Third period deficits have not been kind to the Minnesota Wilderness this season. Coming into tonight’s game versus Fairbanks, the Wilderness were winless in the 15 games in which they trailed after 2 periods.
That changed Saturday night.
Trailing 5-4, Minnesota rallied to score three unanswered goals in the final frame to beat the Ice Dogs 7-5. The win stretches the team’s winning streak to 7 games—it’s longest streak of the season, and best since the 2013-14 campaign when it won 10 straight.
Will Persson led the way with the first hat trick of his NAHL career. He also added 1 assist for 4 points. Persson’s third goal was a one-timer on the power-play, that resulted in the game-winner 8:56 into the 3rd period. Strong puck movement from Bobby Metz and Max Ruoho resulted in a pass to Persson in the face-off circle to the left of Fairbanks goaltender Tyler Krivtsov that Persson hammered into the net past the goalie’s glove side.
The goal was Persson’s team-leading 18th of the season and 6th in his last 6 games.
The comeback was part of a dominating third period, where the Wilderness outshot the Ice Dogs 10-4. Konrad Kausch had a quiet final frame in net for Minnesota (22-18-1) , after a challenging 1st 2 periods. The Ice Dogs scored their 5 goals through 2 periods on only 22 shots on goal. A tightened 3rd period defense helped the Duluth native secure his 4th straight victory and improve his record to 6-3.
Fairbanks (28-15-2) at one point had 5-3 lead, thanks to the offensive output of the line comprised of Alexander Malinowski, Billy Renfrew and Kevin Marx-Noren. Someone from that trio factored in all 5 Ice Dog goals. After the Wilderness opened the scoring 41 seconds into period 1 on Charlie Erickson’s 7th goal, Marx-Noren set up Love Bergvall for an equalizer at 7:22. Marx-Noren would then score the first of what ended up as a 2-goal game with 4:29 left in the first to give Fairbanks its 1st lead of the night. The power-play goal was assisted by Jacob Contrad and Malinowski.
Each team began the 2nd period with opening-minute goals. The Wilderness would tie the game with Persson’s first goal of the game 23 seconds in, and Fairbanks responded with Marx-Noren’s 2nd of the night just 24 seconds later to regain the lead at 3-2. After Persson scored his second of the game at 8:48 to tie the game at 3, Fairbanks answered with 2 consecutive goals for the game’s first 2-goal lead. Malinowski set up Tyler Herzberg for his 6th marker of the season at the 12:40 mark, and then Malinowski would score on his own with 3:57 remaining to make the score 5-3.
That would end the scoring for the Ice Dogs, as the Wilderness comeback began 1:45 later. Cole Crusberg-Roseen made it 5-4 when he launched a lazer past Krivtsov from the high slot to the goaltender’s left for his 14th goal of the season. Assists on the goal came from Persson and Max Neill, who finished the night with 3 helpers, and now has points in 7 straight games. Gunnar Thoreson would then score 2:03 into the 3rd to tie the game, and Sam Antenucci would score an empty-net goal to seal the victory with 10 seconds remaining.
It was also another strong performance for Niko Rexine, who finished a memorable week with a 2-assist performance. On Thursday, the Syracuse, NY, native announced his verbal commitment to play his college hockey at Western Michigan and didn’t miss a beat extending his own point streak to 7 games.
After dominating the 3rd period, Minnesota ended up outshooting Fairbanks by a count of 37-26. The loss is Krivtsov’s first since Jan. 8, and his record falls to 12-7-1
The Wilderness victory, coupled with a Minnesota Magicians OT loss to Kenai River, broke a tie with the Magicians for 4th place in the Midwest Division. The Wilderness also benefited from an Anchorage loss to Springfield, and now sit just 1 point behind the Wolverines for 3rd place.
Minnesota will have another off weekend before returning to the ice. They’ll be back on Feb. 25 for the first of a home-and-home series with the Central Division’s St. Cloud Norsemen. The Wilderness will be on the road on Friday, and will host the Norsemen on Saturday night, Feb. 26.