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Oklahoma Warriors surge in third period to beat Wilderness

Four goals in the final seven minutes of regulation pushed the Warriors to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three NAHL Robertson Cup semifinal series with Minnesota.

Oklahoma forward Kaden Nelson (7) celebrates after scoring in the third period Friday, May 19, 2023, in a matchup with the Minnesota Wilderness at the Robertson Cup Championship in Blaine, Minn.
Eli Swanson / The Rink Live

BLAINE, Minn. — The Oklahoma Warriors were the toast of the NAHL for most of the season. After a brief assimilation period — or two — they showed why on Friday night at Fogerty Arena.

Trailing the Minnesota Wilderness 2-0 in the third period the Warriors sprang to life, scoring four unanswered goals for a 4-2 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three NAHL Robertson Cup semifinal.

"We were able to have a pretty good first half of that third period," Oklahoma coach Garrett Roth said. "We started gaining momentum, put some pressure on them, we were able to create some turnovers and we just felt that we needed to get one to be able to continue on that momentum and get ourselves a chance to win the hockey game."

Grand Rapids, Minnesota, native Joey Delgreco, the NAHL's Rookie of the Year and MVP who had eight points in six playoff games coming into the Robertson Cup, scored the game-winner on a rebound in front of the net with 3:35 left in regulation and added an empty-netter to seal the deal for the Warriors.

"Big-time players show up in big-time moments, and he's done it for us all year," Roth said on Delgreco.


Minnesota largely kept the Oklahoma offense in check through the opening 40 minutes. Despite a 25-17 shot advantage for the Warriors, Minnesota limited damage on the best of Oklahoma's chances in front of goalie Isak Posch and capitalized on two perfect shots from Michael Quinn and Sawyer Scholl for a 2-0 lead.

Posch stopped 33 shots in the game and was rock solid for most of the night in net for Minnesota. Daniel Duris stopped 20 of 22 shots he faced for Oklahoma.

With a representative crowd from both sides filling the Blaine arena's stands, there was an air of inevitability when the Warriors tied the game on Cole Teleki's power-play blast from the point with 4:32 left in the third period.

With all the momentum in their favor, it took the No. 1 seed at the tournament only 57 seconds to get the winner from Delgreco. After a shot from Malte Hasselgren ricocheted in front, Delgreco swooped in on the backhand and didn't even need to wait and see the puck hit the open net before turning to celebrate.

"It's probably happened four or five times this year that we've been down a substantial amount of goals and we've been able to come back. I think it's a testament to the resiliency of our hockey team and how they just have a no quit attitude," Roth said.

The Wilderness will look to even the series when the two teams meet for Game 2 on Saturday night at 4:30 p.m. CT.

"We had some success, but you take a bad penalty and they're a good team," Minnesota coach Brett Skinner said after the game. "They got good sticks, good offensive players, a good game plan, they adjusted it and they executed it.

"At the end of the day it's a three-game series. You're allowed to lose one, but you're not allowed to lose the first two."


OKLAHOMA 0-0-4—4

FIRST PERIOD: 1, MN, Quinn (Stumpel, Ozilins), 16:51.

SECOND PERIOD: 2, MN, Scholl (unassisted), 19:26.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, OK, Nelson (Lawson-Body), 13:09. 4, OK, Teleki (Baumgartner), 15:28, PP. 5, Delgreco (Hasselgren, Baumgartner), 16:25. 6, OK, Delgreco (Dyer), 18:56, EN.

SHOTS: MN, 10-7-5—22. OK, 12-13-12—37

SAVES: MN, Posch (12-13-8—33). OK, Duris (9-6-5—20)

Eli is an audience engagement specialist for Forum Communications Co., with experience in producing and designing content on a variety of digital platforms. He works closely with team members to enhance content to improve audience experience.
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