The Kenai River Brown Bears snapped an eight-game losing streak with a much-needed and well-deserved 3-2, shootout win over the first-place Fairbanks Ice Dogs in North American Hockey League action Thursday night in Fairbanks.
The win couldn't have come at a better time for the Brown Bears, who owned a 2-8 mark against Fairbanks, including six straight losses and the first five of their current skid.
They also were just swept by the Topeka Roadrunners, who skipped town following a come-from-behind, 3-2 overtime win of their own at the Soldotna Sports Center on Sunday afternoon.
That's all history now.
Following a scoreless overtime session set up by former Kenai Central standout Jed McGlasson's game-tying goal with 4:48 to play, Ryan Lemke netted the first goal of the shootout and Kevin Wentland, the fifth sniper, sealed it by beating Fairbanks goaltender Phil Cook.
Kenai River netminder Nick Dries, who stopped 37 of 39 shots, denied all four Ice Dogs shooters, including Austin Block, the fifth-highest scorer in the NAHL.
After a pair of scoreless periods, Kenai River's Ryan Townsend scored just 1:37 into the third in staking the Brown Bears to a 1-0 edge.
But the Ice Dogs struck back when Jared Larson converted just under eight minutes later in knotting the game at one apiece.
Eric Kraft then gave Fairbanks the lead when he beat Dries with 5:30 remaining, but McGlasson tied it 42 seconds later off assists from Patrick Sullivan and Kyle Clay and the Brown Bears prevailed in the shootout.
The only facet of Kenai River's game still not in order is the power play, which struggled again on Thursday night.
Scoring a power-play goal in 15 of their first 17 games, the Brown Bears' special teams opened the season on a roll, capitalizing on 17.9 percent of their power-play opportunities.
After another challenging night on the power play, though, this time an 0-for-4 performance, Kenai River is now 4 for its last 62.
Luckily, it didn't matter, as the Brown Bears gained one point on the Ice Dogs, closing the gap between the two to 16 points, while also leaping into third place ahead of the Alaska Avalanche of Wasilla.
Fairbanks still leads the West Division comfortably at 16-4-4, with the Wenatchee Wild (10-9-1) in second, followed by Kenai River (9-17-2) and Alaska (9-11-1).
Notes: Sullivan, a first-year Brown Bears forward, has committed to play hockey during the 2010-11 season for the Canisius Griffins, a Division I program competing in the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
"I am very excited to have the opportunity to be going to such a great institution, and especially one with such a great hockey tradition," Sullivan said in a press release. "I am also very fortunate that I will get to play my college career close to home in front of my friends and family."
Sullivan hails from Derby, N.Y., and the highly respected St. Francis High School hockey program, where he tallied over 60 points before becoming a member of Kenai River this season.
He is also on the prestigious NHL Central Scouting Bureau's "Players to Watch" List for 2009 draft eligibles released on Oct. 20, according to the release.
Sullivan is interested in a sports management or a business degree at Canisius, as well as pursuing a pro playing career after school.
Having played in 26 games for the Brown Bears, Sullivan has accumulated 11 points on four goals and seven assists, including one on Thursday against the Ice Dogs.
Brown Bears 3, Ice Dogs 2
Kenai River 0 0 2 0 1 --3
Fairbanks 0 0 2 0 0 --2
First period -- No scoring. Penalties -- Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Fairbanks 3 for 6:00.
Second period -- No scoring. Penalties -- Kenai River 3 for 9:00; Fairbanks 3 for 9:00.
Third period -- 1. Kenai River, Townsend (Spencer, Hodson), 1:37; 2. Fairbanks, Larson (Parson, Benedict), 9:30; 3. Fairbanks, Kraft (Zierke, Parson), 14:30; 4. Kenai River, McGlasson (Sullivan, Clay), 15:12. Penalties -- Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Overtime -- No scoring. Penalties -- Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shootout -- Kenai River 2 (Clay NG, Lemke G, Goodmanson NG, Bengston NG, Wentland G); Fairbanks (A. McCabe NG, Saintey NG, Block NG, B. McCabe NG).
Shots on goal -- Kenai River 9-7-7-0--23; Fairbanks 12-9-12-6--39.
Goalies -- Kenai River, Dries (39 shots, 37 saves); Fairbanks, Cook (23 shots, 21 saves).
Power plays -- Kenai River 0 for 4; Fairbanks 0 for 4.
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