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26 in 26: Kenai River Brown Bears

August 29, 2019
The 26 in 26 series features a look at all 26 teams in the NAHL for the 2019-20 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 26 in 26 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 26 coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league.  It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
 
Kenai River Brown Bears
Head Coach: Kevin Murdock (1st Year)
2018-19 record: 23-31-6, 52 pts. (5th in the Midwest Division)
2018-19 leading scorer: Zach Krajnik (50 pts.)
2019 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2019-20 Division: Midwest
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 18th vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights
Home opener: Friday, October 11th vs. Janesville Jets
 
The Kenai River Brown Bears continued trending in the right direction during the 2018-19 season. Their 23 wins and 52 points were the most since 2014. That was in large part due to their impressive goaltending. The Brown Bears allowed just 174 goals on the season, the fewest in team history. However they only scored the second fewest goals in the NAHL. 
 
A new face will grace the Kenai River bench this season as Kevin Murdock takes the reins as head coach of the Brown Bears. Murdock comes from the North Iowa Bulls of the NA3HL where he served as the assistant coach for three seasons. “I definitely think the NA3HL prepared me for this. A lot of the things are very similar in terms of running camps, recruiting, the tenders and the draft process,” Murdock said. “I definitely thing I got a lot of good experience doing it in North Iowa. I think the experience was very beneficial.”
 
With five NCAA commitments, the Brown Bears have plenty of players eligible to return this season, something coach Murdock is grateful for. “We’re fortunate to have good core group of players coming back. We just want to build off their success from last year as they just missed the playoffs by a couple points. We want to keep things trending in the right direction, that’s the goal.”
 
Watch: Kenai River Brown Bears head coach Kevin Murdoch interview
 
One of the top returners for Kenai River is JJ Boucher.  The Canadian defenseman registered 31 points over 54 games last season. Another good season should certainly give him the NCAA commitment he is chasing. Two-year captain Preston Weeks will be returning for his fifth season in the NAHL. He has played 183 games for the Brown Bears. Over the course of his career, Weeks has scored four times and has 27 points. He needs to play in 49 games to set the NAHL all-time record for games played. 
 
Porter Schachle is a talented forward who will be coming back to Kenai River. The Alaska native was off to a good start last season with three goals and 10 points in 23 games but an injury cost him the second half of the season. Schachle looks to rebound from the injury and help get his club back into the postseason picture. 
 
Trey LaBarge will return for his final season of eligibility. From Hudson, Wisconsin, LaBarge scored six times in 2018-19 and finished with 12 points. He only appeared in 32 games so he looks forward to a full year in Kenai River. Laudon Poellinger and Logan Ritchie also return for the Brown Bears. Poellinger had nine points in 35 games played while Ritchie potted five goals and had 12 points. 
 
The Brown Bears are hoping to snap the longest active postseason drought in the NAHL. The last time Kenai River was playing in the postseason was 2014. With a new coach, comes a fresh start and a new sense of optimism among those in Kenai River. They’re hoping their new coach and take them somewhere they haven’t been in a long time.
 
Next up: Lone Star Brahmas
 
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