The host Minnesota Wilderness defeated the Kenai River Brown Bears 4-3 in a shootout Friday at Northwoods Credit Union Arena in North American Hockey League play.
The Bears had a 3-1 lead headed to the third period, but couldn’t hold on. Minnesota’s Joe Cesario scored on the power play with 12:42 left, then Donovan O’Neil scored six-on-five with 57 seconds left.
“I’m pretty disappointed with the third period just in terms of taking dumb penalties,” Kenai River head coach Taylor Shaw said. “Obviously, we have a bad bug of blowing leads when it’s six-on-five.”
The Bears are 18-14-1-1, good for 38 points and third place in the Midwest Division. The Wilderness (19-10-1-2) and Fairbanks Ice Dogs are tied for the division lead with 41 points.
Kenai River stays in Minnesota for a 4:15 p.m. AKST game today.
The Brown Bears were swept by the Wisconsin Windigo last weekend. Shaw said the team played better Friday.
“I thought we did some really nice things over the first 40 minutes to be up 3-1 headed to the third period on the road,” Shaw said.
Ben Monson, assisted by Joe Manning and Garett Drotts, put the Bears up 1-0 just 4:37 into the game. Oliver Stumpel answered for the Wilderness.
Stumpel had to be removed from the ice on a stretcher by medical personnel in a scary incident at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Nov. 5. He ended up being out for a little over a month.
“Nobody wants to see anybody injured or hurt,” Shaw said. “I’m glad he’s back.”
Nick Stevens, assisted by Luke Anderson and Hunter Newhouse, scored for a 2-1 lead headed to the second.
Stevens, with help from Jack Anderson and Ashton Christman, scored on the power play for the lone goal of the second period.
In the shootout, Newhouse and Drotts missed for the Bears, while Kenai’s Parker Lockwood had a goal.
Lockwood has three goals in 101 career games for the Bears, but Shaw had no problem putting him out there.
“Practice,” Shaw said. “He’s pretty successful in practice.”
Stumpel and Kevin Marx Noren both scored in the shootout for the Wilderness.
“We didn’t make a save in the shootout,” Shaw said. “You can’t win if you don’t make a save.”
Nils Wallstrom had 29 saves for the Bears, while Isak Posch stopped 21 for Minnesota.
Wilderness 4, Brown Bears 3, SO
Kenai River 2 1 0 0 0 —3
Minnesota 1 0 2 0 1 —4
First period — 1. Kenai River, Monson (Manning, Drotts), pp, 4:37; 2. Minnesota, Stumpel (Simmons, Marx Noren), 10:04; 3. Kenai River, Stevens (L. Anderson, Newhouse), 11:26. Penalties — Minnesota 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 4. Kenai River, Stevens (J. Anderson, Christman), pp, 7:43. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Minnesota 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 5. Minnesota, Cesario (Marx Noren, Bulger), pp, 7:18; 6. Minnesota, O’Neil (Thoreson, Bulger), 19:03. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Overtime — none. Penalties — none.
Shootout — Kenai River 1 (Newouse NG, Lockwood G, Drotts NG); Minnesota 2 (Stumpel G, Marx Noren G).
Shots on goal — Kenai River 9-11-2-2—24; Minnesota 11-13-8-0—32.
Goalies — Kenai River, Wallstrom (32 shots, 29 saves); Minnesota, Posch (24 shots, 21 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 2 for 4; Minnesota 1 for 4.