Tomas Bolo stopped all 23 shots he faced Saturday night in leading St. Cloud to a 5-0 win over the Minnesota Wilderness. It’s the first shutout loss of the season for Minnesota, who managed only 1 goal in the two-game home-and-home series, as St. Cloud took Friday night’s game in Cloquet, 5-1.
Five different players found the back of the net for St. Cloud Saturday. Nik Hong opened the scoring with his sixth of the season on the power-play with 2:00 left in the first. The goal spoiled a strong start for the Wilderness, who controlled most of the 1st 20 minutes, outshooting the Norsemen, 9-5.
St. Cloud would take control of the game early in the 2nd when it scored two goals just 1:48 apart. The team’s leading scorer, Ryan O’Neill would be a factor in both tallies. He scored his 10th of the season to make it 2-0 after Blake Mesenburg forced a turnover in the offensive zone in the circle to the right of Wilderness goaltender Jacob Zacharewicz and delivered a pass that O’Neill drilled into the back of the net to Zacharewicz’s left. O’Neill would then set up Blake Perbix for his 10th of the year at the 3:25 mark to make it 3-0. St. Cloud would add 1 more before the 2nd came to a close when Peyton Hanson knocked in his 3rd of the season. They finished the scoring 2:27 into the 3rd when Sam Duerr scored his 2nd of the season on the power-play.
The Wilderness had a number of chances in the early moments of the game that could have turned the tide in their favor, but all were either stopped by Bolo or they missed the net. The most notable was when he denied Cole Gordon on 2-on-1 break. Gordon received a pass from Calvin Knight, and appeared to have Bolo beat when he steered to his right and sent a backhander toward the net that was turned aside thanks to Bolo stretching his left leg and knocking the puck away with his skate.
The Norsemen outshot Minnesota for the game, 24-23. Zacharewicz took the loss in net, stopping 19 of 24 shots.
It’s the 2nd shutout of the season for Bolo. The native of Slovakia is slated to represent his country in the World Junior Tournament later this month.
Special teams continue to be an issue for Minnesota, as they gave up 2 goals on 6 penalty kill situations, and failed to scored on their 4 power plays. The Wilderness have scored only once on their last 33 man-advantage opportunities dating back to their last victory on Nov. 20.
The win is St. Cloud’s 4th straight, and improves their record to 13-9. It’s the 7th straight loss for the Wilderness, who now sit below .500 for the first time since Sept 24 at 13-14-1.
Minnesota will have 3 chances to turn things around next weekend at home. The Anchorage Wolverines will be in town for a Friday, Saturday and Sunday series. Puck drop for Friday’s opener at Northwoods Credit Union Arena is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.