Bears to face high-scoring Ice Dogs

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010

The Kenai River Brown Bears have scored just six goals in their last three games.

That won't cut it tonight and Saturday, when the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, the top-scoring squad in the North American Hockey League, come to the Soldotna Sports Center for a pair of 7:30 p.m. games.

The Ice Dogs are sharing the top spot in the West Division with the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild. Fairbanks, at 9-3-2, has 20 points. The Brown Bears are in fourth place at 6-8-2, good for 14 points.

Kenai River has lost four in a row after opening the current home stand with a win. Each loss came by just one goal, including a shootout loss to Dawson Creek (B.C.). Kenai River has outshot its opponent in all four of the losses.

"I think it is fair to say we did outplay teams in our last four games," Brown Bears coach Oliver David said. "Some of it is luck of the draw. Literally, we lost our last game 1-0 when they scored off of a faceoff.

"We dominated most of the game, and in all the categories of stats."

David was talking about a loss to Dawson Creek, which plays a very defensive style of hockey. The Rage have scored 32 goals -- the third least in the league -- yet have given up just 42 goals.

The Ice Dogs are a different animal. They lead the league with 66 goals. JT Osborn is tied for second in the league in scoring with 14 goals and 10 assists. Zach Vierling is tied for ninth in the league with three goals and 16 assists.

"Fairbanks is going to be a lot smaller than Dawson Creek," David said. "They have very good skill and speed. I think it is safe to say they are closer to the style of game that we are trying to execute.

"It should make for very entertaining hockey. I'd imagine scores won't be low on either side."

The Brown Bears will get a boost in the scoring department from the return of Doug Beck, who leads the team in points with six goals and eight assists in 13 games played. Beck sat out the three Dawson Creek games with an injury.

"He's at just about a point a game," David said. "If guys have a point-per-game average in this league, it usually turns out they are given an opportunity at the Division I level. Doug has that ability."

David said the squad also is looking for an offensive boost from Kyle Keenan, who was recently required from Wenatchee. The left-handed left winger had a goal and three assists in eight games for the Wild.

One area where David would like to see more goals is on the power play. The Brown Bears have earned 97 advantages, which is sixth in the league. That number is slightly misleading because the Bears have played more games than nearly every team in the league.

One number that is not ambiguous is 14.43, Kenai River's conversion rate on the power play. That puts the Brown Bears 16th in the 26-team league. David said the team shoots for a conversion rate of at least 20 percent.

"This year we've been functioning far below that," David said. "A lot of that has to do with learning -- learning to read the play. For some that comes naturally. For other people, other things come naturally."

Fairbanks, meanwhile, is converting 19.51 percent of its power plays.

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