After surrendering four power-play goals to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the first two games of their Midwest Division semi-final playoff series, the Minnesota Wilderness have turned the tables. Since the playoff series switched to Cloquet, the Wilderness have turned the Ice Dog power play into its own advantage, and scored three short-handed goals, including two Saturday night in a 3-0 victory, which ties the best of five series at 2.
Like Friday, Saturday’s win was paced by Ethan Wolthers. The 20-year-old from Valencia, CA, first blocked a shot from Kevin Marx Noren, which led to Sam Antenucci clearing the puck out of the Wilderness zone. As the puck slid into the Fairbanks end, a race for it ensued between Wolthers and Marx Noren. Wolthers lifted the stick of the Fairbanks forward to gain control of the loose biscuit, skated to the hash mark at the edge of the slot and whipped a wrist shot that beat goaltender Kayden Hargraves on the glove side to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. It was the 2nd goal of the playoffs for the Wilderness captain—both of them coming short-handed.
The Wilderness added to their lead in the 3rd on another Fairbanks power play. On a 2-on-1 with Cole Gordon, Calvin Knight fired in his first post-season goal on a wrister from the face off circle to Hargraves’ left, to make it 2-0. Severi Sulonen and goaltender Matthew Smith combined to assist on the goal—their first points of the playoffs.
Minnesota added one more on an empty-netter from Gunnar Thoreson with 1:17 left in the contest. Wolthers and Antenucci picked up helpers on the tally that Thoreson fired in from the center ice; it was Thoreson’s 2nd goal of the playoffs.
With 31 saves, Smith picked up his first post-season shutout, and evened his playoff record to 2-2. For Fairbanks, Hargraves stopped 34 of 36 Wilderness shots, and his record fell to 2-2.
For the 2nd straight night, Minnesota kept Fairbanks scoreless on the man-advantage, stopping them on four power-play situations. The Wilderness were also held off the scoresheet on two power plays.
With the series tied at two, Minnesota and Fairbanks will decide who goes on to round 2 of the NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs Sunday night. Game 5 of the Midwest Division semi-finals is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet.