WENATCHEE — Chris Clark got a resounding round of applause after leaving the Wenatchee locker room and returning to Town Toyota Center’s main hallway.
Saturday’s contest had something for everybody and Clark, the Wild’s assistant coach who was ejected late in the third period of the 2-1 loss, might have been the main attraction in a hard-fought game that kept fans on their feet from start to finish.
Dressed in a bow tie and sporting sunglasses, the assistant coach walked onto the ice using a hockey stick to imitate a walking stick as a means of commentating on the night’s officiating. The fans loved it — the officiating staff did not.
Clark paced around the rink like a blind man tapping his stick on the ice and got tossed from the game. At that point, the Wild (28-7-4 overall) had given up their second goal of the game to the Brown Bears while shorthanded.
The home team was understandably frustrated, but became considerably more upset after the bench received a misconduct immediately after scoring a game-tying goal with 11 minutes in the final period.
“I don’t know what he (the referee) could have heard from center ice with 3,500 screaming,” Clark said.
The Wild were shorthanded following the game-tying goal and its penalty kill unit gave up its second goal of the night about two minutes afterward to fall behind 2-1.
At that point, Clark decided he’d had enough.
His game ejection followed Noah Nelson’s ejection, issued after a fight, and preceded head coach Bliss Littler’s ejection, who was tossed before play could resume.
Team president Bill Stewart finished out the final 6:29 of the third period in the Wild’s bench. In the aftermath of the emotionally-charged and hard-fought battle, there were three ejections (all from Wenatchee) and 109 penalty minutes on 24 infractions. The Wild accrued 70 of the penalty minutes.
Tempers didn’t quell after the third period ended, either. Several fights broke out between the two teams after regulation and the officiating crew had its hands full attempting to restore order in the rink.
Fans got in on the action too, throwing beverages at the Brown Bears as they exited the ice.
There was no lack of effort on Wenatchee’s part — it outshot its opponent 36-21, despite giving up six power plays — it just couldn’t get the breaks it needed to pull out the win.
It finished the three-game series with two wins — one in overtime Thursday and another via shootout Friday — and a loss that left the rocking crowd of 3,337 beaming with excitement.
“We got four out of six points and that’s nothing to frown about,” Clark said, adding that he was pleased with his team’s effort in the setback. “I thought we deserved six points, to be honest.”
The team’s single score of the night came when Joshua Hartley skated down the board into the attacking zone and set up Trace Redmond at the opposite goal. The Wild were granted just one power play opportunity throughout the contest.
“Playing three games in three nights inst easy and I thought both teams played amazing,” Clark said.
Wenatchee 2, Kenai River 1 (shootout)
The Wild beat the Brown Bears on Friday at Town Toyota Center in an inspired 2-1 shootout performance to give the team its second consecutive post-regulation victory in as many nights.
Goalie Robert Nichols came up big with back-to-back stops, Jacob Barber popped the puck in for the team’s first shootout score and Chris Kerr put in the game-winning shot. It was Kerr’s second of the night and the first shootout goal of his career.
“We had to focus on winning, and we thought we had the game,” he said. “We just had to focus on getting that extra point in the shootout.”
Nichols, who finished the night with 32 saves, kept Kenai River (15-19-6 overall) from hitting the back of the net in four tries during the shootout.
The keeper said he was determined to atone for last weekend, when Wenatchee lost a 4-3 shootout against Fresno at home.
“It’s fun,” said Nichols, who recorded six saves in overtime alone. “Especially that type of scenario. … We’ll take the two points anyway we can get them.”
The Wild had to regroup after a late Brown Bears goal guaranteed overtime.
Trailing 1-0 with less than a minute left in regulation, Kenai River pulled its goalie to put another attacker on the ice. In a series of unfortunate events, the Wild incurred a penalty for having too many men on the ice, which left them shorthanded.
Their luck worsened when defender Joshua Hartley’s stick broke in their defending zone, which left them with only three fully-equipped men on the ice.
Wenatchee regrouped well in the shootout, though, and Kerr finished the night with the team’s only regulation goal and the game-winner.
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