The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the host Wenatchee (Washington) Wild 2-1 in a shootout Sunday in front of 2,186 to take the rubber match in a three-game, weekend series.
“Our goal coming in was to win the series and we were able to achieve that,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “Tonight, I thought we played a great game and solid goaltending backed us up.”
The Bears, who are 2-0 in shootouts and 3-0 in games going to extra time, improve to 8-9-0 and move into a tie for fourth place in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division. The Wild are 4-7-4, and the point allows them to move out of last place in the South Division.
After there was no score in the first two rounds of the shootout, Nick Klishko got things started for the Brown Bears in the third round when he beat Wenatchee goalie Zach Quinn.
After Josh Creelman, who moved to 2-0 in shootouts, stopped Tyler Rockwell, Alex Jackstadt put the Bears up again with a tally in the fourth round.
Brendan Harris kept things alive for Wenatchee in the fourth round when he scored on Creelman, but Creelman would stop Ivan Bondarenko in the fifth round to secure the win. Bondarenko hit the crossbar on his try.
“It’s a coin toss,” Beauparlant said of the shootout. “You never know what is going to happen. You just hope all five of your guys make strong moves, and I thought all five made strong moves.”
Quinn was recently traded from the Bears, but Beauparlant said he’s not sure if familiarity favors the shooter or goaltender.
He was able to put out three shooters Quinn was not teammates with — Colton Fletcher, Jackstadt and Joey Kaszupski — and Jackstadt was the only one to score.
The Bears were able to rebound and get the win after giving up a late goal in regulation to force the game to overtime.
After there was no scoring in the first period, Jack Gessert got the Bears on the board with 16:39 left in the second period with a tally assisted by Matt Rudin and Ben Campbell.
Beauparlant said Rudin had a solid game.
“I thought he had good legs and good speed,” the coach said. “As a group, I thought we played with more speed than in the previous two games.
“That really caught Wenatchee off-guard a little bit. It was good to see them back to playing the style of hockey we wanted.”
Beauparlant said the Bears did not capitalize on many of their opportunities, but he added that both teams did a good job of keeping chances to the outside.
Creelman was able to keep a clean sheet until just 51 seconds remained in the third period, when Ryan Chiasson found the back of the net to force overtime.
“I thought we controlled probably 55 minutes of the game, but give them a little credit, they hung in there,” Beauparlant said. “They were able to execute on a line rush with about a minute left.”
The Bears then survived an overtime in which they were outshot 5-0, even though Wenatchee took a penalty with a minute left in the five-minute period.
“I thought we played pretty smart even though we looked tired in overtime,” Beauparlant said. “We got caught out in a couple of shift changes, and that caused us to play in their zone a lot.”
Creelman made 25 saves for the Bears, while Quinn had 24 saves for the Wild.
The Bears stay on the road to face Fairbanks, winners of seven straight, on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Beauparlant said. “I think you’ll see two teams playing pretty good hockey right now.
“I think last night was a little blip for us, but I expect it to be a great series played at a high level.”
Brown Bears 2, Wild 1, SO
Kenai River 0 1 0 0 1 —2
Wenatchee 0 0 1 0 0 —1
First period — none. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 1. Kenai River, Gessert (Rudin, Campbell), 3:21. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Wenatchee 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 2. Wenatchee, Chiasson (Burston), 19:09. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — Wenatchee 1 for 2:00.
Shootout — Kenai River 2 (Fletcher NG, Schachle NG, Klishko G, Jackstadt G, Kaszupski NG); Wenatchee 1 (Ahlgren NG, Baker NG, Rockwell NG, Harris G, Bondarenko NG).
Shots on goal — Kenai River 7-12-6-0—25; Wenatchee 7-7-7-5—26.
Goalies — Kenai River, Creelman (26 shots, 25 saves); Wenatchee, Quinn (25 shots 24 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 2; Wenatchee 0 for 4.