On the night before Thanksgiving, the Minnesota Wilderness and Chippewa Steel treated fans to a feast of excellent hockey, topped off with a shootout goal from Ren Morque that gave Minnesota a 2-1 victory.
Morque’s goal came in the final round of the 3-round shootout, after the two squads each failed to score in their first two attempts. From the left circle, Morque wired a shot that beat Carter Wishart high on the stick side as the goaltender attempted to guard the post to his right.
The shootout victory gave Minnesota wins in two of the three games in the series with the Steel, which began Friday night in Chippewa Falls, WI. The Wilderness triumphed in Friday night’s opener, 4-3 in overtime, while Chippewa countered with a 5-2 victory Saturday night. While the Wilderness won most of the games, because Chippewa earned a point in each of the two Minnesota wins, the net result is a tie—each team finished with four points and, as they were before the series, tied for fourth place in the Midwest Division.
Isak Posch earned the win in net for the Wilderness, stopping 37 of 38 shots, some of them from point blank range. One of his biggest tests came in the third period when he made back-to-back stops on Steel leading scorer Kade Neilsen.
After two scoreless periods, the Wilderness broke the scoreless tie when Hunter Bulger capitalized on a power play with 9:36 left in the third period. After taking a pass from Gustavs Ozolins in the left circle, Bulger skated in front of the net, and after firing a shot that was blocked by Chippewa’s Will Killoran, Bulger whipped the rebound passed Wishart on the netminder’s glove side to make it 1-0. Michael Quinn also assisted on Bulger’s 4th tally of the season.
An equalizer from Sam Rice made the score 1-1 with 3:26 left in regulation, and ultimately forced the game to go to overtime. Posch was critical in the 5-minute extra frame, stopping all four Steel shots, while the Wilderness had two denied by Wishart.
In the shootout, the Steel could not beat Posch despite sending three of their top 4 goal scorers—Matthew Brille, Neilsen and Rice. It came down to Morque’s shot in round three after the Wilderness could not capitalize on shots from Joe Cesario and Kevin Marx Norḗn.
The Wilderness outshot the Steel 43-38.
For the third straight game, power play opportunities were very limited. The Wilderness finished 1-for-2, while Chippewa was held scoreless on just one man-advantage situation. Over the three games, the two teams combined for only 12 infractions, which led to a total of seven instances where one of the teams was on a power play.
The Wilderness will stay home for two more games this weekend. The Janesville Jets will be in town Friday and Saturday, with puck drop both nights scheduled for 7:15.