The Minnesota Wilderness defeated the Kenai River Brown Bears 4-1 on Friday in North American Hockey League play at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Bears had a four-game winning streak and a five-game point streak snapped. Kenai River also saw a seven-game point streak at home come to an end in falling to 1-2-0-1 against the Wilderness this season. Minnesota is now on a two-game winning streak.
The Wilderness (25-15-3-4) move into a tie for second place in the Midwest Division with 57 points, four points behind the division-leading Wisconsin Windigo.
The Brown Bears (25-21-2-1) remain in fourth place and in possession of the division’s final playoff spot with 53 points. The Anchorage Wolverines and Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets each have 51, while the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel have 48.
The Brown Bears and Wilderness wrap up the two-game series tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
“We’re aware of the big picture, but it’s about us attacking today and we lost the war today,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “We have to attack tomorrow when it comes.”
Shaw said he had a good feeling this week in practice, but that changed game day.
“I don’t know if we ever showed up to the rink tonight,” Shaw said. “A few guys did, but as a unit, we didn’t.”
The Bears managed to stay in the game for two periods. Sawyer Scholl scored for Minnesota in the first, but Nick Stevens, assisted by Hayden Walters and Parker Lockwood, answered later in the first.
In the third period, Minnesota got goals from Brian Lonergan, Michael Quinn and Reid Daavettila in under a three-minute span to take control of the game.
“We had zero resilience as a group,” Shaw said. “That hasn’t been like us on the back half, or really all year. It was kind of an odd one.”
Andy Larson, a tender for the Brown Bears, made his debut and Shaw liked what he saw. Shaw said Larson was a finalist for high school hockey player of the year in Minnesota.
Isak Posch saved 31 for the Wilderness, while Nils Wallstrom saved 24 for the Bears.
Wilderness 4, Brown Bears 1
Minnesota 1 0 3 —4
Kenai River 1 0 0 —1
First period — 1. Minnesota, Scholl (Lonergan, Erickson), 8:54; 2. Kenai River, Stevens (Walters, Lockwood), 11:24. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — none. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 3. Minnesota, Lonergan (Stumpel, Quinn), 8:01; 4. Minnesota, Quinn (Stumpel, Marx Noren), 10:15; 5. Minnesota, Daavettila (Cosman, Janzig), 10:45. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 4 for 29:00.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 8-13-7—28; Kenai River 9-12-11—32.
Goalies — Minnesota, Posch (32 shots, 31 saves); Kenai River, Wallstrom (28 shots, 24 saves).
Power plays — Minnesota 1 for 2; Kenai River 0 for 2.