The Minnesota Wilderness was the recipient of some more third period heroics Saturday night, but could not claim victory in the finale of their two-game series versus the Springfield Jr. Blues. Instead, a goal from Jake Peterson 1:00 into the 5-minute extra frame proved to be the difference for a 4-3 Springfield win.
Trailing 3-2 in the final minutes, the Wilderness pulled goaltender Isak Posch for an extra attacker with 2:03 left. That led to a Gunnar Thoreson goal with 1:05 remaining when he deposited a rebound of a one-timer from Michael Quinn. Thoreson’s tally was his second of the weekend and eighth of the season. That ended up forcing overtime and allowed Minnesota to claim one point in the contest.
Springfield, however, would claim the extra point when it completely dominated the overtime. The Jr. Blues never lost control of the puck, and won the game when Peterson got past the defense and beat Posch when he fired the puck in high on the Wilderness netminder’s glove side.
The loss snapped Minnesota’s 3-game winning streak and dropped Posch’s record to 15-9-4. However, with one point gained, the Wilderness were able to tie the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for first place in the Midwest Division—at least temporarily, as the Ice Dogs could move back into sole possession of first place later tonight if it can win or lose in overtime or a shootout against Anchorage.
The Wilderness (22-12-5) took the game’s first lead when Donovan O’Neill scored with just 47 seconds left in the first. O’Neill took a pass from Noah Griswold from behind the Springfield net and whistled a shot from the extended goal line to the right of the net that just slipped between goaltender Aksel Reid and the right post.
That lead did not last long as Springfield (17-19) evened the score on a controversial tally just 15 seconds into the middle period. A Hayden Riva slapshot appeared to go off the inside of the post, but the goal judge turned on the red light, and after a review by the officials, it was a declared to be a good goal.
Springfield gained its first lead of the game just under three minutes later on a power-play goal by Adyn Merrick. But the Wilderness had its own quick response when it tied the contest also on the power play at the 4:32 mark. Kevin Marx Norén scored the Minnesota’s first goal on the man-advantage since Jan. 6 when he took a pass from Severi Sulonen at the Springfield blue line and marched in to register his 19th of the season with a quick shot from directly in front of the Jr. Blues net.
That PPG snapped a Minnesota dry spell that spanned 20 opportunities, including its first two chances Saturday night. The Wilderness ended the game going one-for-four on the power play, while the penalty kill held off Springfield on two of three chances.
A goal by Carter Cloutier put Springfield back in front, 3-2, and it would hold that lead until Thoreson’s tally late in the 3rd.
Minnesota ended up outshooting the Jr. Blues by a 28-17 count. Posch finished the night with 13 saves.
The Wilderness next has a busy weekend lined up for the start of February. It will be home February 2-4 for three games—one versus Fairbanks on Thursday night, followed by a 2-game weekend series against Wisconsin.