Despite injuries to two key players, the Minnesota Wilderness took the Anchorage Wolverines to the middle of a second overtime Sunday night, only to fall 4-3 in Game 3 of the Midwest Division Final.
Colton Friesen tossed in the game-winner, on a shot from the extended goal line to the right of the Minnesota net. Friesen scored by banking the puck off the back of the right shoulder of Wilderness backup goaltender Konrad Kausch with 7:06 left in the second 20-minute overtime period. The puck hit Kausch’s shoulder on its edge, fell into the goaltender’s glove which he reached behind in a desperate attempt to keep the game alive, only to have the puck roll out and into the net.
The loss moves the Wilderness again to the brink of elimination, as they fall behind in the best-of-five series, two-games-to-one with the Games 4 and, if necessary, Game 5 set for next weekend in Cloquet.
Anchorage began the game with tremendous energy, as they were able to score first within the first two minutes. Cameron Morris put the home team in front with his first goal of the playoffs just 1:21 into the opening frame. To make matters worse for Minnesota, veteran forward Max Neill suffered an injury on that shift that forced him out for the remainder of the game.
Yet, the Wilderness were able to spring to life not long afterward. Jared Mangan tied the game with this first of two goals with 9:57 remaining. That was followed by an early second period tally from Cole Gordon, his first of the playoffs, that gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead.
Anchorage responded with two more before the period was over. Colton Friesen scored the first of his two goals at 6:48, and Hunter Bischoff followed to put the Wolverines back in front with 1:29 left in the middle frame.
The Bischoff goal was the last to be given up by Wilderness starting goaltender Matt Smith. The rookie netminder was the recipient of a number of hard hits by Wolverine players, and needed to be assisted off the ice, allowing Kausch to enter the game.
Kausch proved himself to be up to the task. He stood strong keeping the Wolverines off the scoreboard for the remainder of regulation. His tenure in net began with an Anchorage power-play with 39-seconds remaining in the second, and after that penalty expired early in the 3rd. The Wilderness then ended up taking back momentum when Mangan deposited his second of the game 2:08 into the final period.
Overall, Kausch made 24 saves, including 11 in the first overtime, as the Wolverines dominated the first 20-minutes of the extra session, outshooting the Wilderness, 11-2.
Minnesota had more offensive opportunities in the 2nd overtime, including a waived off goal. An Ethan Wolthers shot that hit the back of the net was called no goal by the officials for being offside. Minnesota outshot Anchorage 6-3 in the 2nd OT, but Anchorage goaltender Raythan Robbins stood tall, stopping the Wilderness with six saves and finished the game with 30 saves on 33 shots.
Anchorage ended up with 47 shots on the two Wilderness netminders, with Smith making 19 saves on 22 shots before his injury forced him from the game.
The final weekend of the series will kick off Friday, May 13, with puck drop for Game 4 at Northwoods Credit Union Arena set for 7:15 p.m.