Three power play goals helped the Minnesota Wilderness erase a 2-0 deficit and slip past the Janesville Jets 4-3 Friday night.
Kevin Marx Noren led the way with two third period goals, while Ren Morque had two assists and Gustavs Ozolins finished with one goal and one assist. Konrad Kausch made 24 saves to secure his 5th win of the season and improve his record to 5-2-1.
A strong first period led to Janesville starting off with a 13-4 shot advantage, and they cashed in with goals by Noah Gibbs and Mack Keryluk to give them 2-goal lead going into the first intermission.
The Wilderness (14-7-2) began their comeback with Gunnar Thoreson’s goal 3:12 into the middle frame. The 3-year veteran from Andover fired in his own rebound at the bottom of the right circle to beat Selby Warren and cut the Janesville (12-8-5) lead to 2-1. Donovan O’Neil and Morque assisted on Thoreson’s fourth of the season.
Ozolins then tied the game with his own man-advantage red-lighter just over eight minutes later. After a Charlie Erickson face-off win in the left circle, Hunter Bulger sent the puck to Michael Quinn at the left point, and Quinn then fed the puck to Ozolins who whipped a slapshot past Warren on the glove side for this 2nd of the season.
A major penalty on Eddie Shepler for slashing late in the 2nd would put the Wilderness on the penalty kill for the last few minutes of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd period. However, the Jets 5-minute power play would be cut short early in the 3rd when Chris Pelosi was whistled for goaltender interference.
That allowed the Wilderness momentum to continue, and it led to Marx Norene’s first of the game 7:39 into the final period. Beau Janzig helped set up the goal when his shot from the right circle led to a mad scramble in front of the Janesville net that allowed Marx Noren to eventually fire it into the cage for Minnesota’s only 5-on-5 goal of the night. Ozolins also assisted on the goal which gave Minnesota its first lead at 3-2.
Janesville responded quickly and retied the game less than two minutes later. Gabe Lundberg capitalized on a rebound of a Connor Deturris shot to beat Kausch on his glove side for his third of the season.
The 3-3 tie would remain until the final few minutes, despite another chaotic moment with 6:58 left where it appeared the Wilderness had scored to re-take the lead. O’Neil, Joe Cesario and Adam Johnson fired a series of shots at the Janesville net as the goaltender was down. The red light ignited after O’Neil shot the puck into the net, but the officials immediately waved off the goal.
The next Minnesota chance was not waved off. On their seventh power play of the game, a sauce pass from Morque hopped over the stick of Ethan Begg, as he was defending near the blue line, and found Adam Johnson at the left point. Johnson then fed a pass to Marx Noren who immediately redirected the puck into the net underneath Warren’s glove with 2:07 remaining. The goal is Marx Noren’s 11th of the season and second game-winner.
Minnesota finished the game 3-for-7 on the power play, while the Jets converted once on 4 situations.
On shots on goal, Janesville finished ahead 27-25.
Game 2 of the series is set for Saturday night at 7:15.
Combined with a Chippewa loss to Wisconsin, the win moves the Wilderness ahead of the Steel and the Jets to claim sole possession of third place in the Midwest Division. With 30 points, Minnesota is now one point ahead of the Jets in 4th, two points ahead of Chippewa in 5th, and just one point behind Kenai River in 2nd place. After a win by Fairbanks over Anchorage, the Ice Dogs are now alone in first place with 33 points. One advantage the Wilderness have is they have two more games remaining on their schedule than Kenai River, and three more games than Fairbanks.