Wilderness Finishes Off Brown Bears in OT Thriller

It may be the biggest goal in Michael Quinn’s entire hockey career, but do not ask him to describe every moment of it.

The veteran defenseman scored 51 seconds into overtime Saturday night allowing the Minnesota Wilderness to win game 3 of the Midwest Division Semifinals, 2-1, over the Kenai River Brown Bears, and clinch the series 3-games-to-none and advance in the NAHL’s Robertson Cup playoffs.

While on the power play, Quinn’s goal developed moments after a face off on the right side of the Kenai River zone.  Wilderness forward Sawyer Scholl won the draw that and immediately sent the puck toward Kevin Marx Norén as he was positioned in front of the Brown Bear net.  Throughout the season, that tended to be a reliable move, as Marx Norén set franchise regular season records in goals and power play goals. But the Brown Bears telegraphed that move, and defenseman Jacob Zwirecki maneuvered to keep the forward from Knivsta, Sweden, from getting a shot away.  What Kenai failed to foresee was Quinn jumping in to gain possession in the slot, and have no one to beat except Kenai netminder Nils Wallstrom.

Quinn then skated toward the left post with a deke that created an opening on Wallstrom’s left-handed glove side, which Quinn spotted, and he lifted the puck over the gloved hand and into the back of the net.  That sent his entire team into a frenzy and quieted a capacity crowd of 3,112.

“We set up on the side we usually don’t set up on the power, so I was in a different spot”, said Quinn as he tried to describe the play which led to his first playoff goal.

“The puck kind of got locked up on the draw, kind of squirted out, and (I) just got to the puck, made a move, and just kind of blacked out from there.”

Quinn blames that lack of clarity to how rare it is for a defenseman to get a path to the net like he did.

“I knew I just needed to make a move, get it on net; I kind of blacked out in the moment, not very often a D gets that close to the net. It was exciting.”

Quinn, a native of St. Louis, MO, also assisted on the first goal Minnesota scored in the 2nd period.  That marker tied the game at 1, minutes after Kenai opened the scoring on a tally by Nick Stevens 5:35 into the frame. From the right point, Quinn delivered a pass to Gustavs Ozolins in the high slot, who then got the puck to Marx Norén who responded by skating behind the Kenai net and lighting the lamp with a backhand wraparound for his 3rd goal of the playoffs.

One thing that is clear for Quinn is he has no doubt it was the biggest goal since he started playing junior hockey.

“Oh, for sure, for sure, might be the biggest goal of my (entire) career.”

In net, Isak Posch earned his third consecutive playoff victory, stopping 35 of 36 Kenai shots.

Kenai outshot the Wilderness, 36-21, with Wallstrom turning aside 19 Minnesota shots.

The power play that led to Minnesota scoring the game-winner was due to a penalty assessed late in the third period. That was the only man-advantage situation for the Wilderness in the entire game.

Kenai also only had one opportunity with the power play, which it failed to convert.  For the series, the Wilderness held off the Brown Bears on all five of its power play chances, while scoring on three of its nine opportunities.

Minnesota’s playoffs will continue next weekend.  The Wilderness will face the Wisconsin Windigo in the Midwest Division Finals.  The first two games will be played in Eagle River, WI, at the Eagle River Sports Arena with the exact dates and times yet to be determined.