The Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild have yet to solve the Kenai River Brown Bears, largely because the Wild are having a hard time solving Bears goalie Zach Quinn.
The Brown Bears moved to 5-0 this season against the Wild on Friday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex with a 2-1 North American Hockey League victory in front of 708 fans.
The Wild have outshot the Bears in all five games, but Quinn is 4-0 against the Wild. Kris Oldham picked up the other win.
Quinn made 48 saves in a 3-1 win Friday, then made 42 on Saturday.
“He was amazing,” Kenai River forward Albin Karlsson, who had the game-winner, said of his netminder. “He saved us both nights.”
Wenatchee bench boss Bliss Littler said his squad must do more with its opportunities.
“Their goalie played well, but we also put a lot of shots right into his belly,” he said.
Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant said it was a good team victory, with everybody doing the little things, like blocking shots, to help the goalie out. The Wild outshot the Bears 13-4 in the scoreless first period.
“They came out with a lot of energy and we got caught standing around in the first period,” Beauparlant said. “We were fortunate to be tied.”
The Kenai River coach said play evened up in the second period, with the Bears outshooting the Wild 15-14.
With 8 minutes, 57 seconds, left in the second period, Jake Bushey put a shot on net and Nathan Colwell tapped in the power-play goal.
That goal only encouraged the Wild, as Troy Loggins answered from the faceoff circle less than a minute and a half later.
In the third period, the power play came through again for the Bears with 15:59 to play. Gustav Berglund cranked a slap shot off the pipe, but it bounced right back to Karlsson.
Karlsson said Berglund’s blast had Wenatchee goalie Chase Perry out of position, so he just threw the puck to daylight.
“We took two undisciplined penalties 200 feet from our goal that we didn’t have to take,” Littler said. “That was the difference in the hockey game.”
The Bears’ 2-for-3 performance against the league’s fourth-best penalty-killing unit moved Kenai River up to eighth in the league on the power play.
“That’s something that wasn’t clicking earlier in the year, but we have it going now,” Beauparlant said.
Down by a goal, Wenatchee again cranked up the pressure, with Quinn standing up to flurries at the 13:42 and 7:09 marks. Wenatchee would outshoot the Bears 16-3 in the final period.
“He’s just calm back there,” Beauparlant said of his goalie. “Nothing seems to rattle him.”
Beauparlant called timeout with 4:48 to play and told his team to stop playing the puck backward and side-to-side, and to aggressively move the puck up the ice.
“He told us to calm down,” Karlsson said. “We were amped up and they were putting a lot of pressure on us.”
That evened out the ice, but Wenatchee had a few solid chances in the final minute with Perry, who made 20 saves, pulled.
Both teams are relatively young and improving. Wenatchee has 11 players in high school, while the Bears have 14 NAHL rookies.
“I like their team,” Littler said. “They have enough veterans and enough young guys for a nice mix.”
Brown Bears 2, Wild 1
Wenatchee 0 1 0 —1
Kenai River 0 1 1 —2
First period — none. Penalties — Wenatchee 2 for 12:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 1. Kenai River, Colwell (Bushey, Gessert), pp, 11:03; 2. Wenatchee, Loggins (Mullan, Bontje), 12:25. Penalties — Wenatchee 2 for 6:00; Kenai River 1 for 4:00.
Third period — 3. Kenai River, Karlsson (Berglund, Purcell), 4:01. Penalties — Wenatchee 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Wenatchee 13-14-16—43; Kenai River 4-15-3—22.
Goalies — Wenatchee, Perry (22 shots, 20 saves); Kenai River, Quinn (43 shots, 42 saves).
Power plays — Wenatchee 0 for 2; Kenai River 2 for 3.