SOLDOTNA, AK – Never since the Jets became division opponents of the league’s two Alaska-based teams was the tougher series played in Soldotna.
In fact, since the Brown Bears’ inception in 2007, Kenai River never once finished ahead of the Ice Dogs in the standings. The closest gap was 18 points in 2012-13, when the Ice Dogs’ 82 points finished just shy of the West Division crown. Kenai River’s 29 wins that season couldn’t quite best the previous year’s franchise-high of 31.
It’s early yet, of course, but 10 games into a 60-game slate, the Brown Bears’ top-five attack, their top-three defense, and their top-ranked power play have carried them to seven wins and an early hold on the division’s top spot. A much tougher, much more talented Kenai River team than the Jets are used to seeing will await them tonight at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
In the Brown Bears’ season-opening road sweep of the Jets, they hung 12 goals on the Janesville Ice Arena scoreboard. A young Jets group (eight non-age-out players from last year’s final roster advanced to the USHL or Division I) has grown considerably since that pair of games. On the back end, Hudson defenseman Jordon Halverson arrived, and so did Czech-born draft pick Stanislav Dosek. Janesville sent a conditional pick to Minot for forward Austin Koss, and in the same week acquired forward Justin Engelkes from Wilkes-Barre. Rookies at every position group have taken steps forward.
A quick flight away from a split in Fairbanks, the Jets’ next challenge is clear: finish the five-game road trip with a pair of wins over the Midwest Division leader.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. How about on an Olympic sheet of ice?
Puck drops at 10:30pm CDT both nights. Each game broadcast live on HockeyTV.com.
Record: 5-5-0-0 (3rd, Midwest)
Road Record: 2-1-0-0
Goals For/Game: 2.20 (19th)
Goals Against/Game: 3.20 (19th)
Power Play: 21.1% (10th)
Penalty Kill: 77.5% (17th)
Top Scorers: D Andrew Hicks (6GP—3G-2A—5PTS); F Erik Bargholtz (9GP—3G-2A—5PTS); F Brenden MacLaren (10GP—2G-3A—5PTS) John Pesek (6GP—0G-5A—5PTS)
Goaltenders: Garrett Nieto (3-3-0-0; 3.42 GAA; .899 SV%); Cole Brady (2-1-0-0; 2.40 GAA; .901 SV%); Kevin Lake (0-1-0-0; 1.00 GAA; .947 SV%)
Commitments: F Justin Engelkes (Miami); F Erik Bargholtz (Michigan State); G Cole Brady (Arizona State); F Brenden MacLaren (Ferris State); G Garrett Nieto (Union)
KENAI RIVER BROWN BEARS
Record: 7-3-0-0 (1st, Midwest)
Home Record: 2-0-0-0
Goals For/Game: 3.40 (5th)
Goals Against/Game: 2.10 (3rd)
Power Play: 37.0% (1st)
Penalty Kill: 75.0% (18th)
Top Scorers: F Zach Krajnik (10GP—3G-8A—11PTS); D Markuss Komuls (10GP—1G-8A—9PTS); D JJ Boucher (10GP—0G-9A—9PTS)
Goaltenders: Gavin Enright (4-1-0-0; 2.00 GAA; .927 SV%); Dennis Westergard (3-1-0-0; 2.45 GAA; .919 SV%)
Commitments: None on active roster