After Kenai River had the tying goal waved off Thursday night, the Brown Bears imploded, allowing four unanswered tallies in dropping an 8-3 decision to Texas.
When they had another goal called back only 44 seconds into Friday's tilt against the Tornado, a completely different team emerged.
The Brown Bears overcame a one-goal, third-period deficit by rallying for three scores in the final 15 minutes to capture a hard-fought, well-deserved, 4-2 victory over Texas at the Soldotna Sports Center.
"When you can believe in the guy that's sitting beside you and you can believe in the guy that's sitting across from you, things are real positive in the locker room and it just carries onto the ice," said Kenai River coach Mike Flanagan.
Following the referee's decision that Texas goaltender Scott Zacharias had the puck covered before the Brown Bears were able to poke it in, Flanagan challenged his team.
And they responded.
"We're like, 'Here we go again. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to roll over or we going to get with it?' And the guys certainly got right with it," he said. "I'm really proud of the way the guys played (Friday). They played hard."
Roughly eight minutes after the retracted goal, the Brown Bears (3-11-1) grabbed a 1-0 lead when newcomer Tony McDonald, who Kenai River acquired in a trade with the Alexandria Blizzard, found the back of the net off assists from Scott Deur and Kenai Central High School graduate Jed McGlasson.
"Jed's got pretty good speed. He's a pretty good skater. Tony's got good speed as well and he sees the ice very well. I thought they'd compliment each other very well," Flanagan explained. "They're playing with Scotty Deur, who is a work ethic guy, and energy guy. So, I thought those three guys would compliment each other very well."
The Tornado (6-8-1) knotted it 12 seconds into a Kenai River power play when Sean Roadhouse fed Sam Goodwin for the short-handed tally with 4:42 to play in the first.
And while the Brown Bears significantly reduced their penalties spending only 12 minutes in the box compared to their average of around 30 minutes a game one of their six came back to bite them 13:22 into the middle frame.
Just as the announcer was declaring the Brown Bears to be at even strength, Roadhouse sent the puck to the far corner where Troy Puente corralled it and found Mike Cifelli across the middle for a 2-1 lead.
After picking up 22 penalties against Texas on Thursday, Flanagan refrained from taking his usual course of action.
"It's funny because I was just telling Lou (Fritz), the assistant coach, I said, 'Whenever I've been coaching a team that's run into penalty trouble, and then I address it, it just seems to get worse right away,"' he said. "And so (Friday), I didn't even bring it up. Didn't even mention it.
"I don't know if it's a little taboo or a little jinx or what, but I don't think I'll ever mention it again."
He wouldn't need to in the third.
Pressing about as hard as they have all season, the Brown Bears ripped off four shots in the first five minutes of the final period, but each time, Zacharias was there, stopping them cold in their tracks.
Then with 14:54 left in the game, Kenai River's hard work paid off as Sebastian Johansson found Brett Englebright for the tying goal.
"I just felt that the guys were pressing and I just thought that it was a matter or time because they were pressing, but they were pressing with confidence," Flanagan said.
Jeffrey Harris then made it 3-2 only 1:51 later when he stuffed the puck past Zacharias and into the back of the net and Soldotna's Garrett Bossert, who had a cut adjacent to his right eye patched up with four minutes to play, scored an empty-netter with 39 seconds remaining to seal the deal.
"We've got a long road to go and you've just got to keep an even keel," Flanagan said. "You can't let the highs get too high and when we do get the lows, which we've had, you can't let them get too low.
"The guys are continuing to learn and they're playing very well," he added. "All in all, one of the better games. Especially after (Thursday)."
Making it possible was the stellar play in net by Kenai River goaltender Steve Madej, who was ejected from Thursday's game but returned strong on Friday by denying 28 of the 30 shots he faced, including four consecutive saves on a Texas power play to begin the third.
"He was very frustrated (Thursday). He's a good goaltender and I just wanted to go back with him (Friday) to let him know we've got faith in him," Flanagan said. "He wins games for us. He gives us an opportunity to win games. Even if we're down 5-1 he gives us a chance to come back and maybe win 6-5. He did that again (Friday)."
The Brown Bears took a well-deserved day off Saturday before traveling to Wasilla to face the Alaska Avalanche at 4 p.m. today.
"We're hoping that the team that showed up (Friday), shows up on Sunday," he said. "If that's the case, I'm optimistic about our results."
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
BROWN BEARS 4, TORNADO 2
Texas 1 1 0 2
Kenai River 1 0 3 4
First period 1. Kenai, McDonald (Deur, McGlasson), 8:44; 2. Texas, Goodwin (Roadhouse, Mikola), 15:17 (sh). Penalties Texas 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period 3. Texas, Cifelli (Puente, Roadhouse), 13:24. Penalties Texas 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 4 for 8:00.
Third period 4. Kenai, Englebright (Johansson), 5:06; 5. Kenai, J. Harris (Simson, K. Harris), 6:57 (pp); 6. Kenai, Bossert (Englebright), 19:21 (empty net). Penalties Texas 3 for 6:00, Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal Texas 9-10-11 30; Kenai River 10-9-20 39.
Goalies Texas, Zacharias (38 shots-35 saves); Kenai River, Madej (30 shots-28 saves).
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