The Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild prevailed in a wild game over the Kenai River Brown Bears on Thursday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, coming away with a 4-3 win after getting a tying goal late in regulation and scoring twice in the shootout.
The win helps Wenatchee (20-17-5) in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division standings, bringing the Wild up to within a point of fourth-place Kenai River with 45 points. The Bears (21-17-4) have 46 points. The Brown Bears were particularly effective on the power play, getting all three of their goals with a man advantage on five opportunities.
“We were really moving the puck well and capitalizing on opportunites,” said Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant. “Whenever your power play is working you should come away with two points.
“They played hard for 65 minutes, but when it comes to a shootout anything can happen.”
Going into the third period, the game was knotted up at one apiece, after goals from Kenai River’s Frankie Spellman and Wenatchee’s David Powlowski in the first and second periods, respectively. Before three minutes were up in the third period, Troy Loggins’ shot rebounded off Bears goalie Zach Quinn but Omar Mullan was there to provide the goal and a 2-1 lead.
With 12 minutes, 41 seconds, left in the game — and a mere three seconds left on a Kenai River power play — Jack Gessert buried a long range shot to knot it up again. Only 3:03 later, Gustav Berglund directed a laser pass to home captain Jacob Davidson, who was near the crease and standing with a great look at the net. Davidson’s goal put the Bears up 3-2.
“It’s frustrating because five-on-five, I thought we played very well,” said Wenatchee coach Bliss Littler. “All five of the penalties we took were in the offensive zone. It’s nothing to do with them scoring a goal, so it’s five penalties that we didn’t have to take.”
With 46 seconds left in regulation, Wenatchee’s efforts paid off with a goal with an extra attacker on the ice in the midst of a flurry of activity right in front of the net. The score was reviewed by the referees and called good.
“I believe in the hockey gods,” Littler said about the late goal. “I’m a Christian but I believe in the hockey gods.”
Beauparlant saw things differently, mentioning that he thought it was a high-sticking penalty from the Wild that should have erased the score.
“Luckily, we responded well and played a good overtime period,” Beauparlant said. “We’ll see on the video and go from there, and maybe we were right and maybe we were wrong. The video doesn’t lie, but in the moment you can’t control that.”
In the five-minute overtime period, Kenai River got the power-play advantage again after a slashing penalty was given to Mullan. This time, the Bears weren’t able to squeeze a goal out of it, and to make matters worse, were hit with a penalty for too many men on the ice with 1:33 left. The Bears rode out the final minute with a 4-on-3 man disadvantage to force the game to a shootout.
In the shootout, Loggins and Matthew Nuttle scored on Quinn, while the Brown Bears’ combination of Albin Karlsson, Judd Loewenstein, Nathan Colwell and Alec Butcher failed to get the puck past Wild goalie Chase Perry.
Beauparlant recalled a game situation earlier in the season when the opposing team had seven players on the ice for nearly 15 seconds, but were not called for a penalty because “they were not involved in the play”, and the Bears ended up losing that game 2-1.
“Tonight was the same deal, our guy wasn’t involved in the play,” Beauparlant said. “We had a three-on-two, and so our guy jumped a couple of feet early and it was a tough call. All we’re looking for is the consistency.”
The Brown Bears and Wild face off again today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Wild 4, Brown Bears 3, SO
Wenatchee 0 1 2 0 1 —4
Kenai River 1 0 2 0 0 —3
First period — 1. Kenai River, Spellman (Karlsson, Stefan), pp, 8:58. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Wenatchee, Powlowski (Rauter, Ahlgren), 8:24. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 3. Wenatchee, Mullan (Loggins, Demario), 2:44; 4. Kenai River, Gessert (Butcher, Andrews), pp, 7:19; 5. Kenai River, Davidson (Berglund, Fuchs), pp, 10:22; 6. Wenatchee, Pison (Salvato, Rauter), ea, 19:14. Penalties — Wenatchee 2 for 4:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shootout — Wenatchee 2 (Loggins G, Rauter NG, Ahlgren NG, Nuttle G); Kenai River 0 (Karlsson NG, Loewenstein NG, Colwell NG, Butcher NG).
Shots on goal — Wenatchee 14-12-15-7—48; Kenai River 9-10-6-1—26.
Goalies — Wenatchee, Perry (26 shots, 23 saves); Kenai River, Quinn (48 shots, 45 saves).
Power plays — Wenatchee 0 for 3; Kenai River 3 for 5.