Wasilla sweeps Bears
By Mike Nesper | Peninsula Clarion
The Alaska Avalanche of Wasilla swept the Kenai River Brown Bears in North American Hockey League action on Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
The Avalanche won 3-2 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday.
Wasilla improves to 25-13-6 and, with 56 points, is now just one point behind the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for second place in the West Division.
The Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild lead the division with 71 points, while the Brown Bears (10-32-3) are in last place with 23 points.
On Saturday, the Avs grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals from Seth Johnson, Matthew Friese and Robb Haider.
Kenai River battled back with a goal by Josh Royston, assisted by Johan Skinnars and Braden Kinnebrew, before the end of the first.
The Brown Bears then scored the lone goal of the second period when Trace Strahle tallied on assists from Chris Rial and Derek Bayagich.
Alaska closed out the game with goals by Kyle Pichler and Zach Smith in the third period.
Alaska\’s Jed McGlasson scored the game-winning goal with 17 seconds left in regulation to lift his team to victory in a nail-biter on Friday.
Moments before the goal, McGlasson fed Zack Smith at Kenai River\’s blue line. Smith gained the zone and broke in on net on a partial breakaway. Smith deked to his right but Brown Bears goaltender Josh Benton slid over to make the save. Benton froze the puck, giving the Avs an offensive zone faceoff.
Blake Huppert won the draw cleanly to McGlasson, who didn\’t hesitate, and ripped a shot by Benton.
\”Jed\’s goal was perfectly executed,\” Brown Bears head coach Oliver David said. \”His whole team worked to set up that chance. My hat\’s off to the Avs for closing out the game.\”
Kenai\’s Josh Royston scored his second of the game less than four minutes into the third period to tie the score at 2. On the man advantage, Brown Bears forward Johan Skinnars put a shot on net from a sharp angle from the right side. Kale Robertson made the save but Royston jammed the rebound past the Avs net minder.
Despite the loss, David said his team made adjustments during each intermission and improved as the game went on.
\”I\’m pretty proud of our group,\” he said. \”They rallied around each other and stuck to the game plan.\”
Benton, who played in his second game for Kenai River, is proving himself capable to play at the NAHL level, David said.
\”He shows promise for our organization,\” he said. \”He wants to be here and his talent is already high enough to play here.\”
After a scoreless first, the Avs began the second period with 1:16 left on a power play. But it was Kenai River\’s special teams that cashed in.
Brett Lubanski carried the puck into Wasilla\’s zone two-on-two with Royston. Lubanski threw a long shot on goal. Robertson got a leg pad on the puck but, like his other tally, Royston maneuvered around the Avs defense and buried the rebound in the back of the net.
The short-handed goal came just 35 seconds into the period.
Alaska was sure to take advantage its next power play. With Keegan Kiel in the box for holding, Alaska\’s Kyle Pichler took a shot from the point. It hit traffic in front, never making it to Benton. Huppert got to the loose puck and banged a shot past Benton, tying the game just four minutes after Kenai River took a 1-0 lead.
Matthew Friese broke the tie three minutes later.
Again, with traffic in front of Benton, Jake Parenteau put a shot on net. The puck came to Benton\’s right and Friese put the rebound in from close range.
With a few exceptions, Kenai River\’s defense was sound, David said.
Close games, like Friday\’s contest, will only help his players, David said.
\”These types of games and the learning environment is priceless for these kids,\” he said. \”I am certain that these guys are learning and developing.\”
Avalanche 3, Brown Bears 2
Alaska 0 2 1 — 3
Kenai River 0 1 1 — 2
First period — No scoring. Penalties — Alaska 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 1. Kenai River, Royston (Lubanski), sh, 0:35; 2. Alaska, Huppert (Pichler, Friese), pp, 4:45; 3. Alaska, Friese (Williams, Parenteau), 7:59. Penalties — Alaska 2 for 7:00; Kenai River 3 for 9:00.
Third period — 4. Kenai River, Royston (Kinnebrew, Skinnars), pp, 3:46; 5. Alaska, McGlasson (Huppert), 19:43. Penalties — Alaska 1 for 2:00.
Avalanche 5, Brown Bears 2
Alaska 3 0 2 –5
Kenai River 1 1 0 –2
First period — 1. Alaska, Johnson (Friese, Maly), 3:59; 2. Alaska, Friese (Johnson, Schwartz), 15:01; 3. Alaska, Haider (Williams, Rounds), pp, 16:51; 4. Kenai River, Royston (Skinnars, Kinnebrew), pp, 18:29. Penalties — Alaska 5 for 18:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 5. Kenai River, Strahle (Rial, Bayagich), 0:57. Penalties — Alaska 2 for 7:00; Kenai River 3 for 9:00.
Third period — 6. Alaska, Pichler (Rounds, Friese), 8:00; 7. Alaska, Smith (McGlasson, Huppert), 15:01. Penalties — Alaska 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Alaska 13-9-17–39; Kenai River 8-13-13–34.
Goalies — Alaska, Robertson (34 shots, 32 saves); Kenai River, Martin (13 shots, 10 saves), Vasiljevs (26 shots, 24 saves).
Power plays — Alaska 1 for 5, Kenai River 1 for 5.