(Photo: Troy Young)
SOLDOTNA, Alaska – Will Vosejpka’s late third-period goal helped carry the Wichita Falls Wildcats (12-6-3) to a 3-2 victory of the Kenai River Brown Bears (12-8-0) on Friday night.
Sam Piazza and Alfred Johansson also scored for the Wildcats, while Chase Munroe made a season-high 38 saves for Wichita Falls.
The Brown Bears were first to get on the board, scoring at the 4:02 mark. A bad-angle look from Jacob Davidson pinballed through traffic in front of the net before Nathan Colwell directed it home to make it 1-0.
The Wildcats responded at 11:55 of the first frame, and it was Piazza, the captain who found the back of the net. With Wichita Falls shorthanded, Piazza took a pass from Kyle Bauman and skated into the high slot, before firing a wrist shot past Zach Quinn in the Kenai River net. It was his third goal of the season and third point in as many games.
Wichita Falls edged in front 7:24 into the middle frame, and again it was a defenseman who picked up the goal. After an already active shift, Alfred Johansson sent a wrist shot that beat a screened Quinn to make it 2-1. It was his second tally of the campaign, with Rudy Junda and Kirk Van Arkel notching the assists.
The Wildcats’ shorthanded unit was then called into action after a five-minute major for cross-checking to Kristaps Bazevics. Kenai River generated a handful shots, but no quality scoring chances as Wichita Falls showed why it entered the night’s matchup with the league’s second-best penalty kill.
The Brown Bears evened the contest early in the third period. With the Brown Bears on the power play, Jack Gesset sent home the rebound of Jake Bushey’s effort from the blue line just 42 seconds into the frame.
Kenai River increased the pressure as the third period progressed, until with less than a minute to go, the Wildcats counterpunched. Vosejpka led the Cats on a three-on-one, held on a pass and then ripped a shot glove-side of Quinn to make it a 3-2 affair with just 43 seconds left.
The Brown Bears were unable to find an equalizing goal in the remaining time, giving Wichita Falls a hard-fought victory to open the Alaskan road trip.
The Wildcats will finish their series with Kenair River on Saturday at 10:30 central standard time, before heading to Fairbanks to take on the Ice Dogs.
Kenai River – Nathan Colwell (Jacob Davidson, Albin Karlsson) 4:02
Wichita Falls – Sam Piazza (shorthanded) (Kyle Bauman) 11:55
Wichita Falls – Alfred Johansson (Rudy Junda, Kirk Van Arkel) 7:24
Kenai River – Jack Gessert (power play) (Jake Bushey, Sebastian Fuchs) 0:42
Wichita Falls – Will Vosejpka (Jake Townsend) 19:17