Brownies drop 2 to Ice Dogs
By Jeff Helminiak | Peninsula Clarion
Unfortunately for the Kenai River Brown Bears, Jim Morrison was right. The West is the best.
Life in the tough North American Hockey League West Division continued to get tougher on Friday and Saturday, as Kenai River dropped a pair of games to division rival Fairbanks at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Friday\’s score was 6-2, while Saturday\’s tally was 4-2.
The Ice Dogs have now won five straight and have a 15-11-1 record, which is only good for third place in the West Division.
The Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild have, by far and away, the best record in the league at 26-4-1. The Alaska Avalanche of Wasilla is tied for the second-best record in the league at 16-5-5.
\”This division is unbelievable,\” Fairbanks coach Josh Hauge said. \”This is as good of a team as we\’ve had in 12 years here, and we\’re in third place.
\”Alaska is very good and Wenatchee is very good. Kenai, in any other division, would be a .500 team.\”
The Brown Bears have now lost nine straight, all coming to division opponents. Kenai River has a 5-22-1 record, which gives them the least amount of points in the league. Of the final 31 regular-season games, just six are out of the division for the Brown Bears.
Kenai River coach Oliver David acknowledged the division is tough and acknowledge Fairbanks is very skilled.
\”Their coach can say they have one of their best teams in 12 years, but that can\’t matter to us,\” David said. \”We can\’t accept that.
\”We have to concentrate on playing hard and avoiding mistakes for 60 minutes.\”
The Brown Bears won the first two periods against the Ice Dogs on Saturday in front of 1,187 fans.
In the first period, Kenai River\’s Ryan Amin had the lone goal. The tally came on assists from Clayton Glick and Matthew Cinader.
In the second period, the Brown Bears outshot the Ice Dogs 12-7 and Cinader, assisted by Soldotna High School products Glick and Branden Fisher, made the score 2-0.
The Ice Dogs are the second-most potent scoring team in the league, and that explosiveness showed in the third period.
Michael Juola had two goals. He now has 40 points and is the league\’s leading scorer. Zach Tolkinen and Jared Larson also scored for the Ice Dogs. Three of the four goals came on the power play.
On Friday, it was the second period that cost the Brown Bears.
The Ice Dogs scored three goals in the second period to break open a tight game and cruise to a 6-2 win.
After the teams played to a 2-2 score after one period in front of 1,187 fans, the Ice Dogs flaunted their offensive explosiveness in the second.
\”In the first period, they created chances by outworking us,\” Hauge said. \”In the second period, we worked as hard as they did and it allowed our firepower to get going.\”
The Brown Bears actually started out the second period by killing off two Fairbanks power plays, then Kenai River earned a power play with 13:26 to play.
With just one second to play in that power play, Ice Dogs forward Mark Pustin got a breakaway and was denied by Kenai River goalie Mike Martin.
That was just the beginning of a string of golden opportunities the Brown Bears defense would allow.
\”We had more breakdowns in the second period,\” David said. \”We had bad line changes and situations where they did not recognize the play that was going on around them.\”
With 11:15 left in the period, Johan Skinnars took a point-blank shot, which Martin scrambled to save. The rebound went right to captain Jared Larson, who pushed the puck into the open net for his 15th goal of the season.
With 3:24 left in the second, the Ice Dogs caught the Brown Bears on a line change and Pustin, the second-leading scorer in the league, picked up a goal on a breakaway for his 35th point of the year. He had an assist Saturday for his 36th point.
Finally, with 2:14 left in the second, Zach Blaisdell found Aaron Mcgill wide open in front of the net for a goal.
\”We had the road trip (Friday) and we came out a little soft,\” said Mcgill, who had two goals Friday and has three goals in just five games with the team. \”Our coach rattled our cage after the first period and that got us focused on what we needed to do.\”
Tyler Voight capped the scoring for the Ice Dogs in the third period by tipping in a shot by Tolkinen.
After Voight opened the scoring for Fairbanks in the first period, the Brown Bears answered with 6:08 to play.
Brad Fusaro got the puck in the corner and fed it to Brett Lubanski, who touched the rubber back to a net-crashing Fusaro. Fusaro slid the puck to an open Josh Royston for a goal. Friday was the sixth straight game Fusaro had a point, but that string was snapped Saturday.
David said the Fusaro-Lubanski-Royston line had a good game, as did forwards Clayton Glick, Matthew Cinader and Jake Musselman.
\”The team played better on the attack than they have been,\” David said. \”Hats off to them.\”
After Mcgill put the Ice Dogs back on top 2-1 by redirecting a shot by Tolkinen for a power-play goal, Soldotna High School\’s Brad Duwe used a weird bounce to pick up his fifth goal of the year.
Doug Beck fired a shot on Fairbanks goalie Mike Taffe. Taffe authoritatively ushered the shot to the back boards, but the puck caromed off the boards and just over the crossbar, where Duwe was waiting to knock in the rubber on the fly.
David said the Brown Bears did not stick to the proper defensive structure consistently. He said when Kenai River stuck to the system, the Brown Bears were able to break the puck out of their own zone.
When Kenai River abandoned the system or made lazy passes, Fairbanks was quick to pounce.
\”We can handle this one of two ways,\” David said. \”We can get extremely angry, which I\’m trying not to be because nothing ever comes of that.
\”Or, we can look at this as a learning moment and try and come back better tomorrow.\”
The Brown Bears and Ice Dogs play today at 5 p.m. at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Ice Dogs 6, Brown Bears 2
Fairbanks 2 3 1 –6
Kenai River 2 0 0 –2
First period — 1. Fairbanks, Voight (Nelson, Krause), 5:18; 2. Kenai River, Royston (Lubanski, Fusaro), 13:52; 3. Fairbanks, Mcgill (Tolkinen, Saintey), pp, 17:15; 4. Kenai River, Duwe (Beck, Bayagich), 19:31. Penalties — Fairbanks 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 5. Fairbanks, Larson (Skinnars, Pustin), 8:45; 6. Fairbanks, Pustin (Nelson, Larson), 16:36; 7. Fairbanks, Mcgill (Aide, Blaisdell), 17:46. Penalties — Fairbanks 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period — 8. Fairbanks, Voight (Tolkinen, Feaval), 3:27. Penalties — Fairbanks 3 for 9:00; Kenai River 3 for 9:00.
Shots on goal — Fairbanks 12-14-5–31; Kenai River 15-6-1–22.
Goalies — Fairbanks, Taffe (22 shots, 20 saves); Kenai River, Martin (31 shots, 25 saves).
Power plays — Fairbanks 1 for 5; Kenai River 0 for 4.
Ice Dogs 4, Brown Bears 2
Fairbanks 0 0 4 –4
Kenai River 1 1 0 –2
First period — 1. Kenai River, Amin (Glick, Cinader), 17:07. Penalties — Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Kenai River, Cinader (Glick, Fisher), 10:42. Penalties — Fairbanks 3 for 9:00; Kenai River 4 for 11:00.
Third period — 3. Fairbanks, Juola (Larson, Tolkinen), 1:12; 4. Fairbanks, Tolkinen (Juola, Larson), pp, 2:39; 5. Fairbanks, Larson (Pustin, Juola), pp, 5:06; 6. Fairbanks, Juola (Nelson, Politz), pp, 13:13. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 11:00; Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Fairbanks 5-7-14–26; Kenai River 5-12-4–21.
Goalies — Fairbanks, Taffe (21 shots, 19 saves); Kenai River, Martin (26 shots, 22 saves).
Power plays — Fairbanks 3 for 6; Kenai River 0 for 4.