Hockey

Anchorage Wolverines rally from 4-0 down in third period to stun Janesville

Anchorage Wolverines goalie Shane Soderwall

For the first 49 minutes of their 2022-23 North American Hockey League home opener, the Anchorage Wolverines didn’t give fans at Ben Boeke Arena much to cheer about.

But for the last 11 minutes, the Wolverines had the crowd on its feet.

Anchorage staged a frantic comeback, scoring four unanswered goals against Janesville and notching a game-tying goal with just seven seconds remaining to force overtime. The two teams played a scoreless overtime but Anchorage won the shootout to take an improbable 5-4 win Friday.

“That one feels good,” Wolverines head coach Evan Trupp said. “Especially at the home opener. We had an unbelievable crowd tonight. It took us two periods to knock a little rust off after an off-week and the long introductions but that one definitely feels good.”

Anchorage trailed 2-0 after the first period as Janesville score twice in quick succession at 7:37 of the first and then at 8:20 of the period. The Jets added another two goals in the second period to push their advantage to 4-0.

Meanwhile Anchorage struggled mightily to get quality chances in the first two periods, with just nine shots on goal.

“The conversation between the second and third period was essentially, ‘Time to wake up boys’ " Trupp said. “And that’s to put it nicely. I was proud of these guys. They could have packed it in but they didn’t.”

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The message worked. Aiden Westin got the Wolverines on the board just before the halfway point of the third period on a 2-on-1 breakout, hammering home a nice cross-ice pass from Cameron Morris.

Not only were the Wolverines not getting shots on goal in the early going, the ones they got were easy pickings for Janesville goalie Selby Warren.

“Their goalie was seeing everything we were shooting,” Westin said. “We had no guys getting a screen but we changed that up in the third period.”

With less than five minutes remaining Jackson Reineke made it 4-2 as Anchorage continued to apply more pressure.

“We had that conversation, we’re going to pop one and you’ll feel the fans behind us and we’ll have that momentum,” Trupp said. “In this league and generally in hockey, momentum is huge.”

Then in the final two minutes, Anchorage pulled goalie Shane Soderwall and connected on another goal by Westin to make it 4-3 with just 1:28 left in the third period.

“In situations like that, you just try to get everything to the net and just get guys to the net and try to get one in,” he said.

Anchorage again tried to pull its goalie for a 6-on-5 advantage but didn’t have a good opportunity until very late in the closing seconds.

Defenseman Clay Allen jammed home a rebound with seven seconds left, leaving the building in pandemonium and the two teams headed to overtime.

“It just popped out,” Allen said. “I got a stick on it and he actually got a good save on it but it found a way to go in.”

The overtime period, played 3-on-3, was scoreless although the Wolverines had a great chance with a power play for two minutes of the five-minute period.

When neither team could find the net in the overtime, the game was decided with a shootout.

The two teams matched one another for the first four shooters, before Cameron Morris scored to give Anchorage a 3-2 shootout advantage. Soderwall shut the door on the Jets’ Conner Brown and skated over to the glass behind his net to celebrate with a particularly rambunctious group of fans.

“It’s huge,” Allen said. “The crowd is how we can establish a home-ice advantage. That’s what really gets the boys going. We hear them and we play hard.”

The Jets and Wolverines face off again Saturday at Ben Boeke at 7 p.m.

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.

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