After a tough six period scoreless stretch, the Minnesota Wilderness offense came to life in the second period of game four of the NAHL Showcase, in Blaine, Minn., to beat the Brookings Blizzard 4-3 Saturday afternoon, and close out the tournament with a 3-1 record.
Michael Covach scored the game-winner, his first goal of the season, with 7:00 remaining in the third period. It capped off a come-from-behind victory, as Brookings had leads of 2-0 and 3-1 during the second period.
Ivan Chukarov added two goals, his first two of the season, while Billy Exell picked up his first goal and added an assist.
Brock Kautz stopped 14 of 17 Blizzard shots to secure the victory in his first start of the season.
Brookings opened the scoring early in the first period when Viktor Lindell scored at 5:24. The 1-0 score would remain unchanged through the end of the period. The Blizzard padded its lead when Beau Michaud scored a power-play goal just 1:40 into the middle frame.
The Wilderness offense, at this point held scoreless since 7:32 of the first period of game two Thursday evening, woke up.
Exell got things going with an unassisted goal at 2:25. However, Brookings would bounce back and regain its two-goal margin after Joe Anderson scored at 5:22.
From then on, it was all Minnesota.
Chukarov would cut the lead to one when he scored a power-play goal at 10:42, with Aaron Miller and Tobias Bjorklund picking up assists. Bjorklund’s assist would be the first point of his NAHL career.
The 3-2 Brookings lead would continue into the third period.
After two periods, Minnesota held a 16-10 advantage in shots on goal. It ended up increasing that margin with a dominant third period, where it outshot Brookings 17-7, and 33-17 for the game.
Brandon Notermann picked up his first point as a member of the Wilderness when he and Exell set up Chukarov for the game’s tying goal 7:38 into the third period. Troy Grahl would get his name on the score sheet for the first time this season when he and Notermann would help Covach give the Wilderness its first lead of the game at the 13:00 mark.
On the power-play, the Wilderness ended a drought that dated to Wednesday’s season-opener and finished the game 1-for-3. Brookings scored once on five opportunities.
Saturday’s win followed Minnesota’s first loss of the season. The Wilderness fell Friday afternoon to Wichita Falls 3-0.
Despite outshooting the Wildcats 31-25, Minnesota could not overcome stingy goaltending from Austin Shaw, who won his first game in his first start.
The Wildcats picked up first period goals just 1:27 apart, when Matt Koch and Tommy Apap scored for an early 2-0 lead at the 6:01 and 7:28 marks, respectively. Koch’s goal ended an impressive season-opening shutout streak for Wilderness goaltender Ryan Anderson—who started the season backstopping victories of 6-0 over Rio Grande Valley, and 1-0 win over Corpus Christi.
Wichita Falls would add a power-play tally from Max Riesinger early in the third period to help seal the win.
On special teams, the Wildcats finished 1-for-3 with the man-advantage, while the Wilderness were kept scoreless in six tries.
By going 3-1 in the opening weekend, the Wilderness have six points and are tied with the Minnesota Magicians for first place in the Midwest Division. The Wilderness play its first division opponent next weekend, when it hosts the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The defending Robertson Cup champions will be in Cloquet for games on Friday and Saturday evening at the Northwoods Credit Union Arena; both games are scheduled to start at 7:05.