After having almost everything clicking in Game 1 of their North American Hockey League playoff series Friday, the Anchorage Wolverines were on the opposite end of the spectrum on Saturday.
The Wolverines gave up goals in all manner of ways and generally struggled to put together offensive opportunities in a 7-2 loss to the Minnesota Wilderness.
The Wilderness win knotted the Midwest Division Finals series at 1-1. The two teams play Game 3 on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Ben Boeke Arena.
“We weren’t really sharp all night and I thought they were really good and they played really hard and really physical and that’s playoff hockey,” Wolverines head coach Mike Aikens said.
After neither team put together much sustained offense in the first period, Minnesota’s Cole Crusberg-Roseen scored a power play goal at the 16:53 mark of the first period, firing a wrist shot that sailed over Anchorage goalie Raythan Robbins’ right shoulder for a 1-0 lead.
The Wilderness could have taken an ever larger lead into the first intermission, hitting a post and having a puck roll across the goal line behind Robbins late in the period.
In the opening minute of the second period, the Wilderness struck again. Minnesota’s Ethan Wolthers streaked down the right side and put it past Robbins for a 2-0 advantage.
Anchorage got back to within a goal when Talon Sigurdson found the net from the doorstep with assists from Aiden Westin and Hunter Bischoff.
That was as close as the Wolverines would get, as Minnesota added two more goals for a 4-1 lead heading into the final period.
“With our power play, we had chances early in the game that I think we could’ve changed the momentum if we’d got a couple power play goals and it could’ve given us some life and it just didn’t do that,” Aikens said.
Minnesota pushed its lead to 5-1 in the third period before Sigurdson scored another goal for Anchorage, this time on the power play.
The third period devolved into shoving contest for large stretches with plenty of chippiness after the whistle. Each team registered eight minor penalties in the third and Anchorage’s Andy Ramsey was whistled for a 10-minute unsportsmanlike major.
A scrum broke out after a charging call on Minnesota’s William Persson, who got whistled for running Anchorage goalie Shane Soderwall, who had replaced Robbins in the third period.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on and we weren’t sharp right away and weren’t in control of our emotions very well,” Aikens said. “Some of their extra stuff is designed to get you off your game and it was effective for them tonight.”
Aikens said the team will respond from both a mental and physical standpoint to take back control of the series Sunday.
“We want them to learn from tonight and at the same time we’ll flush it away and think about (Sunday) and some detail things,” Aikens said. “I think whatever team shows up to the rink tomorrow, willing to do whatever it takes to win is the team that’s going to win.”