The Minnesota Wilderness defeated the Kenai River Brown Bears 4-1 on Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to sweep the two-game North American Hockey League series.
The Bears (25-22-2-1) are now tied with the Anchorage Wolverines for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Midwest Division with 53 points, though the Bears have 10 games left, while the Wolverines have 12 games left.
Minnesota (26-15-3-4) moves to second in the division with 59 points, while the Wisconsin Windigo lead with 63 and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs are in third at 57.
Chasing the Bears and Wolverines are the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets with 51 and the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel with 50.
“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities very well at all,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “We scored two goals the whole weekend. Tonight, we certainly had our chances.”
Shaw said the Bears did not play well at all in Friday’s loss. Saturday, Shaw said Kenai River put together some nice stretches of creating chances and limiting chances for the Wilderness.
Kenai River didn’t convert enough of those chances on a night it outshot the Wilderness 32-29.
Bo Cosman scored for Minnesota in the first, then Kotaro Tsutsumi, assisted by Ryan Finch and Garett Drotts, answered on the power play with 1:42 left in the first.
Sawyer School made it 2-1 in favor of Minnesota headed to the third.
With 8:04 left in the game, Gustav Ozolins put the Wilderness up 3-1. Ozolins then scored again with seven seconds left on the empty net.
Isak Posch saved 31 for Minnesota, while Nils Wallstrom stopped 25 for the Bears. Posch was named the Bauer Midwest Division Star of the Week for his play Friday and Saturday by the NAHL.
“I thought they wanted it more, truthfully,” Shaw said. “They were winning races all over the ice. I thought their goalkeeper played really well. He was in control all weekend.”
The Bears play Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Fairbanks against the Ice Dogs.
Wilderness 4, Brown Bears 1
Minnesota 1 1 2 —4
Kenai River 1 0 0 —1
First period — 1. Minnesota, Cosman (un.), 4:41; 2. Kenai River, Tsutsumi (Finch, Monson), pp, 18:18. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Minnesota, Scholl (Pahos), 13:59. Penalties — Minnesota 4 for 19:00; Kenai River 4 for 19:00.
Third period — 4. Minnesota, Cosman (Marx Noren), 11:56; 5. Minnesota, Marx Noren (un.), en, 19:53. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 11-9-9—29; Kenai River 11-9-12—32.
Goalies — Minnesota, Posch (32 shots, 31 saves); Kenai River, Wallstrom (28 shots, 25 saves).
Power plays — Minnesota 0 for 2; Kenai River 1 for 3.