Jan. 21—When the Anchorage Wolverines took the ice at Ben Boeke Arena on Friday, it'd been more than two weeks since the team had played in a North American Hockey League game.
The break appears to be just what the team needed. The Wolverines scored three first-period goals and got a solid performance from goalie Shane Soderwall to take a 4-2 win over the Kenai River Brown Bears.
"It was nice to get into the gameday routine," Soderwall said of the team's return. "The team played well for the whole game. Our team thrives off playing as a unit and we did that all 60 minutes."
It was the 20 minutes that were most impressive for the Wolverines from a scoring standpoint.
Defenseman Hayden Hennen and forwards Revelin Mack and Fedya Nikolayenya all notched goals to give Anchorage a 3-0 lead into the first-period break.
"I was a little bit worried having all that time off we'd come out a little rusty but we didn't show too much rust," Wolverines head coach Evan Trupp said. "I thought we played well right away."
Trupp attributed part of the team's spark to an ability to get healthy after the break. The team's only other game in 2023 was a 4-2 loss to Janesville on Jan. 4.
"We had a lot of guys back in the lineup so the break was good for us," he said. "We got about six guys back and plus a new body in (the lineup). Tonight the lineup looks a lot different than it did a couple weeks ago."
Kenai River shot back with a pair of goals in the second period Casper Conradsson Kelvgaard and Hunter Newhouse. But a Wolverines goal from Wilson Dahlheimer in between those two Kenai scores prevented the Brown Bears from getting closer than two goals. With four different players notching goals, Trupp said the Wolverines are starting to develop scoring on multiple lines.
"I think that a key to our success is our depth," Trupp said. "We have a lot of weapons in there and you have a lot of guys buying into their role on the team."
Soderwall, who played last season but mainly as a back-up for the Wolverines, said he's focused on gameday preparation as he's taken on a larger role this season.
"That's one thing he's been working on a lot, preparation for games and being able to play on a nightly basis at the top of his game," Trupp said. "When he does play at the top of his game, he's tough to score on. He's a good goalie."
Soderwall was especially acrobatic in the third period, making saves that blunted any potential Kenai River comeback.
"Our defense clearing those pucks out after I made some saves, they really came up huge tonight," he said.
The Wolverines have had Kenai River's number this year, going 4-1-2 after the win Friday. Soderwall said he approaches each game the same way.
"I do my same routine every game so sometimes the the luck of the roll goes our way versus some teams," he said. "But here, I think it's just our whole team comes to play."
The two teams play against tonight at the Ben Boeke Arena at 7 p.m.