To fly, aircraft need to complete the first step, which is take off. The Minnesota Wilderness tonight prevented the Janesville Jets from performing that very important step.
The Wilderness limited Janesville chances and Konrad Kausch stopped all 22 shots he faced, as Minnesota completed a 4-0 shutout victory.
It was Kausch’s second shutout and 8th victory of the season.
Offensively, the Wilderness scored in all phases: power-play, short-handed and even strength.
After a scoreless first period, the Wilderness (31-21-2) broke the stalemate with a power-play goal from Haden Kruse. Max Neill helped set up the play after winning a puck battle along the right wing wall in the Janesville end. Kruse received the pass from Neill, skated to the high slot and ripped a wrist shot that beat Jet netminder Owen Millward on the stick side. Max Ruoho also assisted on the goal, as he extended his team record for single-season assists to 41. The goal was Kruse’s 7th on the year.
The next goal may have been the biggest backbreaker for Janesville (30-21-1). The Jets had an opportunity to tie the game when Cole Gordon was sent to the penalty box for delay of game. What followed was a penalty situation which the Wilderness dominated for close to the first minute, keeping the puck almost entirely in the Janesville zone or at neutral ice. This culminated when Ethan Wolthers forced a turnover in front of the Janesville blue line. This led to the puck going directly to Sam Antenucci who responded by immediately sending a pass to Wolthers and the two entered the Jet end on a 2-on-1 break. From the circle to Millward’s right, Wolthers feathered a pass out in front to the tape of Antenucci’s stick, and Antenucci whipped a shot past Millward to make it 2-0. The short-handed goal with 3:26 left was Antenucci’s 8th of the season.
Despite being outshot 9-8 in the final period, the Wilderness would add two more. Neill fired in an even-strength goal from the left wall to make it 3-0 7:01 into the frame, and Cole Crusberg-Roseen added a power-play marker from directly in front to give Minnesota a 4-goal lead with 7:41 left.
Both goals were the 19th of the season for both Neill and Crusberg-Roseen. Crusberg-Roseen’s tally set a new record for Wilderness defenseman, breaking the previous mark set by Grant Docter last season. Neill and Crusberg-Roseen are also now in a 3-way tie for the team lead in goals with Will Persson.
In an effort to generate a comeback, Janesville pulled its goaltender early for an extra attacker, with just under 5 minutes remaining. But, Kausch held strong with the help of his defense to keep the Jets off the board.
Kausch’s biggest test came in the 2nd period, when he denied the Jets top scorer Cy LeClerc on a breakaway.
On the power-play, the Wilderness finished 2-for-5, and kept Janesville scoreless on two chances.
The win allows the Wilderness to finish the weekend with 3 out of a possible 4 points, after falling Friday night in a shootout, 4-3. It also ensures that they will remain in 3rd place in the Midwest Division after all of the NAHL’s weekend games have been completed. The Wilderness, Janesville and Anchorage are in a tight battle for the final two playoff spots in the division (as of the time this story is being written, Janesville and Anchorage occupy 4th and 5th place, respectively, with only four playoff spots available).
The Wilderness will return for two more home games next week. They will host Springfield in a two-game series scheduled for Thursday and Friday nights at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.