The Minnesota Wilderness battled back from a 3-1 third period deficit for a 4-3 shootout victory over the Kenai River Brown Bears Friday night.
Joe Cesario and Donovan O’Neil each scored in the final 20 minutes in a period where Minnesota dominated the Brown Bears, outshooting them 8-2. Cesario deposited his 12th of the season when he fired in a rebound on the power play with 12:42 left in the frame, with assists from Kevin Marx Noren and Hunter Bulger.
O’Neill came through with the tying goal as the Wilderness (19-10-3) applied pressure with goaltender Isak Posch on the bench for an extra attacker. After receiving a pass from Gunnar Thoreson, O’Neill had an initial shot saved by Kenai goaltender Nils Wallstrom, but the veteran forward collected his own rebound to beat the goaltender on the glove side with just 57 seconds left in regulation. Bulger also assisted on the tally which was O’Neill’s 7th of the year.
After both teams failed to score in an intense 5-minute overtime, which had zero stoppages, but only 2 shots on goal by Kenai River (18-14-2), the game went to the shootout. The Wilderness then proceeded to outscore the Brown Bears, 2-1, with Oliver Stümpel and Marx Noren coming through in the first two rounds. Parker Lockwood notched Kenai’s lone shootout goal, in between failed attempts by Hunter Newhouse and Deer River, MN, native Garrett Drotts.
The Brown Bears built their lead thanks in part to two power play goals in the game’s first 40 minutes. The first man-advantage tally came from Ben Monson just 4:37 into the opening frame. The two teams then traded even strength goals 1:22 apart midway through the first—Stümpel scoring his sixth of the season on a redirection of a Marx Noren shot to tie the game at 1, and then Nick Stevens putting Kenai back in front with 9:34 remaining. The Brown Bears added their 2nd power play marker 7:43 into the middle frame with Stevens’ 2nd of the night to make it 3-1.
Kenai River went two-for-four on the power play, while Minnesota finished one-for-four.
The Wilderness achieved two season firsts with this triumph. It marked the first time in four tries it won despite giving up more than one goal on the penalty-kill, and this was the first time in 2022-23 where it managed to tie a game with an extra attacker.
Posch recorded his 2nd straight victory, making 21 saves to improve his record to 12-7-2. Wallstrom stopped 29 Wilderness shots in the loss.
Minnesota will close out its home weekend series Saturday night – puck drop for game two vs. Kenai River is set for 7:15 p.m.