The host Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild completed a three-game sweep of the Kenai River Brown Bears on Sunday with a 4-3 overtime win in front of 2,579.
The Bears lost for the fourth straight outing, but snapped a skid of three games without a point.
“It was a good game for us considering the way we played the last three games,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “It was a positive step for our hockey club, especially going into a stretch where we have eight games left.
“The positive is we did get one point, which is better than the last three games. We battled for it and earned it.”
Getting a point for the tie leaves the Bears in fifth place, and out of the playoffs, in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division.
Kenai River (24-21-7) has 55 points and eight games left, while fourth-place Coulee Region (Wis.) has 58 points and 10 games to play.
Wenatchee, winners of six of seven, used the three-game sweep to put itself in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth. The Wild (28-20-6) are now in third place with 62 points.
The victory also gives the season series to the Wild by a 7-5 count. Kenai River won the first five games of the series, but lost the last seven.
Four of Wenatchee’s victories came in extra time, as opposed to just one for Kenai River, so the Wild took 10 points out of the season series, while the Bears took nine.
Conor Deal, on an assist from Frankie Spellman, got the Bears on the board just 3 minutes, 52 seconds, into the game. Spellman dug the puck out of the corner and threw it in front to Deal.
But then special teams came back to bite the Bears, just as they had all weekend. Before the end of the first period, Alex Rauter scored a power-play goal and David Powlowski scored short-handed for a 2-1 Wild lead.
The Wild finished the weekend 7 for 17 on the power play, while the Bears were 2 for 13 with the extra man and gave up a short-handed goal.
“That’s something we have to look at going down the stretch,” Beauparlant said. “We have to shore up our penalty kill a little bit.”
Judd Loewenstein, on assists from Matt Rudin and Tommy Dierl, had the lone goal of the second period for a tie game.
Loewenstein has been increasingly comfortable attacking in his second season with the Bears, tallying 10 points this season after five last season.
“He’s doing the things we ask him to do,” Beauparlant said. “He’s playing good defense and picking the opportunity to jump in the rush.”
Just 1:44 into the third period, Nicholas Rivera gave Wenatchee a 3-2 lead.
“We got down 3-2 early in the third and battled hard to stick to our game plan and earn the point late,” Beauparlant said.
Sebastian Fuchs, on an assist from Alec Butcher, scored with 3:24 left to force overtime.
“At the end of regulation, we had two really good chances,” Beauparlant said. “I’m pretty proud of how we bounced back from last night in less than 24 hours and earned a well-deserved point to keep ourselves in the running.”
Then 3:22 into overtime, Parker Tuomie scored on a rebound for Wenatchee to end the game.
Kris Oldham had 35 saves for the Bears, while Austin Priebe had 25 for Wenatchee.
“He competed and that’s all you can ask for from your No. 2 – that when he gets the opportunity, he competes and gives us a chance to win,” Beauparlant said. “He did that tonight.”
The Bears now travel to Texas for games against Corpus Christi on Friday and Saturday and Wichita Falls on March 14 and 15.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Beauparlant said. “It’s never easy traveling to the South. They have big buildings with lots of fans.
“The teams play a physical, sound style of hockey. It’s four difficult hockey games, but at the same time we’re up for the challenge. We eliminated the lull by the way we played today.”
Wild 4, Brown Bears 3, OT
First period — 1. Kenai River, Deal (Spellman), 3:52; 2. Wenatchee, Rauter (Rymsha, Ahlgren), pp, 12:02; 3. Wenatchee, Powlowski (Tuomie), sh, 18:21. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Wenatchee 3 for 6:00.
Second period — 4. Kenai River, Loewenstein (Rudin, Dierl), 0:28. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Wenatchee 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 5. Wenatchee, Rivera (Rymsha, Mullan), 1:44; 6. Kenai River, Fuchs (Butcher), 16:36. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 7. Wenatchee Tuomie (Harris, Nuttle), 3:22. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 7-12-9-0—28; Wenatchee 20-7-10-2—39.
Goalies — Kenai River, Oldham (39 shots, 35 saves); Wenatchee, Priebe (28 shots, 25 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 0 for 4; Wenatchee 1 for 4.