Country music blaring from one locker room.
A visibly upset coach emerging from the other.
It didn't take a rocket scientist to decipher the winner of Friday night's battle between the visiting Fairbanks Ice Dogs and the Kenai River Brown Bears.
Staked to a one-goal lead midway through the second period, the Ice Dogs staved off a third-period flurry of solid scoring opportunities by the Brown Bears in holding onto an impressive 1-0 victory before an energetic crowd at the Soldotna Sports Center.
"Just disappointed that we lost. That's all," Kenai River coach Mike Flanagan said. "Fairbanks has a good team but I think we have a good team, too. We didn't generate much offensively (Friday).
"Just upset really about the loss," he added. "Playing at home, we should expect to win. But just because you expect to win doesn't mean that you will."
It was another rough outing on Saturday for the Brown Bears (6-15-6), who managed a trio of third-period tallies but surrendered four second-period goals in falling to Fairbanks, 7-3, for their fourth straight loss and fourth overall to the Ice Dogs this season.
Friday night's game could have been much more lopsided, however, if not for the patented stellar play of Kenai River goaltender Steven Madej, who denied 25 of the 26 shots he faced, including some crucial chances in the third period which allowed the Brown Bears to put together a late rally.
"If it wasn't for Madej, it could have easily been 3-0 in the third period, and then what?" Flanagan asked. "So, you get one in the third. It doesn't matter now."
With roughly 11 1/2 minutes remaining in the game, Tony McDonald fired a shot on Fairbanks' goalie Cody Reichard, who turned it away, one of 28 he denied on the game.
The Brown Bears' offensive outburst didn't end there, though.
He subsequently saved four more in a row in a span of roughly 1:10 and then made a sprawling kick save on a wrister by Justin Hancock with eight minutes to play.
Kenai River continued its pressure, firing five more shots before the final buzzer sounded, yet every one either sailed wide or was corralled by Reichard.
"(Madej) made some big saves and it's still only 1-0 going into the third period and then finally we started to turn it up a little bit," Flanagan said. "We get them on their heels and get some pucks to the net but where was that in the first and the second? Because we didn't generate a whole lot of offense in the first two periods."
Overall, it may have been the purest game of hockey played by the Brown Bears all season, as they went to the penalty box just once, yet still managed to skate offsides a handful of times.
"You can't go offsides. It's junior hockey. You can go offside once, twice maybe, but not as often as we did," Flanagan said, before being asked exactly how many times they were whistled for it. "More than once. That's one too many."
They were called for it once before and once after their final rush on Reichard, quelling any momentum they had previously built up.
"You might get an offside because it's an extra move at the blue line, but we just had too many offsides when he had the rush. It takes (the momentum) right away. Then a whistle and the other team gets a chance to change lines or something like that," he said. "Going offsides, not getting crisp passes on the tape. A lot of them are in the skates. And that's not good enough.
"We're making the right decision to move the puck to the right place but we're not getting it right on the tape."
Both teams skated to a scoreless tie after the opening 20 minutes due to a solid effort by both goaltenders, Madej using his glove to deflect a Paul Kirtland shot with 6:45 to play before using his blocker to turn away a slapper by Jon Waggoner with under 20 seconds left.
The Ice Dogs (15-9-2) then finally lit the lamp when Drew Darwitz put the puck past Madej off assists from Austin Block and Caleb Harrison 10:35 into the middle frame.
"Fairbanks is a good-skating team," Flanagan said. "They move the puck, they've got good, veteran defensemen very experienced."
The Brown Bears nearly knotted the game when Fairbanks picked up its first penalty of the game at the 5:09 mark of the second.
But Reichard was there again, turning away a pair of shots by Tad Norris and one each by newcomer Jake Musselman and Garret Bossert in thwarting Kenai River.
"The effort was there, I think," Flanagan said. "It's just the little things that's hurting us right now.
"You have to earn it. Not that we didn't earn it (Friday). I still thought the guys played hard," he added. "Some of the little things we didn't accomplish and sometimes those little things all add up after 60 minutes. If they're not doing all of the little things all of the time, it's hard to win hockey games."
While he was disappointed in the heartbreaking setback, Flanagan was encouraged with the play of defensemen Nick Calma and Musselman and forward Adam Krefski, all acquired earlier last week via trades.
"I'm pretty happy with the three additions," he said, adding he believes the moves will pay off after seeing them play in just one game as Brown Bears. "They made some good decisions with the puck and we're happy to have them here. I think they're going to help us ... No doubt about it."
On Saturday, Fairbanks' Brock Shelgren netted an unassisted first-period goal, Matt Carlson, Arthur Bidwell and Aaron Stonacek (two goals) all found the back of the net in the second and Jon Waggoner and John Lennartson each scored in the third in leading the Ice Dogs to their third consecutive victory, leaving them just one point behind first-place Wichita Falls in the South Division.
The Brown Bears, whose goals came from Krefski (two) and Dan Christianson, all in the third period, are still nine points behind the Alaska Avalanche for the fourth and final playoff berth in the South.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
ICE DOGS 1, BROWN BEARS 0
Fairbanks 0 1 0 1
Kenai River 0 0 0 0
First period No scoring. No Penalties.
Second period 1. Fairbanks, Darwitz (Block, Harrison), 10:35. Penalties Fairbanks 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period No scoring. Penalties Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal Fairbanks 26; Kenai River 28.
Goalies Fairbanks, Reichard (28 shots-28 saves); Kenai River, Madej (26 shots-25 saves).
ICE DOGS 7, BROWN BEARS 3
Fairbanks 1 4 2 7
Kenai River 0 0 3 3
First period 1. Fairbanks, Shelgren (unassisted), 16:55. Penalties Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Second period 2. Fairbanks, Carlson (unassisted), 0:58; 3. Fairbanks, Bidwell (Waggoner, Kirtland), 1:30; 4. Fairbanks, Stonacek (Shelgren), 3:22; 5. Fairbanks, Stonacek (Hill), 18:18 (sh). Penalties Fairbanks 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period 6. Kenai River, Krefski (Englebright), 7:17; 7. Fairbanks, Waggoner (Kirtland, Lennartson), 9:36; 8. Fairbanks, Lennartson (Bradish), 14:21; 9. Kenai River, Christianson (Murphy, Deur), 16:33 (pp); 10. Kenai River, Krefski (Englebright, Calma), 17:08. Penalties Fairbanks 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal Fairbanks 6-12-13 31; Kenai River 11-14-11 36.
Goalies Fairbanks, Copeland (36 shots-33 saves); Kenai River, Madej (18 shots-13 saves), Wichorek (13 shots-11 saves).
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