The Minnesota Wilderness and Chippewa Steel seem to enjoy playing against each other. They like it so much, that they cannot just play 60-minute games, as they proved again Friday night.
For the third time in their four meetings this season, the Wilderness and Steel could not decide on a winner through three periods of hockey. For the second straight game, the two teams ended up going beyond the overtime, and this time, it was Chippewa that prevailed in the shootout.
With the game tied at three, and the shootout scoreless going into the bottom of the final round, Matt Brille scored the game-winner on a shot that snuck past the left leg of Isak Posch to end a barn-burner of a hockey game.
Three times Chippewa held a one-goal lead, three times Minnesota fought back to tie. The Wilderness earned the point after killing a late third period 5-minute power play for the Steel that heavily contributed to forcing the overtime.
After Chippewa’s Jackson Bisson gave his team a one-goal lead, Michael Quinn scored Minnesota’s first tying goal with 5:47 left in the first period on a shot from the top of the left face-off circle. Quinn’s fifth of the season was assisted by Joe Cesario and Reid Daavettila.
The 1-1 tie stuck until Chippewa’s second power play of the night, when Joe Kelly put his team back in front with 5:53 left in the second period.
Minnesota rallied early in third and evened the score when Calvin Knight deposited his first of the year. Kevin Marx Noren and Beau Janzig assisted on the tally that came at 2:26 of the final frame; it was initiated after Janzig forced a turnover by intercepting a clearing attempt in the Chippewa zone.
The Steel regained its lead just 1:06 later, on a goal by Parker Gnos. It was then eager to be the first in the game to build a 2-goal lead when Minnesota’s Brian Lonergan was whistled for a high-sticking penalty at the 6:16 mark. That power play goal would not come, instead it was the Wilderness that scored yet another tying goal—this time short-handed. Ren Morque stripped the puck away from Steel defenseman Sam Frandina at neutral ice, skated in on the left side and whistled a shot that beat Chippewa goaltender Carter Wishart on the stick side to make the score 3-3 with 12:18 left in regulation. It was Morque’s third goal and the team’s 2nd on the penalty kill for this season.
Chippewa’s power play would go to work again with 7:34 left when it was the beneficiary of a 5:00 major assessed on Minnesota’s Cole Gordon. The veteran forward was cited for head contact that also came with a game misconduct. Despite some frantic moments that led to Posch making his biggest saves of the game, Chippewa would not gain the lead again before overtime.
In the shootout, the Wilderness was scoreless on chances by Cesario, Marx Noren and Morque. Meanwhile, Posch held off Chippewa’s first two shooters, Sam Rice and J.J. Grainda, before giving up the goal to Brille. That snapped a streak of 10-straight shootout saves for Posch that spanned shootouts in four games.
The shootout loss drops Posch’s record to 10-6-2.
On the power play, Minnesota was held scoreless on three chances, while the Steel cashed in once on four opportunities.
On the season series, Minnesota and Chippewa are now even with each garnering two wins. The Steel, however, have the edge by being the only team to win a game in regulation—5-2 win on Nov. 19. Minnesota won Nov. 18’s game in overtime and a Nov. 23 contest in a shootout. The two squads play six more times before the season is over.
One positive note for Minnesota is the single point it gained by being tied at the end of regulation keeps the team all alone in first place in the Midwest Division. With a record of 16-8-3, the Wilderness have 35 points, compared to 34 points for Chippewa, who managed to move ahead of Fairbanks for 2nd place in the division.
Two more games are on tap for the Wilderness this weekend. It next heads to Janesville where it will begin a two-game series Saturday night. Puck drop at Janesville Arena is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.