More drama, same ending

Avalanche top Brown Bears in shootout for 5th time this season

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2007

In a wild game where it seemed like anything could happen, the same thing happened.

Sunday at the Soldotna Sports Center in a North American Hockey League game between the Alaska Avalanche and the Kenai River Brown Bears, the lead changed hands five times, including three times in the third period. In the end, the Avalanche ran their season record against the Brown Bears to 7-2 with a 6-5 shootout victory in front of 193 fans.

It was the fifth time this season the Brown Bears and Avalanche went to a shootout, and the fifth time the squad from Wasilla won in a shootout. Sunday's game concluded a series of seven straight games between the South Division rivals. The Avs won six of those seven, with four of those victories coming in shootouts.

Both Avalanche coach Jamie Smith and Brown Bears coach Mike Flanagan said they have never seen anything like the shootout-heavy series the squads have going.

"I told (Jamie) after that we should just skip the overtime and go straight to the shootout," Flanagan said.

All those shootout victories have the Avalanche enjoying their highest perch in the standings since coming to Wasilla three years ago. The Avs are now 13-12-1 and tied for third place in the South, just one point behind Fairbanks.

"Both teams are obviously very even on the ice, but we're not even in the standings," Smith said. "I've never seen anything like it before."

By earning points the hard way with shootout losses, the Brown Bears are now 6-13-6 and actually moved into sole possession of fifth place in the South with 18 points, one ahead of last-place Texas but now nine behind Alaska.

"The positives always outweigh the negatives," Flanagan said after his squad's league-leading sixth shootout loss. "We didn't get two points, but we did get one. That's better than none."

Both coaches also got to see their teams answer multiple gut checks after the squads skated to a 2-1 shootout victory by the Avs on Saturday night.

Kenai River jumped in front first when Paul Jenkins tipped home a shot from the slot by Mike Sturdevant. Alaska tied the game later in the first period on a wrister by Kevin Anger, then Larry Kincaid scored the second period's lone goal to give Alaska a 2-1 edge.

"I told them going into the third period not to give up," Flanagan said. "Even if they scored to go up two, don't give up. We were not going to quit."

Just 6:24 into the third frame, captain Brett Englebright had given Kenai River a 3-2 lead by twice getting the puck in front of the net and stuffing it past Dusan Sidor.

With 10:14 left, Kenai Rivers' Nick Simson took a five-minute major for cross-checking. The Avs pressed the attack in Kenai River's zone for almost the entire five minutes. Matt Wichorek, who like Sidor had 34 saves, stopped a wide open chance in front by Teddy Zierden with 49 seconds left in the power play.

The Avs finally tied the score with 23 seconds left in the power play and 5:37 left in the game when Alex Young passed to Kyle Pichler on the far post. Pichler tapped the puck across the goal mouth to Jeremiah Dargis, who cracked the rubber into the wide-open net.

With 4:21 to play, Alaska rode that momentum when Joe Harren got a pass from Dustin Skinner in front of the net and punched it home for a 4-3 lead.

Smith said his plan at that point was to pull back his forecheck and go into a more defensive posture to hold the lead. That lasted for all of eight seconds, when Kenai River's Adam Wiesner found Alexi Kulikouskiy in front for the equalizer. Just 11 seconds later, Wiesner broke in on Sidor and scored an unassisted goal the game's third in 19 seconds that gave the Brown Bears a 5-4 lead.

The lead held up until 1:47 left to play when Kent Detiefsen, the league's top-scoring defenseman, beat Wichorek on a wrister for his 13th tally of the year.

"He's been getting it done all year for us," Smith said of Detiefsen. "He's doing a fantastic job."

Detiefsen nearly got it done in overtime as well, forcing Wichorek to come up with a save on a point-blank chance with 9 seconds left, then forcing Wichorek to make a sprawling glove save on a laser from the blue line with 3 seconds left.

In the shootout, Scott Bererra started with a goal for Alaska, and the Brown Bears failed to score until the fifth shooter, as Garrett Bossert capped a night of solid attacking hockey with a goal. In sudden death, Dargis and Wiesner both missed before Kincaid converted and Kenai River's Sebastian Johansson missed.

"There's not really an answer for it," Smith said of his team's shootout success. "Once you win a couple, it gets in your mind and you believe you can win every one."

Flanagan, who credited Bryan Murphy and Englebright for continuing to compete hard on Sunday, said his team remains confident.

"I think we're resilient," he said. "We're not pushovers. We've had our backs against the wall quite a bit this year, and I think these guys have shown that they won't back down."

The Brown Bears face Fairbanks on Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center at 7 p.m.


Alaska 1 1 3 0 1 6

Kenai River 1 0 4 0 0 5

First period 1. Kenai River, Jenkins (Sturdevant), 2:46; 2. Alaska, Anger (Friese), 6:56. Penalties Alaska 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.

Second period 3. Alaska, Kincaid (Currier), 8:05. Penalties Alaska 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.

Third period 4. Kenai River, Englebright (Peterson), pp, 0:56; 5. Kenai River, Englebright (Jenkins, Bossert), 6:24; 6. Alaska, Dargis (Pichler, Young), pp, 14:22; 7. Alaska, Harren (Skinner, Currier), 15:40; 8. Kenai River, Kulikoiuskiy (Wiesner), 15:51; 9. Kenai River, Wiesner (un.), 15:59; 10. Alaska, Detiefsen (Harren), 18:14. Penalties Alaska 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 5:00.

Overtime No scoring. Penalties none.

Shootout Alaska 2 (Bererra G, Pichler NG, Currier NG, Skinner NG, Zierden NG, Dargis NG, Kincaid G); Kenai River 1 (Kulikouskiy NG, J. Harris NG, Jenkins NG, Peterson NG, Bossert G, Wiesner NG, Johansson NG).

Shots on goal Alaska 7-15-14-3 39; Kenai River 17-6-14-2 39.

Goalies Alaska, Sidor (39 shots, 34 saves); Kenai River, Wichorek (39 shots, 34 saves).

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