Soldotna junior hockey team taps Chugiak-Eagle River talent

Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 16:05
  • Kenai River Brown Bears forward Sutton McDonald shadows Shreveport’s Brendan VanSweden during the Brown Bears’ 5-4 North American Hockey League overtime win on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Kenai River Brown Bears defenseman Cam McDonald, of Eagle River, checks a Shreveport Mudbugs player during the Brown Bears’ 5-4 North American Hockey League overtime win on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Among Chugiak-Eagle River’s claims to fame are high densities of bears and large numbers of hockey players, so it’s probably fitting the Kenai River Brown Bears Tier II junior hockey team has tapped the area for a chunk of its roster this season.

Four local residents are on the North American Hockey League team’s roster this season, including former Chugiak High standouts William Casey and Zach Krajnik, along with former Eagle River Wolves Sutton and Cam McDonald.

Casey, a 20-year-old forward, is the oldest of the group, having last played at Chugiak in 2012 before spending time with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite U18 team and the Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. Krajnik is an 18-year-old forward who earlier this year helped Chugiak to an Alaska Class 4A state hockey title. Casey has yet to score in seven games played this season, while Krajnik is scoreless in three games played.

The McDonald brothers led Eagle River High to back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the state tournament in 2016 and ‘17 — the Wolves’ only trips to the tournament in school history. Sutton McDonald is an 18-year-old forward who would have been a senior at ERHS this year, while Cam McDonald is a 16-year-old defenseman who would have been a junior this season.

The duo figured prominently in a Brown Bears win on Oct. 21 at the Central Peninsula Sports Center in Soldotna, where each started and scored in Kenai River’s 5-4 overtime win over the Shreveport Mudbugs.

Sutton McDonald’s first-period goal was his second in nine games played this season, while Cam’s third-period assist gave him a team-high 10 helpers in 11 games played. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound defenseman has been one of the top scoring defenseman in the league this season, ranking fifth among all blueliners in scoring. Through Monday, Oct. 23, McDonald also ranked first among rookie defensemen in points scored and was the league’s seventh-leading scorer among rookies.

The win over Shreveport lifted the Brown Bears to 5-7-0, good enough for fifth place in the NAHL’s Midwest Division, which also includes the Janesville (Wisc.) Jets, Minnesota Magicians, Springfield (Ill.) Jr. Blues, Coulee Region (Wisc.) Chill and Fairbanks Ice Dogs.

After starting the season with a 10-game swing through Minnesota, North Dakota and Illinois, the Brown Bears are currently in the midst of a lengthy homestand with games scheduled for Oct. 26-28 against the Magicians, Nov. 2-3 and Nov. 24-25 against the Ice Dogs, Nov. 10-11 against the Minot Minotauros and Nov. 17-18 against the Bismarck Bobcats. Kenai River will travel to Fairbanks for a three game series Nov. 30-Dec. 2 against the Ice Dogs before embarking on a monthlong road trip to the Lower-48.

For more information on the team, visit kenairiverbrownbears.com.

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