The Wild trailed the Monsters in the series 2-1 after losing Game 2 (3-1) and Game 3 (2-1, OT). They rallied to earn a road victory in Game 4 (4-2) before clinching the series at home Sunday with a 4-1 win in Game 5.
“Nobody hung their heads and quit,” Wenatchee Wild head coach Bliss Littler said of his team’s rally to win the series. “Everybody continued to battle and work hard. I’m proud of the effort.”
Littler was certainly proud of Barber’s play the last two games, too. After scoring the game-winning goal in Game 4, Barber staked the Wild to a 1-0 lead in Game 5 Sunday with 8:18 left in the first period when he tapped in a loose puck that headed in his direction on a deflection in front of the cage. Josh Hartley (Coquitlam, British Columbia) and Noah Nelson (Oconomowoc, Wis.) assisted.
Monster Gordon Wells answered Barber’s goal less than three minutes later when he scored on a 3-on-2. Mitchell Snyder and Tyler Shipstad assisted.
Barber scored his second goal of the game, the eventual game-winner, with 5:08 left in the second period. After receiving a long sendaway pass from Nathan Flynn (Hastings, Minn.) down the left wing, Barber skated in on goal on a breakaway. As he approached Fresno goalie Tomas Sholl, Barber faked a backhand move, stopped on a dime and scored on his forehand.
The Wild went up 3-1 with 3:10 left in the third period when Nicholas Kuchera (Eagan, Minn.) scored on a deflection off of Joe Sullivan’s (Las Vegas, Nev.) one-timer during a power play. Barber scored his hat trick goal with nine seconds left in regulation on an empty-netter. Goaltender Robert Nichols (Dallas, Texas) picked up the only assist.
“You need your best players to play their best in the playoffs,” said Littler. “Barber has definitely risen to the occasion.”
Nearly 3,200 fans packed the Town Toyota Center for Game 5 Sunday.
“That was one of our most active crowds of the year,” Littler said. “They were very loud from the beginning and were in it the whole time.”
Nichols made 17 saves on 18 shots for the Wild while Sholl stopped 34 of the 37 shots he faced. Wenatchee scored one power-play goal on three chances while Fresno went 0-for-2 on its man-advantages.
The Wild will now wait to see who they will face in the West Division finals. The other West Division semifinal series between the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Kenai River Brown Bears is tied, 2-2. Game 5 of the series is Monday in Fairbanks.
Regardless of who the Wild play in the divisional finals, Games 1-2 will be played in Wenatchee this Friday and Saturday (April 26-27). Be sure to check www.wenatcheewild.com later this week for complete details on the next series. Call 509.888.PUCK (7825) to order tickets for the divisional finals.