The Anchorage Wolverines scored three times in the final period to break a 1-1 tie and beat the Minnesota Wilderness, 4-1 in Game 1 of the Midwest Division Final.
A short-handed 2-on-1 opportunity finished by Matt Johnson tipping a Cameron Morris shot past Matt Smith with 9:57 left in the 3rd made the score 2-1, and ended up being the game-winner. That goal was followed by a Hunter Bischoff tally 3:33 later and then an empty-net goal by Drake Albers with 4 seconds remaining to complete the scoring.
That Albers’ goal was his second of the game. The Detroit native scored his first in a wild final minute of the 2nd period. Shortly after exiting the penalty box, a turnover forced by Aiden Westin led to Albers receiving the puck at neutral ice. Albers then moved in and scored on a breakaway with 38 seconds left in the frame for Anchorage’s first short-handed marker of the night.
The Wilderness responded quickly. Still on the power play, Cole Crusberg-Roseen fired in a shot from the high slot that beat Wolverine goaltender Raythan Robbins to tie the game at 1 with four seconds left in the middle period. The goal was Crusberg-Roseen’s 2nd of the playoffs, and was assisted by Jared Mangan and Gunnar Thoreson.
A tight battle with stellar goaltending started the game, as the team’s combined for 29 shots on goal in the first period, with nothing getting past Smith or Robbins. For the 6th time in its six playoff games, the Wilderness outshot its opponent; with Friday’s total finishing at 35-32.
The Wilderness special teams were a double-edged sword. While the power-play ended up scoring once on five chances, and penalty kill kept Anchorage scoreless on four opportunities, the two short-handed Wolverine tallies proved to be critical in the game’s final outcome.
The win gives Anchorage the early 1-game-to-none lead in the best of five series. Game 2 in Anchorage is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. AKDT, Saturday night.