The Kenai River Brown Bears lost 4-2 to the host Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild on Thursday to fall four points behind in the playoff race.
Wenatchee (26-20-6) and the Coulee Region (Wis.) Chill both are tied for third place in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division with 58 points. The Bears (24-20-6) are in fifth place with 54 points.
Wenatchee has eight games left in the season, while Kenai River has 10 and Coulee Region has 12.
The Bears started slow in front of 2,416, getting outshot 9-2 in the first period and 12-6 in the second period.
Kenai River coach Geoff Beauparlant said it was not until his team was down 3-0 midway through the third period that the play picked up.
“We had our chances in the third period, but we left it to the last 10 minutes,” Beauparlant said. “You need to play 60 minutes in this league or you are going to end up on the short end.”
The Bears were down 1-0 entering the third, but David Powlowski scored for Wenatchee just 1 minute, 34 seconds, into the final frame.
Wenatchee goalie Chase Perry then blocked Albin Karlsson on a penalty shot.
“He came down and tried to go over the goalie’s glove but the Perry kid held his ground and didn’t back up even though Albin came in with a lot of speed,” Beauparlant said.
Wenatchee took that momentum and used it for an Alex Rauter goal with 11:54 left in the game.
Alec Butcher, on assists from Karlsson and Tyler Andrews, notched a power-play goal with 9:54 left. Jack Gessert then scored unassisted on a faceoff play at the 5:26 mark to make it 3-2.
But just 35 seconds later, Brendan Harris scored for Wenatchee to put the game out of reach.
Zach Quinn made 28 saves for the Bears, while Perry had 15 for the Wild.
“Quinn played well again,” Beauparlant said. “He made some tremendous saves to allow us to try and regroup.”
But Beauparlant said the story of the game was the way his team started in such a pivotal game.
“I’m not happy at all,” the coach said of the first period. “We played on our heels and they were ready and wanted it more than we did.
“That showed through for the entire game.”
The teams stay in Wenatchee to drop the puck at 6:05 p.m. Saturday and 2:05 p.m. Sunday.
Wild 4, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 0 0 2 —2
Wenatchee 1 0 3 —4
First period — 1. Wenatchee, Tuomie (Demario, Harris), pp, 6:37. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 2. Wenatchee, Powlowski (Tuomie), 1:34; 3. Wenatchee, Rauter (Ahlgren), pp, 8:06; 4. Kenai River, Butcher (Karlsson, Andrews), pp, 12:06; 5. Kenai River, Gessert (un.), 14:34; 6. Wenatchee, Harris (Ahlgren), 15:09. Penalties — Kenai River 3 for 6:00; Wenatchee 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 2-6-9—17; Wenatchee 9-12-11—32.
Goalies — Kenai River, Quinn (32 shots, 28 saves); Wenatchee, Perry (17 shots, 15 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 3; Wenatchee 2 for 5.