Christmas is a season of giving, and it was giveaway in the Anchorage zone that led to a goal that will help the Minnesota Wilderness have a happy holiday.
A clearing attempt by Anchorage goaltender Shane Soderwall from behind his own net just 1:47 into the 3rd period ended up on the stick of Nicko Rexine, and he was gifted with a wide open net. Rexine responded in a way in which you could almost call him St. Niko. He joyfully tossed it into the net for his 8th goal of the season, which gave the Wilderness a 2-1 lead. That lead held up for the remainder of the game allowing the Wilderness to end a franchise-record 9-game losing streak.
It was one sloppy play that marred an otherwise solid performance for Soderwall, who finished the game with 28 saves. For Minnesota, Duluth-native Konrad Kausch made 16 saves in relief of Graham Burke, as he posted his 1st win in just his 2nd appearance in net for the Wilderness. Kausch entered the game with 10:26 remaining in the 2nd period after Burke was pulled due to injury. Burke finished the contest with 16 saves on 17 shots.
The game began with both teams looking as if they were ready to put on a scoring clinic. Anchorage scored on its 1st shot on goal, as Collin Pederson fired a backhander that beat Burke just 20 seconds into the first period.
The Wilderness needed only 36 seconds to answer and that was also due to an Anchorage turnover and it was on Minnesota’s first shot on goal. Gunnar Thoreson was able to strip the puck from Hunter Bischoff along the left side boards and delivered a pass to Ethan Wolthers in the slot who responded by firing a snap shot just passed Soderwall’s glove to make it 1-1. The tying goal was Wolthers’ 10th of the season.
But, that would be it for the goal-scoring until the 3rd period.
The win improves the Wilderness’ record to 14-16-1, while Anchorage’s mark drops to 17-10-2.
Both teams now begin a holiday break which means no games until New Year’s weekend. The Wilderness will be home to take on the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for a 2-game series December 31 and January 1. Puck drop on New Year’s Eve is scheduled for 5:15p.m. at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.