The Anchorage Wolverines used their own Kenai connection to convert an overtime goal, downing Kenai River 3-2 on Friday at Ben Boeke Arena.
Wolverines forward Trent Powell of Soldotna ripped the game-winner on a pass from teammate Bryce Moneran, who played with Kenai River the last two seasons, to push the Wolverines to a victory in the team’s home opener.
“Two Alaska guys — you can’t write it up any better,” Wolverines head coach Nick Walters said.
Moneran, from Anchorage, brought the puck in during the 3-on-3 overtime, dropping the puck to Powell, who put a wrist shot top shelf above Kenai River goalie Petter Wickstrom’s left shoulder.
“I know a few people (on the other roster),” he said. “But it was good for Moneran and good for us to connect. ... Obviously this is a big rivalry and bigger than playing some of the other Minnesota teams (in the Midwest Division).”
The victory was a multi-pronged win for Anchorage, earning them division points as well as two points for in the Club 49 Cup standings between the three Alaska franchises in the North American Hockey League. It was also first-year coach Walters’ first win at home. The goal delighted the sold-out crowd at Ben Boeke.
“To get that one out of the way early, you don’t think about it anymore,” he said. “We weren’t thinking about it too much, we’re already seven games in, but it does feel good. It was a good environment.”
Kenai River got on the board in the first period, as Andy Larson gave the Brown Bears a 1-0 lead they would hold until the third period. Then with 13:29 remaining in the third, the Wolverines got the equalizer as Taisetsu Ushio scored on a rebound to knot the game at 1-1.
“That’s what I respect most about this group is that they keep going and going,” Walters said. “There is no quit or off button. I think we just wore them down. They stuck to the fundamentals and eventually we got rewarded.”
Kenai River responded less than a minute later on a goal from Roope Tuomioksa to retake the lead 2-1. But less than a minute after that goal was scored, Anchorage tied it up again, completing a flurry of scoring in less than 90 seconds.
Neither team could break the 2-2 deadlock for the final half of the third period, sending the game to overtime.
“We had a lot of chances,” Walters said. “You have to give credit to (Wickstrom). We need to start capitalizing on more of those. More pucks and more bodies to the net.”
Liam Beerman made 26 saves to earn the win for the Wolverines.
The two teams were set to face off again Saturday night in Soldotna, with the Brown Bears hosting the second of the two games.