When the Kenai River Brown Bears and Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild face off, leaving early is not a good idea.
After Wenatchee pushed Thursday’s contest to overtime with an extra-attacker goal with 46 seconds remaining, the Bears used an extra attacker Friday to score with 1:01 and three seconds left to force overtime.
But like Thursday, Kenai River ended up losing 4-3 in a shootout Friday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in front of 700 fans.
The Wild and the Brown Bears are now tied for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Midwest Division with 21-17-5 records.
Kenai River won the first five games against Wenatchee but has lost the last three.
Wenatchee looked ready to cruise to a 3-1 victory Friday when Kenai River goalie Kris Oldham skated off the ice to bring on the extra attacker with 2:30 remaining.
“All of a sudden they pulled their goalie, and they got aggressive, and we got passive,” Wild head coach Bliss Littler said.
Bears head coach Geoff Beauparlant said his team started building momentum in the final half of the third period.
“I think we played with the intensity and desperation you need to play with this time of the year the last 10 minutes of the game,” Beauparlant said. “The whole attitude on the bench changed.”
With 1:01 to play, Jack Gessert and Frankie Spellman outmuscled Wenatchee for the puck in front of the net. Sebastian Fuchs got the puck to Zack Zulkanycz on the far side for a goal to cut the gap to 3-2.
With under 10 seconds, Jacob Davidson slid the puck across the ice to Jake Bushey, who found a crease back across the ice to Fuchs. Fuchs wasted no time ripping a one-timer, lighting the lamp with just three seconds left.
“That was just a great hockey play,” Littler said. “The goalie didn’t have a chance.”
The Bears dominated the overtime, but Wenatchee goalie Chase Perry stood tall.
“I think we were feeling pretty sorry for ourselves,” Littler said of the extra five minutes. “They just scored two goals so they were pretty jacked up, and for us it was just the opposite.”
Both Littler and Beauparlant said Perry made three huge saves in the overtime. One came on a backhand by Nathan Colwell with 3:48 left, and another came on an open chance out front by Tyler Andrews with 2:53 left.
The Bears also spent the last 1:59 on the power play, but could not solve Perry.
“Give their goalie credit,” Beauparlant said. “He made three tremendous saves that allowed them to get two points.”
In the shootout, David Powlowski, Jakob Ahlgren and Andre Pison scored for the Bears, while Albin Karlsson and Fuchs connected for the Bears.
Kenai River came out strong in the first period, outshooting Wenatchee 11-6 and taking a 1-0 lead at the 9:10 mark when Jacob Wolter scored on an assist from Tommy Dierl.
Beauparlant said Wolter and Zulkanycz both played with a lot of physicality and effort, and it was nice to see that rewarded with goals.
But Wenatchee found a way to score two goals before the end of the first period despite not generating a lot of pressure.
With 9:33 left, Nicholas Rivera had a nifty tip of a Chris Jones’ shot for a 1-all game, and with 4:24 left, Omar Mullan had a swift finish on a well-executed two-on-one.
“Hockey is a funny game,” Littler said. “We were up 2-1 after the first period, but we got our butts kicked all over the ice.
“We were just able to make a couple skill plays.”
Littler said the second period was even, with Wenatchee’s Jakob Ahlgren getting the lone goal.
Wenatchee then came out and beat the Bears to the puck more often than not for the first half of the third period.
“We weren’t playing with the want-to we’ve become accustomed to playing with,” Beauparlant said.
Despite the head-to-head, season edge over the Wild, Kenai River outshot Wenatchee for the first time this season, with Perry saving 29 and Oldham stopping 16.
“These are two young hockey clubs that are a lot of fun to see play,” Beauparlant said. “Every time we play, we’re playing close games and clean, fast hockey.”
Notes: The Bears have traded Eric Purcell to the Amarillo (Texas) Bulls for cash and assets.
Purcell had five goals and six assists in 23 games for the Bears after coming in a trade from the Corpus Christi (Texas) IceRays for Brad LeLievre, who has two goals and eight assists in his 20 games with the IceRays.
“We wish him well,” Beauparlant said of Purcell. “It wasn’t the right fit on both sides, so we are moving on.”
Wild 4, Brown Bears 3, SO
Wenatchee 2 1 0 0 1 —4
Kenai River 1 0 2 0 0 —3
First period — 1. Kenai River, Wolter (Dierl), 10:50; 2. Wenatchee, Rivera (Jones), 12:27; 3. Wenatchee, Mullan (Rauter, Powlowski), 15:36. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 4. Wenatchee, Ahlgren (Gumerov, Kaszupski), 15:46. Penalties — Wenatchee 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Zulkanycz (Fuchs, Spellman), ea, 18:59; 6. Kenai River, Fuchs (Bushey, Davidson), ea, 19:57. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00.
Shootout — Wenatchee 3 (Loggins NG, Powlowski G, Ahlgren G, Nuttle NG, Pison G); Kenai River 2 (Davidson NG, Karlsson G, Fuchs G, Butcher NG, Colwell NG).
Shots on goal — Wenatchee 6-8-5-0—19; Kenai River 11-7-10-4—32.
Goalies — Wenatchee, Perry (32 shots, 29 saves); Kenai River, Oldham (19 shots, 16 saves).
Power plays — Wenatchee 0 for 4; Kenai River 0 for 5.