Murphy, Miller), 18:00. Penalties -- Fresno 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period -- 5. Kenai River, Rial (Lubanski, Kiel), 3:43; 6. Fresno, Borer (Johnson, Hyland), 5:32; 7. Fresno, Cox (Siemer, Bjorklund), 17:04. Penalties -- Fresno 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period -- 8. Kenai River, Beck (un), pp, 8:54. Penalties -- Fresno 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 4 for 8:00.
Shots on goal -- Fresno 6-9-10--25; Kenai River 9-8-5--22.
Goalies -- Fresno, Megariotis, Puig (22 shots, 17 saves); Kenai River, Benton (25 shots, 22 saves).
Power plays -- Fresno 0 for 5, Kenai River 1 for 5.
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