Our Bears End Season Series with Alexandria 2-1-1
Our Bears closed out a 3-game series with the Alexandria (Minnesota) Blizzard by winning 5-4 finishing with a record of 1-1-1. \”It\’s obviously a good thing across the board, from team moral to fan support to win hockey games\” coach David said. \”The entire series fans came out in droves. It was a great feeling to see so many people here at home rooting for us. On the road, we played in front of very few people. To come home and have the welcoming we did was awesome\” coach added.
Our Bears first played the Blizzard at the NAHL Showcase held in Blaine, MN, a tournament held each fall to mark the start of the season. \”We were all new to each other, as was the Blizzard\’s group\” coach David said. \”I vaguely recall the game, but we did win by shootout 4-3, I remember that!\” coach added.
Facing the Blizzard for the first time at home, our Bears flew out of the gates. \”From the start of game, we came out with confidence. We won the first period 3-1, before eventually coming back to force overtime. We dominated the overtime period taking the play to them. We had 4 shots and 4 scoring chances\” coach said. \”Unfortunately, we ended a shootout 0-5, and they ended 1-5\” coach added. Our bears would end up with 46 shots-a season high.
Game two was more of the same. The lead changed with ever goal. \”It was more a defensive battle tonight coach said. \”As we read from the stats-less shots all around- less goals- less power plays…etc. It was a good match\” coach added. Bears 2, Blizzard 3.
In game three, the bears started off slower than the previous two, and had to start the third period down 2-4. \”We discussed what mindset it takes to stay the course and what it would take to execute technically speaking to put ourselves in a position to score\” coach said. \”I think we accomplished what we wanted. We ended the period with 28 shots on net and a win by a score of 5-4. The boys earned the win. They fought for it and fought off a 6 against 4 attack to seal up the victory. \”It was an exciting night for us and the fans\” coach added.
\”I can\’t stress enough how much good comes from playing in the West division. Our boys are progressing at an accelerated rate that I\’m certain of. To play against not one, but two and three teams that most of the season were in the top five in the standings league wide (Wenatchee, Fairbanks, and Alaska), is invaluable. That said we can be a top team. Building a top end team starts from the top and involves everyone who considers the Brown Bears to be a part of our community and an extension of their family.
We are on that path. As we have shown, we are extremely competitive each night. Our boys understand what it takes to get the most out of their talent. Anyone who has consistently watched us compete undoubtedly has noticed that our work ethic is more often than not second to none. We are building a strong, strong foundation. \”Coach David said.
Bears vs. Wild
A Playoff Preview
In the last home-game series of the 2009-10 season our Bears were tested by the number one team in the North American Hockey League- The Wenatchee Wild of Washington State. \”The Wild are a well oiled machine. These two games they seldom showed weaknesses or breakdowns in tactics, churning shift after shift\” coach David said.
\”As we are seeing right now with the NCAA tournaments in basketball and hockey, number one seeds rarely get defeated in the first round. In fact, it has never happened in the history of the NCAA basketball tournament. We [The Bears] are going to have to be special, and willing to compete at a level above and beyond anything we have seen this season to extend our season. It is all about mental toughness-who is willing to perform no matter what? Can we all do what it takes to be extraordinary?\” coach David added.
Players that answer the call, that can elevate their game to compete at a playoff level, separating themselves from the norm, ending the season displaying courage and competitiveness is the mission. \”Whether we advance through April and beyond or not, the important thing is how you finish. Not necessarily how the team finishes, but how you as an individual drives until the last tick, whenever that comes\” coach David said.
With Coach\’s message being delivered, our Brown Bears will be put to the test as we watched this past weekend\’s contests.
In Game One our Bears competed very well. \”We fought off their offensive surges most of the night, with just a couple lapses.\” Coach David said. \”Against The Wild, a lapse is more times than not going to cost you\” coach added. Our Bears managed the first two periods well enough to come into the third tied 3-3 on great goaltending by young rookie Josh Benton (Anchorage, AK). \”Josh was active tonight. More active than he should\’ve been. Nonetheless, he held us in the game and gave us a fighting chance tonight\” coach said.
The Wild struck early with a clean shot upon entering the zone to go up 4-3. \”You cannot play catch-up often in this league and expect to win games. If a team is not focused and sharp, more often than not improvising down the stretch is a far inferior tactic to staying the course\” coach said. \”The good news is, however, the pace of play that followed was great\” coach added.
The period was basically whistle-free until our Bears were awarded a power-play with just over two minutes to play in the game. \”I called a time-out to regroup and prepare to even the score at 4 apiece. I had no doubt that we would have a chance to do so\” coach said. And our Bears had chances-good chances, but were not able to get it done. \”We did have chances, but we rushed the play. Essentially, with the rest of regulation spent on the power-play, we were looking for a scoring chance-no need to rush a risk anything. If we were able to do so, we were planning on pulling Benton with a minute or so to go and attacking with six skaters. Unfortunately, things did not end up this way. Such is sport\’ coach added.
Our Bears would end up taking a penalty on the power-play and giving up another goal on a rush to lose the match 5-3 with less than a minute to go in the game. \”despite the loss, we showed yet again, that we can compete with the best of them. Winning on the scoreboard against the best is a whole other thing. I believe we can do it, but we all need to want it\” coach added.
Game two was a different story. \”We were not sharp tonight\” coach David said. \”We needed to be better than last night, and we weren\’t\” coach added. The Wild went up 2-1 in the first period as they did the night before. The Bears would claw back, but not score despite having 6 power-play opportunities and hitting the post several times. \”Their PK was better than our PP tonight\” coach said. \”As with most sports, the game comes down to special teams- free throws made or missed- extra points kicked or missed-shootout goals in soccer…etc. We did not out-play them on special-teams or 5-5 for that matter\” coach added.
Building the Bears
The Kenai River Brown Bears have been actively pursuing top end talent for next season\’s team. Each season, the NAHL issues eight contracts called Tenders that can be offered to players between November and May each season.
Offering a player a tender is a big deal. It is a two-way street in terms of making a commitment to one another. From a coaching standpoint, by offering, we are essentially saying we think you fit in to the structure of our team. It is not a contract that guarantees a spot on our team, rather it gives the individual a straight shot to our main camp and the peace of mind of having a direction-a goal to work towards.
How do we choose which players we offer a Tender to?
There is no set method that we follow save one exception; the young man has to want to play in Alaska. We look for overall ability and potential (often referred to as a player\’s upside). We look for synergy between the four S\’; size-speed-strength-skill. How well does a player utilize each of his assets? \”One component that is crucial in the process is the information that the player\’s current coach shares with us. When we have expressed interest in a player, and their current coach has an open dialogue with us, it goes a long way in providing the prospect an opportunity to Tender with us\” coach David said. I am very busy and don\’t get many chances to leave Alaska during the season. A coach or scout that is proactive in updating me with information about a prospect becomes invaluable\” coach added.
Other factors that play into who actually is offered and ends up signing a Tender with us come into play as well. \”Every team is after the best possible players. If we as coaches weren\’t seeking out the cream of the crop during this process, we wouldn\’t be doing our jobs.\” That said, we (The Bears) are competing with every team in our league, going after the same small pool of elite players, as well as teams from numerous leagues in Canada and the USHL who are pulling from the same pool of players. \”Essentially, the pool of elite prospects is smaller than the amount of teams pursuing them.\”
There are so many Junior Hockey teams around the country. Players have so many options whether they are being heavily recruited or deciding which camps to attend each summer. We are here to offer the Pacific District player, the elite Alaskan Player in particular a chance to play close to home. We search far and wide for the best, but as I\’ve said, no one gets every player they want during this process. Some teams are a better fit for players than others.
We provide a good fit for those elite players who want to live in Alaska and focus solely on school and hockey. \”There are no distractions here. I played junior hockey here years ago, and before coming back to coach the Brown Bears, I have remembered all these years what the inside of the rink looked like and what my billet house looked like\” Coach David said. \”I see that as a huge advantage. To develop into an athlete that colleges are willing to pay for your education to play hockey for them is a focused task. You cannot waiver. You cannot be distracted. It requires a real love for training and a desire to improve every day. The Kenai Peninsula is a great place to work at it\” coach added.
Currently, Our Bears have signed three Tenders.
Dalton Blenc (forward), 1991 born from Michigan 2009-10 team- California Stars 18aaa
\”Dalton was recommended by previous coach Brent Agrusa. Brent speaks very highly of Dalton and in the conversations I have had with Dalton, I can see why. He is a top notch kid with an exceptional attitude\” coach David said
Gordan Caesar (Goalie), 1991 born from California 2009-10 team-SoCal Titans 18aaa (Winners of the NAPHL)
\”We are excited to have a top goalie competing for a chance to make our team next season\” coach said. \”Gordan displayed a competitiveness all season and helped his team to victory, winning the NAPHL in dramatic fashion\” coach added.
Tyler Isaacs (forward) 1992 born from Palmer, Alaska 2009-10 team- Pike\’s Peak Minors, CO 18aaa
\”Coach Christianson, did a great job in recruiting Tyler. Tyler\’s season ended prematurely during the Colorado State tournament, and had the chance to come practice with us upon completion of his season. Needless to say, we were impressed by his skill level and attitude. It was a no brainer to offer him a chance to compete for a spot on our team next season\” coach David Said