Kenai River Brown Bears forward Ryan Finch battles Minnesota Wilderness defenseman Severi Sulonen and forward Cole Gordon for the puck Friday, March 18, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Ryan Finch battles Minnesota Wilderness defenseman Severi Sulonen and forward Cole Gordon for the puck Friday, March 18, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Wilderness complete 3-game sweep of Bears

The Minnesota Wilderness finished a three-game sweep of the Kenai River Brown Bears with Friday and Saturday victories in North American Hockey League action at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

The Wilderness won 7-1 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday.

The Bears now travel to face the Anchorage Wolverines on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. before finishing the season with four games at home. Kenai River plays the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on April 1 and 2, and the Minnesota Magicians on April 8 and 9.

The Wilderness remain in third place in the Midwest Division at 30-21-1-0, while the Bears are in last place at 13-36-3-2.

Friday, Kenai River interim head coach Taylor Shaw said the Bears worked to create a lot of chances in the first period and a half.

“We were getting a ton of chances, but we couldn’t score,” he said. “That’s kind of been what’s happened in the past.”

Shaw also said Minnesota goalie Konrad Kausch had some great saves. Kausch was hurt near the end of the second period, but made 22 saves on 23 shots.

The Wilderness got a five-on-three goal from Max Neill in the first period, then led 3-0 with 10:50 left in the second period after goals from Barrett Hall and Cole Gordon.

Caden Triggs, assisted by Max Marquette and Nick Stevens, cut the lead to 3-1 headed to the third period.

“We became undisciplined in the third period,” Shaw said.

After the Bears had won the shot count 23-20 in the first two periods, Minnesota had 15 shots to Kenai River’s four in the third. Kenai River had four penalties for 16 minutes in the third, while Minnesota had one for two minutes.

Hall and Gunnar Thoreson had even-strength goals for the Wilderness in the final frame, while Ren Morque and Calvin Knight had power-play tallies.

Matthew Smith saved all four shots for Minnesota, while Bryant Marks finished with 28 saves on 35 shots for Kenai River.

Shaw said the Bears have a young group. Playing with five defensemen now due to injury isn’t helping either. Forward Noah Holt has been filling in on defense.

Friday’s attendance was announced at 1,363.

“I think it speaks to a lot of where we’re trying to get the culture to go and the community is a huge part of that,” Shaw said. “We’ve been finding ways to win games in the last month and a half, even though we have a new group after getting rid of our 20-year-olds.”

Saturday, all of the scoring happened in the third period. Jared Mangan and Max Neill put the Wilderness up 2-0 with 14:43 left in the game.

With 9:16 remaining, Kenai River’s Ryan Finch cut it to 2-1 on assists from Bryce Monrean and Nick Ostbloom.

Barrett Hall clinched the game for the Wilderness with an empty-net goal with 24 seconds to play.

Matthew Smith made 29 saves for the Wilderness, while Levi Gho stopped 31 for Kenai River.

Friday

Wilderness 7, Brown Bears 1

Minnesota 1 2 4 —7

Kenai River 0 1 0 —1

First period — 1. Minnesota, Neill (Rexine, Ruoho), pp, 12:06. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 6:00.

Second period — 2. Minnesota, Hall (Mangan, Thoreson), 7:49; 3. Minnesota, Gordon (Erickson, Knight), 9:10; 4. Kenai River, Triggs (Marquette, Stevens), 14:35. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00.

Third period — 5. Minnesota, Hall (Morque, Mangan), 1:02; 6. Minnesota, Thoreson (Crusberg-Roseen, Ruoho), 5:55; 7. Minnesota, Morque (Thoreson, Wolthers), pp, 14:44; 8. Minnesota, Knight (Sulonen, Erickson), pp, 17:51. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00, Kenai River 4 for 16:00.

Shots on goal — Minnesota 7-13-15—35; Kenai River 10-13-4—27.

Goalies — Minnesota, Kausch (23 shots, 22 saves), Smith (4 shots, 4 saves); Kenai River, Marks (35 shots, 28 saves).

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Kris Zapata and Minnesota Wilderness forward Cole Gordon battle for the puck Friday, March 18, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Kris Zapata and Minnesota Wilderness forward Cole Gordon battle for the puck Friday, March 18, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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