Bryce Howard scored twice, while Calvin Knight notched 3 assists Friday night in leading the Minnesota Wilderness to a 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Magicians.
It’s the 3rd straight win for the Wilderness, with all the victories coming against their rivals from the Twin Cities.
The Wilderness (18-18-1) built a 4-0 lead into the latter stages of the 2nd period after scoring once in the 1st period and 3 more in the middle frame. A Magicians (17-15-4) comeback, which saw them cut the lead to 1, was foiled thanks in part to Howard’s 2nd goal 6:50 into the final period.
Max Neill scored what resulted in the winning goal with 3:20 remaining in the second. The 4-year Jr. hockey veteran pounced on a rebound on a shot by Alex Pineau to fire the puck past Magicians netminder Henry Levy for his 8th goal of the season and 4th in his last 5 games.
That made the score 4-0 in favor of the Wilderness, but the Magicians were by no means out of it. The visitors rallied with 3 straight goals beginning with Colin Tushie’s 2nd period tally, and then 2 more from Trevor Kukkonen, and Jon Bell early in the 3rd to make it 4-3. But that momentum came to a crashing halt thanks to Howard.
The play started when Gunnar Thoreson intercepted a neutral zone pass by Hunter Longhi, and skated into the Magicians end on the left side. Thoreson then caught Howard swooping in through the slot, and the Wilderness rookie deked with his backhand to his left and used his forehand to beat backup goaltender Vinny Castelletti (who entered the game for the Magicians in relief of Levy) with 13:50 left to play. The Wilderness were then able to hold on to preserve the 5-3 victory.
Also picking up goals for the Wilderness were Ethan Wolthers, who opened the scoring just 4:23 into the 1st period, and Aaron Pionk 4:38 into the 2nd. It was the first game for Wolthers since Dec. 19, as he missed the first 5 games of 2022 with an upper body injury.
Knight led the way point-wise with his 3 helpers, which quadrupled his season point totals. The rookie from Evergreen, CO, entered the game with 1 just point on the season.
Matt Smith earned his 2nd straight victory for the Wilderness, stopping 23 of 26 shots and improving his NAHL record to 3-0, 2-0 with the Wilderness.
Levy took the loss for the Magicians as he and Castelletti combined for 31 saves on 36 shots. Levy’s record fell to 6-4-1.
Neither team could muster anything on the power-play, as both had 4 chances on the night.
The win also moves the Wilderness into 5th place in the Midwest Division, ahead of the Chippewa Steel by 1 point, and within 1 point of the Magicians who occupy 4th place.
The rematch and final game of the back-to-back home-and-home series will be Saturday night in Richfield, with puck drop set for 7p.m.