Isak Posch made 27 saves and Eddie Shepler scored twice and added an assist in leading the Minnesota Wilderness to a 4-0 victory over the Wisconsin Windigo Friday night.
Shepler capitalized on a dominating opening period for Minnesota in cashing in for his two tallies. Shepler’s first goal came on a rush along the left wing wall that resulted in a shot from the left circle that was too quick for Wisconsin netminder Gavin Moffatt to contain, as the puck hit the back of the net on his glove side just 5:36 into the game. Assists on the goal went to Matt Delaney, with his first point of the season, and Adam Johnson, who ended up with three helpers in the contest.
Moffatt’s glove side turned out to be his Achilles’ heal in the contest, as that was where every Wilderness goal ended up going.
Shepler made the score 2-0 with 8:38 remaining in the opening frame after skating to the slot and relaying a pinpoint centering pass from Luke Jech (who received the puck from Johnson) toward the Windigo net that went in on a quick redirection.
For the first period, Minnesota outshot Wisconsin by a 15-4 count.
Wisconsin dialed up the intensity for the final two periods, and gained the upper hand in shots on goal by a 23-15 count. However, Posch stayed sharp and turned aside each opportunity in earning his first shutout with the Wilderness.
“I didn’t get tested a lot in the beginning of the game,” said Posch. “But, moving forward, it was more and more and a little bit (of) chaos sometimes in front of the net, but I think I handled it pretty well, and we did as well as a team.”
“It was great to see Posch get his first shutout in a Wilderness jersey because I know how hard he works and he deserved that,” said head coach Brett Skinner, who agrees it was a team effort. “The commitment to play defense in front of him by his teammates was also great to see and a big part of that shutout as well.”
Meanwhile, the Wilderness padded its lead when the Shepler, Jech and Johnson line connected again in the 2nd period. This time it was Jech who finished the play when Johnson, after receiving a pass from Shepler in the left corner, sent the puck from the end wall directly to Jech, who whipped a shot from the bottom of the circle into the back of the net. For Jech, it was the Lakeville, MN, native’s first goal since he started playing in the Jr. A ranks.
The Wilderness finished the scoring in the 3rd period on a play that was very similar to Shepler’s 2nd goal. This time Kevin Marx Noren sent the puck from the left-wing wall to the slot for Joe Cesario to fire a one-timer past the netminder. Charlie Erickson also assisted on Cesario’s 6th goal of the season, which is tied for the lead for all NAHL rookies.
The power play was not a bright spot for either squad. Both were held scoreless, with Minnesota getting four chances and three going to the Windigo.
For the Wilderness, the win extends two streaks. It’s the team’s fifth straight victory and sixth in their last seven games. For Posch, it extends his win streak to four games, after starting the season 0-2-1.
The rookie Moffatt saw his record drop to 1-2-0, as Wisconsin suffered its sixth straight defeat (2-7-0).
Minnesota has a chance to not only extend its winning streak in Saturday night’s rematch, but also make a considerable climb in the Midwest Division standings. The 4th place Wilderness sit just two points behind first place Janesville and could move into a tie for the top spot with a second straight win over the Windigo. Puck drop at Northwoods Credit Union Arena is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.