Three different goal scorers delivered for the Minnesota Wilderness Friday night, as it held off the Kenai River Brown Bears 3-1 to take game 1 of the NAHL Midwest Division Semifinal series.
Reid Daavettila, with a goal and assist, and Bo Cosman, with two helpers, led the way for Minnesota. Isak Posch contributed in net with 22 saves to secure his first junior hockey playoff victory.
Daavettila scored what ended up as the game-winner when he redirected Max Wattvil’s shot from the high slot past Brown Bear netminder Nils Wallstrom with 7:51 left in the second period. Cosman also assisted on the tally which was Daavettila’s first ever career playoff goal. That goal gave the Wilderness its first lead of the game at 2-1.
Two red-lighters just 25 seconds apart highlighted action in the first period. Kenai grabbed the game’s first lead when Ryan Finch tapped one in as he was positioned near the left post. Jack Anderson set up the play when he sent the puck toward the net from near the blue line along the right boards. Bryce Monrean also assisted on the goal which came with 3:44 remaining in the opening frame.
The Wilderness responded with pressure immediately after the face-off. Gunnar Thoreson tied the game thanks to tenacious work in getting the puck to the net. The play started along the right boards when Daavettila fed the puck to Cosman at the right point. Cosman, a forward from Milton, GA, then fired a shot the Wallstrom saved, but sent the rebound toward Thoreson in the left circle. Thoreson’s initial shots were blocked by a defender, but he succeeded in scoring the equalizer when a rebound went in off the back of the goaltender. That marker with 3:19 left in the first, was Thoreson’s first playoff goal of this post-season, and fifth in his career.
Minnesota completed the scoring when Kevin Marx Norén fired the puck into an empty net late in the final period. Sawyer Scholl assisted when he blocked a Jacob Zwirecki shot from the left circle in the Wilderness zone. The puck then deflected toward the nearby wall, and Marx Norén raced after it, skated with it just outside of the Minnesota zone, and scored on a shot taken from directly in front of the Wilderness blue line. That was the Knivsta, Sweden, native’s first goal of this post-season, which came after a regular season where he finished tied for the NAHL lead in goals with 34, 33 of which came with the Wilderness—setting a new single-season team record.
The Wilderness and Brown Bears finished even in shots on goal with 23. Wallstrom ended the night with 20 saves on 22 shots.
Minnesota succeeded in one power play goal on four chances, and its penalty kill kept Kenai scoreless in its two opportunities.
The win ensures the series will require a trip to Alaska before its conclusion, but may still require a game this Sunday. If Kenai can tie the series by winning Saturday night’s contest, the two will play again Sunday before the series shifts up north.
A Sunday game will be avoided if the Wilderness can win Saturday and go up 2-0. Game 3 would then be next Friday in Soldotna, AK.
Puck drop in game 2 is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Saturday in Cloquet.