Isak Posch made 29 saves and kept the Minnesota Wilderness in a position to win Friday night, but still could not secure his first victory, as the Wilderness fell to the El Paso Rhinos at the NAHL Showcase in a shootout 3-2.
A Frank Tafelski goal in the shootout’s first round turned out to be the difference in the game. Joe Cesario, Kevin Marx Noren and Dylan Jensen each could not get the puck past Rhino netminder Hunter Garvey, and Posch denied Mike Marquez and Tristan Kimmen in their efforts to end the shootout early.
Bo Cosman led the way for El Paso (2-1-0) with one goal and one assist. He helped set up the goal that made the shootout necessary, which was scored by Donovan O’Neill on a rebound 40 seconds into the third period. He also scored the game’s first goal 12:04 into the opening frame, which was assisted by Kolby Amici.
The Wilderness (1-3-1) then answered with two consecutive tallies. Cole Gordon tied the game on the Wilderness’ only power play of the day. The veteran deposited his third goal of the season on a rebound of a Marx Noren shot at the 15:24 mark which was also assisted by Ren Morque. It’s the best start ever for the Windsor, CO, native as he has now equaled the number of goals he scored over his first two seasons with the Wilderness combined.
Minnesota then took the lead when Jack Seaverson, on a play set up by Adam Johnson and Joe Guentzel, rifled a wrist shot past Garvey from the right face-off circle for the rookie’s 2nd goal of the season. That lead held through the end of the second period, despite El Paso holding a shot advantage of 22-15. The Rhinos finished the game outshooting Minnesota 32-21.
Poscho stood tall in the final moments of regulation to allow the Wilderness to secure at least one point in the game. Tafelski had a chance to win the game with less than a minute to play when he broke through up the middle on a breakaway. As he approached the goal, he turned to his left and attempted to deke the Wilderness netminder, but Posch denied him with his right pad. A few moments later, another El Paso chance hit the crossbar.
The Wilderness penalty kill had another strong night, as it blanked the Rhinos on its two opportunities.
Minnesota will close out the 2022 showcase tomorrow evening when it takes on former division rival Bismarck. Puck drop for the Wilderness and Bobcats is scheduled for 5:15.