The chance to make history and move into first place will give Kenai River plenty of motivation as it returns to the Soldotna Sports Center for a pair of games this weekend, hosting the Fairbanks Ice Dogs at 7:30 p.m. today and at the same time Saturday.
A pair of victories would give the Brown Bears (13-10-2) a franchise-best 15 after posting records of 12-40-6 in 2009-10, 14-37-8 in 2008-09 and 12-38-8 in their inaugural 2007-08 season. They finished in last place each season.
Although that history hasn't gone unnoticed by the players, the focus is on the season ahead.
"We're an entirely new team this year," said forward Sean Muller, who has scored nine goals, tallied 11 assists and is third on the squad with 20 points.
This series also has significant implications for the league standings.
The Brown Bears and Ice Dogs are part of a three-way tie for second place in the North American Hockey League West Division, joining the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild behind the first-place Alaska Avalanche of Palmer.
An Avalanche victory Wednesday over the Fresno (Calif.) Monsters broke what had been a four-way tie for the top spot, giving Alaska 30 points. The Bears, Ice Dogs and Wild have 28.
The Bears, who swept two games against the Ice Dogs (13-8-2) last month in the teams' only series this season, are coming off back-to-back wins against the Wild.
Both victories came at home last weekend in thrilling fashion. Doug Beck contributed the game-winner in the first contest to give the Bears a 5-4 win, while Muller scored in the fifth round of a shootout the next night to lead the team to another 5-4 triumph.
Prior to the victories, Kenai River was winless in overtime this season. The team entered the series 1-11 against the Wild since coach Oliver David took the helm shortly into the 2009-10 campaign.
Still, David isn't ready to proclaim the Bears a dominant team.
"They came within a goal both games of making it an entirely different series," he said of the Wild. "I would even say we were a little lucky. We need to continue to work on being consistent."
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