GILLETTE, Wyo. – The Gillette Wild finally broke through against their nemesis the Missoula Maulers on Saturday afternoon and because they did, they lived to see another day.
Tyler Cavan broke a tie late in the third period and Taylor Motsinger added an empty-net insurance tally with three seconds remaining to lift the Wild to a 5-3 victory in the fourth game of an American West Hockey League semifinal playoff series.
The win was Gillette’s first in 12 tries against the Maulers (44-7-1) and extended the best-of-seven game series to a Game 5 to be played at Campbell County Ice Arena 3 p.m. Sunday.
Missoula holds a 3-1 series lead and could clinch a berth in the league championship series with a win. A victory by the Wild (24-28-0) would force a sixth game to be played Friday night at Missoula’s Glacier Ice Rink.
It was the Maulers who got on the scoreboard first when Cory Shafer scored just over seven and a half minutes into action.
But the Wild went into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead after Stanislav Izvekov scored his fourth goal of the series and Matt Rose followed with a goal with three minutes left to play in the period.
Trent Dillinger gave Gillette a two-goal advantage early in the second period before Corey Schafer netted a power-play goal before Zach Paisley’s even-strength tally knotted the score at 3-3 heading into the third.
That’s the way it stood until Cavan beat Missoula goalie McKinlee Baum with 2:40 play and Motsinger added his score in the game’s waning moments.
Though the Wild were outshot 40-21, goalie Nick Vittori made 37 saves in his first action in the series to boost Gillette. The Maulers were just 1 of 6 with a man advantage, while Gillette converted on 1-of -3 power-play opportunities.
Baum, who has played every minute of the playoffs, finished with 17 saves.
Missoula 1 2 0 – 3
Gillette 2 1 2 – 5
M – Cory Shafer (Dunk Abbott), 7:32
G – Stanislav Izvekov (Adam Pecht, Casey Moneer), 9:55
G – Matt Rose (power play) (John Burke, Andrew Lillard,) 17:04
G – Trent Dillinger (Jason Forney, John Burke), 4:01
M – Corey Schafer (power play) (Jimmy Morris, Oscar Bjorkander), 8:45
M – Zach Paisley (Morris, Abbott), 12:33
G – Tyler Cavan (Forney, Rose) 2:40
G – Taylor Motsinger (empty net) (Cavan, Lillard) 19:57
Shots – Missoula 40, Gillette 21. Saves – Missoula 16 (McKinlee Baum), Gillette 37 (Nick Vittori). Penalties – Missoula 5, Gillette 8. Power-play opportunities – Missoula 1-6, Gillette 1-3. Officials – Dan Jones, A. Tate. Attendance – unavailable.