Jared Mangan was not to be denied. After firing a shot that led to Chippewa goaltender Croix Kochendorfer making what seemed like his one thousandth brilliant save of the night, the rebound came right back to the Wilderness rookie, and Mangan found the back of the net with a backhander that slipped between Kochendorfer and the right post. That goal with 50 seconds left in overtime won the game for Minnesota, 2-1, and put an exclamation point on the evening which resulted in the Wilderness clinching a spot in the 2022 NAHL Robertson Cup playoffs.
It was a game the Wilderness (35-23-2) dominated, outshooting the Steel by a 44-19 count. Kochendorfer stood tall, with 42 saves, many of which were from point blank range.
Neither team managed to score through the first two periods. Chippewa (25-31-4) broke the scoreless tie on a Roux Bazin goal 6:40 into the final frame when he fired a rebound from the slot past Wilderness netminder Matt Smith.
Minnesota then tied the game less than 2 minutes later when Cole Gordon redirected a Bobby Metz shot past Kochendorfer. Kullan Daikawa also assisted on Gordon’s 3rd tally of the season.
Despite a flurry of Wilderness chances in the late stages of the final frame, Kochendorfer kept the game tied and forced the overtime.
Mangan’s goal was his 7th of the season. Cole Crusberg-Roseen and Metz assisted on the game-winner.
The win snapped a span of back-to-back losses and allowed the Wilderness to move into the playoffs on a positive note. They had learned they would be going to the post-season earlier in the evening, after Janesville fell in its game versus Springfield. The final Midwest Division playoff spot had come down to Minnesota and Janesville after Anchorage became the 3rd team (joining Fairbanks and Springfield) to clinch Friday night.
Smith finished the night with 18 saves and completed the regular season with the Wilderness with a record of 14-2-1.
With the OT loss, Kochendorfer’s record fell to 16-16-2.
The Wilderness will enter the playoffs as the Midwest Division’s 4th seed, which pairs them with top-seed Fairbanks for a first round series. The division semi-final round will be a best 3-out-of-5 playoff that begins Friday, April 23, in Fairbanks.