The Kenai River Brown Bears needed an entire season to win 12 games last year.
They needed less than half a season to eclipse that mark this year.
The Bears won consecutive games in overtime against the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild, defeating the perennial power 5-4 Friday and by the same score Saturday in a shootout before 716 fans at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Sean Muller provided the game-winning goal to conclude Saturday's shootout. The strike came after Kenai River goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom made a save to open the fifth round.
With the win, the Bears (13-10-2) moved into a four-way tie for first place in the North American Hockey League West Division standings. Kenai River, Wenatchee, the Alaska Avalanche of Palmer and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs all have 28 points.
The wins were Kenai River's first two in overtime this season. The team entered the weekend 0-2 in overtime matches.
Coach Oliver David also collected his second and third victories in 14 tries against Wenatchee since he took the helm shortly into the 2009-10 campaign.
More importantly, the Bears captured their 13th win Saturday. They managed a dozen in 2009-10.
"That was something we mentioned," David said of matching the win total following Friday's game, which drew 762 fans. "It's something we're proud of."
Kenai River converted four power plays in six chances and matched its win total of 2009-10 with the victory Friday over the Wild, just before going 2-of-4 on the man advantage Saturday.
Doug Beck delivered the game-winner with the Bears on a power play less than a minute into overtime. The team's leading scorer took a pass from Raymond Stenehjem on the right and wing and fired a one-timer through an open seam, beating goaltender Brandon Jaeger for his 14th goal of the year. Erick Ware also was credited with the assist.
Turning to the crowd, the 6-foot-1 forward extended his arms toward the rafters before disappearing into a mob of teammates.
"I wanted the puck the whole time," he said. "Kind of speechless, definitely pretty pumped."
Beck's strike was the fourth of the night for Kenai River while playing a man up.
The team converted 66.7 percent of its power plays, its highest percentage in the past 10 games. Kenai River had managed just 10 goals in 55 power-play opportunities -- 18.2 percent -- since Oct. 14.
David sensed the team was passing too much, not shooting, while on the power play in previous games.
"You pass to shoot," the coach said of exposing open seams with a one-man advantage. "It sounds simple, but it doesn't happen all the time."
"You don't just pass the puck for two minutes. You have to shoot."
Despite the win, David said the Bears could have played better. They didn't preserve the lead and failed to capitalize on opportunities while playing even-handed.
"There were a lot of things that didn't come to turn, things we need to work on," David said. "A lot of things weren't sharp."
It was a back-and-forth match in which there were three lead changes, with the Wild answering each time Kenai River took the lead.
Muller gave the Bears a 1-0 lead with 4:14 remaining in the first, but the Wild scored twice in less than two minutes to open the second.
Tyler Hope provided both goals, two of his three on the night, finishing unassisted 15 seconds into the period and again at the 17:58 mark, converting an assist from DJ Vandercook with the Wild on the power play.
Beck evened the score two minutes later after Geoff Ferguson of the Wild was called for elbowing, giving Kenai River a one-man advantage.
Muller then gave the Bears a 3-2 lead with a crisp one-timer from the wing after taking a pass from Ware, who finished with four assists.
Wenatchee found the equalizer during a stretch of 4-on-4 hockey when Hope scored for a third time.
The teams then exchanged goals before going to overtime in a 4-4 tie.
David would have preferred his team win the game in regulation.
"I don't like going back and forth like that," he said. "It's fun for the fans, but we don't practice to go back and forth."
Still, it was an important victory for the Bears not only in the standings, but also for morale.
"It's a boost," Beck said of gaining confidence from the result, crediting fellow first-linemen Brad Duwe and Brett Lubanski for contributing solid efforts. "Everyone just needs to keep doing their job and knowing their role."
The Bears return to the sports center to host the Ice Dogs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Brown Bears 5, Wild 4
Wenatchee 0 2 2 0--4
Kenai River 1 1 2 1 - 5
First period - 1. Kenai River, Muller (Ware, Murphy), pp, 15:46. Penalties - Wenatchee 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period - 2. Wenatchee, Hope (unassisted), 0:15; 3. Wenatchee, Hope (Vandercook), pp, 2:02; 4. Kenai River, Lubanski (Beck, Duwe), pp, 4:30. Penalties - Wenatchee 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period - 5. Kenai River, Muller (Ware, Stenehjem), pp, 1:06; 6. Wenatchee, Hope (Vandercook, Rumble), 4:08; 7. Kenai River, Stenehjem (Ware, Topf), 6:12; 8. Wenatchee, Martinez (Frye, McHugh), pp, 14:49. Penalties - Wenatchee 5 for 10:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Overtime - 9. Kenai River, Beck (Stenehjem, Ware), pp, 0:41. Penalties - None.
Shots on goal - Wenatchee 9-15-10-0--34; Kenai River 4-11-10-1--26.
Goalies - Wenatchee, Brandon Jaeger (26 shots-21 saves); Kenai River, Mathias Dahlstrom (34 shots-30 saves).
Power plays - Wenatchee 2 for 5; Kenai River 4 for 6.
Brown Bears 5, Wild 4
Wenatchee 0 2 2 0 0--4
Kenai River 2 0 2 0 1 - 5
First period -- 1. Kenai River, Granato (Capozza, Ware), 3:46; 2. Kenai River, Lubanski (Persson, Rial), pp, 9:41. Penalties -- Wenatchee 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second Period -- 3. Wenatchee, Grauer (McHugh, Carey), pp, 11:19; 4. Wenatchee, McHugh (Di Puma, Carey), 19:52. Penalties -- Wenatchee 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 6 for 12:00.
Third Period -- 5. Kenai River, Ware (Stenehjem, Murphy), pp, 3:23; 6. Kenai River. Murphy (Muller, Thompson), 9:27; 7. Wenatchee, Hope (Rumble, Di Puma), pp, 11:39; 8. Wenatchee, Grauer (Wallace, Saylor), 13:52. Penalties -- Wenatchee 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Overtime -- None. Penalties -- none.
Shootout -- Wenatchee 3 (Vandercook G, Grauer NG, Hope G, Di Puma NG, McHugh G); Kenai River 4 (Beck G, Frere G, Lubanski NG, Ware G, Muller G).
Shots on goal - Wenatchee 11-14-15-3--43; Kenai River 8-6-9-1--24.
Goalies - Wenatchee, Brandon Jaeger (24 shots-20 saves); Kenai River, Mathias Dahlstrom (43 shots-39 saves).
Power plays - Wenatchee 2 for 6; Kenai River 2 for 4.
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