The Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild defeated the Kenai River Brown Bears 4-3 on Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex for their first win in six tries against Kenai River this season.
The Wild had lost 3-1 to the Bears on Thursday and 2-1 on Friday, with Bears goalie Zach Quinn in the net on both nights.
Wenatchee coach Bliss Littler said after Friday’s game that his team didn’t deserve to win scoring just one goal, and his team responded Saturday with four goals against Quinn.
“I thought it was an intense game, going both ways,” said Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant. “It’s always going to be intense in the third game of a series. Emotions tend to run higher than normal, and (Wenatchee) just capitalized on their power plays better. That was the difference in the game.”
Wenatchee scored on two of its five power-play opportunities, while Kenai River went 0 for 2.
The game tightens up the playoff race in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division. Kenai River, at 19-17-3, has the fourth and final playoff spot with 41 points, but Wenatchee, at 17-16-3, is right behind with 37 points.
Fairbanks holds a firm grip on the Midwest lead with 54 points, the Coulee Region (Wis.) Chill is in second with 46 and the Minnesota Wilderness is third with 44 points.
Saturday, the Wild once again outshot the Bears — this time going 36-32 — but their efforts finally paid off with a win. Wenatchee started fast with three goals in the first period, including two power-play scores by Brendan Harris and Parker Tuomie.
The second period proved to be crucial for Kenai River. Jack Gessert converted on a shot 7 minutes, 41 seconds, into the period, and Alec Butcher knotted the game up at three apiece with just over five minutes left. The goal was Butcher’s NAHL-leading 44th of the season (17 goals, 27 assists).
“Butcher is a real battler,” Beauparlant said. “That guy is a tremendous hockey player and he’s only going to become better as he continues to grow as a player.”
However, Troy Loggins put an end to the Bears’ hopes with a shot with just over 14 minutes left in the game. Immediately after a regrouping opportunity, the Bears defense mishandled the puck and Loggins took advantage to score his fourth goal of the weekend.
“It was just an error on our back end,” Beauparlant said.
Kenai River will face the Minnesota Magicians next Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. The two squads split two games in late September.
Wild 4, Brown Bears 3
Wenatchee 3 0 1 —4
Kenai River 1 2 0 —3
First period — 1. Wenatchee, Gumerov (Mathias, Koukis), 2:08; 2. Kenai River, Purcell (Dierl, Deal), 5:21; 3. Wenatchee, Harris (Tuomie, Demario), pp, 6:31; 4. Wenatchee, Tuomie (Loggins, Nuttle), pp, 11:14. Penalties — Wenatchee 3 for 9:00; Kenai River 4 for 11:00.
Second period — 5. Kenai River, Gessert (Rudin), 7:41; 6. Kenai River, Butcher (Colwell, Davidson), 14:56. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 4 for 16:00.
Third period — 7. Wenatchee, Loggins (un.), 5:53. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Wenatchee 12-15-9—36; Kenai River 11-12-9—32.
Goalies — Wenatchee, Johansson (32 shots, 29 saves); Kenai River, Quinn (36 shots, 32 saves).
Power plays — Wenatchee 2 for 5, Kenai River 0 for 2.