Brown Bears drop 2 games to Blizzard
By Mike Nesper | Peninsula Clarion
The Kenai River Brown Bears dropped a pair of games to the Alexandria (Minn.) Blizzard on Friday and Saturday in North American Hockey League play at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Alexandra improves to 26-21-5 with the victories. The Blizzard play in the Central Division and are in third place.
The Brown Bears, who picked up a point with a shootout loss on Friday, are now 11-36-6 and are in last place in the West Division with 28 points.
On Saturday in front of 1,363 fans, the Brown Bears lost 3-2. Alexandria\’s Nick Nagel started the scoring in the second period.
Just 43 seconds into the third period, Kenai River\’s Josh Royston tied the game on assists from Brett Lubanski and Brad Fusaro. After Alexandria\’s Steve Zierke gave his team the lead back, Chris Rial knotted the game for the Brown Bears with 14:41 left. Derek Bayagich and Doug Beck had the helpers.
With 13:07 to play, Simon Cederborg-Nilsson scored the game winner for Alexandria.
Dainis Vasiljevs had 32 saves for the Brown Bears, while Robert Tadazak had 32 saves for the Blizzard.
Logan Romano scored the lone goal of a five-round shootout to lift the Blizzard to a 5-4, come-from-behind win over Kenai River on Friday in front of 843 fans. Tadazak turned aside all five shots he faced in the shootout.
Alexandria head coach Doc Delcastillo said he knew the first period would be shaky due to a long travel day for his Minnesota-based team. A goaltender change during the first-period intermission also helped, he said.
After giving up three goals on 14 shots in the first period, Chris Kamal was pulled and replaced by Tadazak to start the second. Tadazak had 31 saves on 32 shots. Vasiljevs made 25 saves on 29 shots. The Brown Bears threw 46 total shots on net to Alexandria\’s 29.
Trailing 3-1 after one period, Alexandria netted three, second-period goals — two coming on the man advantage.
\”It\’s nice when your power play is clicking,\” Delcastillo said. \”Having two in the same period really helped us.\”
\”They have a good power play and they showed us tonight,\” Brown Bears coach Oliver David said.
Coming into Friday\’s game, the Blizzard were ranked sixth in the league on the man advantage. Kenai River\’s power play was ranked seventh.
Kenai River had the better — and only — scoring chances in the extra period. The Brown Bears recorded four shots in overtime while preventing the Blizzard from getting any pucks on net.
About midway through the four-on-four, five-minute overtime, Johan Skinnars threw a backhand shot on net. It hit the goalie and was covered just before crossing the goal line.
Moments later, Royston found an open Rial in the slot. Rial put a shot on net but was bested by Tadazak.
Skinnars and Brad Duwe had a quick, two-on-one opportunity with 10 seconds to go in overtime. As backcheckers gave chase, Skinnars threw Duwe a pass and he put a shot on net. Tadazak blocked it away with his leg pad.
\”We had four shots on net and had four scoring chances,\” David said of overtime.
One of Alexandria\’s better chances came with 35 ticks on the clock. Alex Altenbernd let a shot go from the slot but Kenai River\’s Trace Strahle sacrificed his body and blocked the shot.
The Blizzard\’s first tally of the second period came about seven minutes in on a goal from Chris Franks. With traffic in front of the Brown Bears net, Franks put an on-ice slapper through the bodies and through Vasiljevs\’ legs.
Alexandria\’s Tyler Resch tied the game at 3 a minute and a half later. He came in from Vasiljevs\’ left and buried a bad-angle shot past the Kenai River goaltender.
Skinnars regained the lead for Kenai River on a power-play goal — his second of the night — with just under nine minutes to play in the second. He carried the puck out of Kenai River\’s zone and skated into Alexandria\’s end. Both Blizzard defensemen gave Skinnars space and he let a shot go from the high slot, beating Tadazak stick side.
Skinnars has 31 points in 23 games since coming to Kenai River from Fairbanks.
\”His spacial awareness is above and beyond most players in this league,\” David said of Skinnars. \”He has an exceptional knack in tight spaces.\”
Alexandria knotted the score at 4-all on a power-play goal a little more than two minutes after Skinnars\’ second goal. After two saves by Vasiljevs, Cederborg-Nilsson got the puck in the slot. He ripped a high shot past the Brown Bears goalie.
Both goaltenders posted shutouts during the third period and overtime.
\”I think both teams played good down the stretch,\” Delcastillo said.
He said it was nice to get the extra point and the win. Anytime a visiting team can notch a come-from-behind victory, it\’s something to be happy about, he said. His team showed character, Delcastillo said.
David said he was proud of his team for keeping its composure after the lead disappeared.
\”We didn\’t fold up the tent,\” he said. \”We stuck with it.\”
Duwe scored a power-play goal with three seconds left in the first period to give Kenai River a 3-1 lead. Skinnars had the biscuit in the right corner. He found Duwe open in the high slot. Duwe ripped a wrist shot high-glove past Kamal.
The Brown Bears peppered Kamal with 14 first-period shots while keeping Alexandria to only seven.
\”We opened it up pretty well,\” David said of the first period.
Skinnars broke a 1-1 game at the 4:50 mark of the first. He threw a shot on net with traffic in front. Kamal made the save but Duwe got to the loose puck, preventing Kamal from freezing it. Skinnars then put the rebound in the back of the net.
Royston got the scoring started six minutes into the game. Defenseman Matt Bennett put a high shot on net. Kamal got a piece of it but the rebound came to his left and Royston buried it in the empty cage.
The Blizzard answered back 43 seconds later on a goal from Romano. He got a wrist shot off from the slot and it found an opening through Vasiljevs\’ five-hole.
The forward lines of Skinnars, Duwe and Jesse Ramsey and Fusaro, Lubanski and Royston have given the team consistent play on offense, David said.
\”Those two lines have been the most successful the whole year and it\’s paying dividends,\” he said.
The NAHL is all about skating, David said.
\”It\’s a very high-paced league,\” he said. \”Everyone has to be an elite skater every night. The points usually end up on the sticks and the lines of the skaters.\”
Alexandria and the Brown Bears will complete their three-game series on Tuesday at the Soldotna Sports Center. The puck is set to drop at 7:05 p.m.
After that, the Brown Bears have just two more home games remaining in the regular season. They will take on the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild, who will be the Bears\’ first-round playoff opponent, on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm. at the sports center.
Blizzard 5, Brown Bears 4, SO
Alexandria 1 3 0 0 1 — 5
Kenai River 3 1 0 0 0 — 4
First period — Kenai River, Royston (Fusaro, Bennett), 5:50; 2. Alexandria, Romano (Christenson), 6:33; 3. Kenai River, Skinnars (Duwe), 15:10; 4. Kenai River, Duwe (Skinnars), pp, 19:57. Penalties — Alexandria 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 5. Alexandria, Franks (Nagtzaam, Wall), pp, 6:49; 6. Alexandria, Resch (Romano, Pieper), 8:09; 7. Kenai River, Skinnars (un), pp, 11:04; 8. Alexandria, Cederborg-Nilsson (Krieg), pp, 13:18. Penalties — Alexandria 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period — No scoring. Penalties — Alexandria 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — No scoring. Penalties — None.
Shootout — Alexandria 1 (Nagtzaam ng, Clay ng, Cederborg-Nilsson ng, Christenson ng, Romano g); Kenai River 0 (Lubanski ng, Bayagich ng, Beck ng, Kinnebrew ng, Skinnars ng).
Shots on goal — Alexandria 7-14-8-0 — 29; Kenai River 14-15-13-4 — 46.
Goalies — Alexandria, Kamal (14 shots, 11 saves), Tadazak (32 shots, 31 saves); Kenai River, Vasiljevs (29 shots, 25 saves).
Power plays — Alexandria 2 for 5; Kenai River 2 for 4.
Blizzard 3, Brown Bears 2
Alexandria 0 1 2 –3
Kenai River 0 0 2 –2
First period — No scoring. Penalties — Alexandria 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 1. Alexandria, Nagel (Franks), 1:09. Penalties — Alexandria 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 2. Kenai River, Royston (Lubanski, Fusaro), 0:43; 3. Alexandria, Zierke (Franks, Altenbernd), 3:23; 4. Kenai River, Rial (Bayagich, Beck), 5:19; 5. Alexandria, Cederborg-Nilsson (Altenbernd), 6:53. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Alexandria 9-11-15–35; Kenai River 12-12-10– 34.
Goalies — Alexandria, Tadazak (34 shots, 32 saves), Kenai River, Vasiljevs (35 shots, 32 saves).
Power plays — Alexandria 0 for 3, Kenai River 0 for 2.