Brown Bears shuffle players

Junior A club makes several trades to prep for Fairbanks

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2007

Adam Krefski assisted on two goals when the Wichita Falls Wildcats split a pair of games with Kenai River in mid-October.

Now, the 18-point scorer will be helping the Brown Bears chase the first-place Wildcats.

Traded for defenseman Mike Sturdevant, in what Kenai River coach Mike Flanagan called a "really tough decision," Krefski will join the Brown Bears tonight as they begin a two-game set with Fairbanks at 7 p.m. at the Soldotna Sports Center before taking on the Ice Dogs again at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

"We're just looking to improve our team and get stronger so we can keep getting better," Flanagan said.

Krefski, who had 14 assists with Wichita Falls this season and 38 points in 41 games with the Wildcats and two other teams last year, will team with Nick Simson (10 goals, 10 assists) and Jeffrey Harris (10 goals, 14 assists) in forming perhaps the Brown Bears most potent offensive line.

"He should be a 30-point guy for us," Flanagan said.

In another move, Kenai River traded a tender, which Flanagan compared to a future's pick, saying each team is awarded only eight per season, to the Springfield Jr. Blues for a pair of 1989 defenseman in Nick Calma and Jake Musselman.

According to Flanagan, Calma, who has two assists in seven games this season, is from the same hometown as Kevin and Jeffrey Harris and Musselman, who has yet to pick up a point this season, played last year at the AAA level with current Brown Bears Paul Jenkins and goalie Matt Wichorek.

"Get some new blood into the lineup and hopefully have a positive result. We've got to improve our scoring and at the same time, we've got to improve our defense as well," he said. "Hopefully bringing in the two defensemen, '89 birth years, we'll get a little younger there.

"We're just going to continue to keep looking for players until we're satisfied with the way that we're playing."

He wasn't sure if Calma and Musselman would suit up tonight, as they just arrived on Thursday.

"Sometimes there's nothing like throwing them right into the fire to see how they do," he said. "They're both rookies, both '89ers. They come highly regarded. So, we'll just have to see."

While the Brown Bears are just 6-13-6 all of their victories coming at home they're still only nine points behind the Topeka Roadrunners and the Alaska Avalanche for the fourth and final playoff berth in the South Division.

"We're happy with the way things are going," Flanagan said. "We think we're heading in the right direction. Our goal remains same, put a string of wins together and make a move for the playoffs."

Kenai River could have been in better position for such a push, but they dropped six of seven consecutive games to the Avalanche, four coming in shootouts.

"The bottom line is we took four out of six points, so that's always good," he said of the last three games of the series. "Unfortunately for us, Wasilla took four points also. We were right there with them. We're right on the cusp."

Now they set their sights on Fairbanks, which, at 13-9-2 two of those wins coming over the Brown Bears earlier this season is currently sitting in second place in the South, just five points behind Wichita Falls.

Flanagan knows his team needs to respond after losing some heartbreakers.

"Fairbanks is definitely one of the better teams in the league. We'll have our hands full, no doubt," he said. "They're a good, veteran team. They're not at the top of the standings by any fluke. They've earned it and we're going to have our hands full."

Not to mention after these games, too.

Following this two-game series, Kenai River plays two at Fairbanks on Dec. 7-8, three in Wasilla on Dec. 19 and Dec. 21-22 before hitting the road in the Lower 48 for 11 games in 30 days.

Despite owning an 0-5-3 mark away from home, Flanagan didn't sound too concerned.

"We're not too worried about that. It's the nature of the beast. You've got to play on the road," he said. "You can win all the games you want at home, but if you can't win on the road, then you can't win the championship."

That stretch could determine whether or not the Brown Bears accomplish their top priority.

"It's not something that we talk about or something that we don't talk about, but it's on the plate right in front of them," Flanagan said of making the playoffs. "It was made obvious from day one that the playoffs would be a huge step in the right direction for an expansion team.

"We are an expansion team and are accomplishing good things here ... but making playoffs in the first year would be huge for us."

Matthew Carroll can be reached at matthew.carroll@peninsulaclarion.com.



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