WENATCHEE — During his fleeting stint with the Wenatchee Wild earlier this season, goalie Evan McCarthy saw little playing time while playing second fiddle to star keeper Robert Nichols. Saturday night, time was not on McCarthy’s side.
McCarthy, now a backup with Kenai River, surrendered three goals to his former mates in a span of 5:47 leading to the Wild’s 5-2 win over the Brown Bears in front of 3,477 fans at the Town Toyota Center.
The victory came a night after Kenai River bested Wenatchee 5-3 on Friday, snapping the Wild’s five-game winning streak which dated back to Dec. 1. The Wild matched their goal total from Friday in less than six minutes Saturday.
“We’re a little embarrassed giving up the goals early (on Friday),” Wild coach Bliss Littler said. “The kids wanted to make sure they did a better job tonight.”
McCarthy, who played five games for the Wild and was released on Dec. 15, was quickly replaced by normal Brown Bears starter Gustaf Johansson, who held Wenatchee quiet for the remainder of period one.
But before the goalie swap, Josh Hartley started the scoring frenzy with his sixth goal on an assist from David Powlowski. Less than two minutes later, Jono Davis inflated his team-leading goal total to 20. Davis, who usually has to work a little harder for his goals, was given a gift as Kenai River coughed up the puck right in front of McCarthy. Davis easily punched in the pill on an assist from Brian Williams.
Keeping the avalanche rolling, Evan Schmidbauer increased his squad’s lead to three on Dylan Abood’s first assist of the season.
“We just had some bounces that went our way,” Wild head coach Bliss Littler said of the early offensive onslaught. “We had lots of opportunities, most off of our forechecks.”
With the contest in jeopardy of becoming a laugher, Kenai River head coach Oliver David gave the maligned McCarthy the rest of the night off. Enter the Swede. Like a plot twist in a well-written drama, Johansson’s entrance unmistakably changed the game’s tone. Kenai River’s answer to Nichols silenced the Wild’s sticks for the remainder of the first period and all of the second, allowing the Brown Bears to lumber back into the game.
With Johansson doing his thing, Matthew Meier erased the goose egg on the scoreboard at the 5:25 marker. With Meier’s goal severing the deficit and Johansson sporting his A-game, it appeared that Kenai River might come rushing back into the game.
But even the best built brick walls can be broken with enough force, and Wenatchee finally found a structural flaw in Johansson early in the third period. After Johansson flubbed a shot from Abood, Max McHugh, channeling his teammates from period one, scored on the rebound with just 55 seconds melted from the third frame, giving Wenatchee its three-goal lead back.
This was once again reduced to two at the 13:02 marker. Kenai River’s Matt Seidel took advantage of a swing-and-miss by Blake Butzow and bested Nichols on a fast break, giving the Brown Bears renewed hope.
Nate Flynn dashed that hope for good with a fluttering shot through the wickets of Johansson for Wenatchee’s fifth and final goal with 1:25 remaining.
Yet even with the game’s result settled, the growing animosity was not. With just 8.1 seconds remaining, an intense scrum broke out which resulted in five players, three from Wenatchee and two from Kenai River, receiving game ejections. After the players were removed, Littler called a timeout in an attempt to quell his squad’s emotions.
“I just wanted to make sure nothing happened,” Littler said.
Fireworks may fly as the series concludes Monday at 6:05 p.m. at Town Toyota Center.
Brown Bears 4, Wild 3 (Friday)
Kenai River capitalized on some first-period mistakes, taking an early 3-1 lead the Wild were never able to recover from.
Wenatchee cut it to 3-2 when Trace Redmond scored on a rebound from the far side of the cage, but the Brown Bears had an answer.
World sports staff contributed to this report.