The Minnesota Wilderness held the lead three times Saturday night, but could not seal the deal, as the Wisconsin Windigo claimed a 4-3 victory to sweep a 2-game weekend series.
Working with an injury-depleted lineup of only five defensemen, the Wilderness held leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, before the first period was over. The Windigo fought back to tie the game a third time early in the 2nd period, and then won the game on a Luke Levandowski rebound goal with 7:27 left in the third.
Minnesota had a strong start to open the game, generating the first seven shots on goal, and built a 1-0 lead when Kevin Marx Noren scored on a rebound from the bottom of the right face-off circle. The goal was Marx Noren’s 15th goal of the season, and it was assisted by Gunnar Thoreson.
After Drew Fisher scored to tie the game, things got a little crazy. The two teams combined for three goals over the final 2:11 of the opening period.
Joe Cesario would tilt the game back in Minnesota’s favor when he deposited the puck in from a goal mouth scramble that led to Windigo netminder Max Beckford down and out of position. Cesario demonstrated great patience as he glided from the slot to the bottom of the left circle and fired the puck over Beckford for his 13th red-lighter of the campaign, with Charlie Erickson earning the assist.
That was followed by Wisconsin knotting things up again only 17 seconds later with Fisher stretching twine for the second time to make 2-2. Yet the first period finished 3-2 for the Wilderness thanks to another shift where it poured intense pressure on the Wisconsin net. Thoreson scored his 5th of the season on a shot from the slot with 50 seconds remaining, with assists going to Marx Noren and Reid Daavettila.
A goal by Ben Anderson just 2:16 into the 2nd evened the score at 3, and the game fell into a stalemate until Levandowski notched his game-winner in the 3rd.
Max Wattvil’s upper-body injury Friday night added him to a Wilderness injured list that already included fellow blue-liners Michael Quinn and Gustavs Ozolins. The Windigo, with seven defensemen in their lineup, used their depth on defense to their advantage in the final 20 minutes, outshooting Minnesota 11-6.
For the game, the Wilderness had the upper hand in shots at 33-31. Beckford recorded the win, making 30 saves. Two goaltenders split time for the Wilderness. Konrad Kausch started the game, but was pulled after Fisher scored to make it 2-2 with 1:54 left in period 1. Kausch faced 7 shots and made five saves. Isak Posch took the loss and finished the game with 22 saves on 24 shots.
Both teams were held scoreless on the power play, with the Wilderness going scoreless on three chances, while the Windigo went 0 for 5.
Minnesota will be back on the ice next weekend. The Chippewa Steel are next on the schedule with a home-and-home series scheduled to begin in Chippewa Falls, WI, Friday night, followed by a game Saturday night in Cloquet.