Two 2nd period goals scored just over a minute apart were just enough to push the Minnesota Wilderness past the Minnesota Magicians Thursday night.
Max Neill’s goal on the power-play at 8:27 gave the Wilderness a 2-1 lead at the 8:27 mark, and that was followed by an Ethan Wolthers tally just 1:04 later to increase the lead to two goals. A surge by the Magicians that led to a late 2nd period power-play goal was not enough as the Wilderness prevailed, 3-2.
Matt Smith earned the victory in goal, making 27 saves on 29 shots, as the Magicians had the advantage in shots, 29-22. It’s Smith’s 6th consecutive NAHL victory, as he remains unbeaten at 6-0.
The teams were even in the first period, in shots and goals. The Wilderness (24-19-1) opened the scoring when a Cole Gordon redirection of an Alex Pineau shot struck the right pad of Magicians (21-19-7) netminder Josh Langford and trickled through his legs and into the net. That was the first NAHL goal for the veteran Gordon, who is in his 2nd season with the Wilderness.
After the game, a relieved Gordon described it as a shaking a gorilla off his back.
However, a Magicians team that was tenacious on the power-play throughout the game, struck gold on its first opportunity, when defenseman Evan Tanos fired a shot that was redirected off Wilderness defenseman Reid Conn and into the net behind Smith.
Smith recovered, and ended the first with a remarkable save. As the final seconds of the period ticked away, The Magicians broke through with a 2-man break with Lucas Kanta and Hunter Longhi. On a back and forth passing play, Kanta had a sure-goal denied by Smith when he stretched his left leg and jabbed the puck away as time expired.
Each team finished the first with nine shots on goal.
The Magicians also had a terrific opportunity to tie the game to begin the third as Haden Kruse had to serve a 4-minute penalty for high-sticking. That power-play though would not prevail as the Wilderness held up, and ended up outshooting the Magicians 7-5 in the final frame to seal the one-goal win.
The Magicians finished the game 2-for-6 on the man-advantage, while the Wilderness scored once on three power-play chances
The victory is the 9th in the last 10 for the Wilderness, and lifts them into a 3-way tie for the Midwest Division’s fourth and final playoff spot. At 49 points, the Wilderness are now even with the Magicians and Janesville, and sit just two points behind Anchorage in third.
The road trip continues this weekend as the team heads to Springfield for games Friday and Saturday vs. the Jr. Blues.