Junior hockey: Wilderness top Bruins in 4 OTs to win Robertson Cup opener
AUSTIN — A hot goalie can take a hockey team a long way in the postseason.Two hot goalies can make for some long games in the postseason.
AUSTIN — A hot goalie can take a hockey team a long way in the postseason.
Two hot goalies can make for some long games in the postseason.
None have been longer in the history of the North American Hockey League than Friday's Game 1 of the best-of-3 Robertson Cup Finals.
It ended after 5 hours, 29 minutes and in the fourth overtime period, when Minnesota Wilderness forward Billy Exell got around a defenseman, drove to the net and beat Austin Bruins goalie Evan Smith five-hole for a 2-1 win at Riverside Arena, ending the longest game in league history.
"It was two evenly matched teams and it's no surprise it went as long as it did," Bruins coach Chris Tok said. "Guys were cramping up and having trouble even getting over the boards."
The game lasted 133 minutes, 3 seconds and surpassed last year's first-round playoff game between the Bruins and the Minot Minotauros, which lasted 116:57, a league record at the time.
The Bruins face yet another elimination game at 7:05 p.m. tonight. If they win Game 2, a decisive Game 3 will be played at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. A Minnesota victory tonight would send it back to Cloquet as the first-ever team from Minnesota to win the Robertson Cup in its 39-year history. Austin is 2-0 in elimination games this postseason.
"You definitely could feel it in your body," Smith said of the fatigue setting in as the game wore on. "You had to stay in it mentally, though, if you want to win. Unfortunately it didn't work out our way, but (today) is another day."
The Wilderness snapped a scoreless tie in the second period at the end of a two-minute span where they dominated play with their speed. They spread the ice out and had the Bruins chasing the puck. That allowed Isak Bergland to hit Alex Toscano cutting down the slot and he one-timed a shot past Smith at the 16:33 mark.
Austin finally got on the board with 4:30 to go in the third period. Brian Bachnak fed JC Maclean low in the circle to the right of Wilderness goalie Brock Kautz and Maclean put a wrister on net that trickled through Kautz's legs and in.
Both goalies made highlight-reel saves in the opening period, which finished with no score.
Just 1:05 into the game, Wilderness forward Tyler Cline got behind the Bruins defense and had a clean breakaway. He faked a backhand shot and went to his forehand, but Smith stuck out his right pad and kicked it away. It was one of three breakaways for Smith.
Tok said the Bruins will start Jake Kielly in goal tonight in Game 2, because Smith played the equivalent of two full games on Friday.
"He was great," Tok said of Smith. "He kept us in it, made some big saves and gave us a chance to win. It just didn't go our way. They got a (breakaway) at the end and their guy just squeaked it in."
Kautz came up big 9:29 into the first when a Wilderness defender fell down at his goal line and turned the puck over to Austin's Alex Jasiek, who cut across the slot and fired a shot that Kautz gloved down to keep the game scoreless.
Kautz also made a big glove save on Ian Scheid in the second overtime, and slid left-to-right in the third OT to rob Luke Dietsch.
Now the Bruins, who won that three-OT marathon against Minot last season, must find a way to bounce back after losing a marathon.
"Getting ready for (today) is all about rest," Tok said. "We still have life left so let's get after it. We seem to find the hard way to do things. I don't know if we could've drawn up a harder way to win the Robertson Cup, but we'll find a way and get the job done."
Wilderness 2, Bruins 1, 4OT
First period— no scoring. Second period— 1. M, Alex Toscano 1 (Isak Bergland 2, Wayland Williams 1) 16:33. Third period— 2. A, JC Maclean 3 (Brian Bachnak 6) 15:30. First Overtime— no scoring. Second overtime — no scoring. Third overtime — no scoring. Fourth overtime — 3. M, Billy Exell (unassisted) 13:03.
Shots on goal— M 50, A 44. Goalies— M, Brock Kautz (W; 44 shots-43 saves); A, Evan Smith (OTL; 50 shots-48 saves). Power plays— M, 0-for-1; A, 0-for-2. Penalties— M, 5-10 minutes; A, 3-6 minutes.