A third period Minnesota Wilderness goal forced overtime Saturday night, but it was the Janesville Jets who came out on top in a 4-3 shootout victory.
The Wilderness outshot and out-chanced the Jets through the vast majority of the game. Janesville netminder Owen Millward was stellar, making 43 saves.
Cade DeStefani led the way offensively for Janesville, scoring twice. After Jack Larrigan netted a goal to give the Jets the game’s first lead in period 1, DeStefani scored his first 5:09 into the 2nd to give the Jets a two-goal advantage.
The Wilderness would then respond with two consecutive tallies. Barrett Hall made it 2-1 1:42 later with his 4th of the season, and then Haden Kruse, on his 19th birthday, tied the game on an unassisted wrist shot for his 6th of the season 10:24 into the frame.
But it was DeStefani who snuffed out Minnesota’s 2nd period momentum, scoring 1:57 after Kruse’s goal to put Janesville back on top 3-2.
The one-goal lead carried into the 3rd period, and Minnesota came out strong. A hooking penalty to Jan Lasak put the Wilderness on a power-play, and the home team responded with Gunnar Thoreson tying the game 2:14 into the final period on a shot from the slot. It was Thoreson’s 15th goal and 53rd point, which ties Niko Rexine for the team lead.
The 3-3 score remained through the end of regulation and a 5-minute 3-on-3 overtime. Janesville began the shootout scoring on its first two shots – from Cy LeClerc and Lasak. Jared Mangan was denied by Millward in his first chance for Minnesota, but the Wilderness kept the shootout alive when Cole Crusberg-Roseen tossed a backhander over Millward’s outstretched right leg and into the net to make the shootout score 2-1 for the Jets.
Matt Smith then gave the Wilderness a chance to tie in the final shootout round. The Wilderness netminder used his left leg pad to deny his former Christian Brothers College High School teammate Jack Larrigan on his deke attempt. But, it ended up being Janesville’s night, as Niko Rexine could not beat Millward to push the shootout to extra rounds.
Matt Smith took the loss in goal for Minnesota; he made 22 saves as his record fell to 9-2 since joining the Wilderness in December. The shot count was 46-25 in favor of Minnesota.
Due to the game going to overtime, the Wilderness did earn one point, which allows them to remain in 3rd place in the Midwest Division standings. Janesville’s win moves them within 1 point of the Wilderness, as the Jets sit in 4th place. Lurking not far behind both is Anchorage, which was playing Kenai River as this was being written. Pending the result of their game, the Wolverines have 58 points and sit in 5th place with two extra regular season games to play than Minnesota. The top four teams in each division qualify for the NAHL playoffs.
The Wilderness and Janesville will conclude their 2-game series Saturday night. Puck drop at Northwoods Credit Union Arena is scheduled for 7:15p.m.