A 3-goal lead midway through its game Saturday night was not enough for the Minnesota Wilderness, as it fell 4-3 in a shootout to the Wisconsin Windigo.
In the second contest of its 2-game series with the Windigo, and third game in three nights (after a game Thursday vs. Fairbanks), Minnesota built a 3-0 lead with two goals in the first period, and a third in the 2nd frame.
Kevin Marx Norén and Charlie Erickson led the way for Minnesota, with each earning two points on one goal and one assist. The game also involved a milestone achievement for Gunnar Thoreson.
Marx Norén opened the scoring just 53 seconds into the game with a backhand wraparound goal. Noah Griswold and Eddie Shepler assisted on the tally, which is the team-leading 21st of the season for the veteran from Knivsta, Sweden.
Marx Norén and Erickson both assisted on the second goal, which came on the power play. After receiving a cross-ice pass from Marx Norén at neutral ice, Erickson skated in the on the right side in the Wisconsin zone, and then entered the face-off circle to the right of the Windigo net where he dropped a backhand pass to Joe Cesario who lasered a shot past Wisconsin netminder Gavin Moffatt. That red-lighter at the 5:46 mark in the first period is Cesario’s 14th goal of the season.
Erickson then finished off the third tally, which was also on the man-advantage with 10:10 left in the 2nd. Along the left wall in the Wisconsin end, Donovan O’Neill sent the puck behind the net, where Thoreson swooped in, skated to the bottom of the right circle and fired a shot that Moffatt redirected to Erickson, who shoveled it into the net on his backhand.
That goal is Erickson’s sixth of the season and, by earning an assist on the goal, it marked Thoreson’s 100th career point. The 3-year veteran from Andover, MN, becomes only the fifth player in Wilderness history to record 100 career points.
Wisconsin then came to life and responded just 1:41 later. It began its comeback when Axel Begley scored at the 11:31 mark of period two, and then made it a one-goal on Daniil Dolzhenko with 5:14 remaining in the middle frame. The Windigo finally tied the game on Begley’s second of the night with 9:51 left in the third.
After a scoreless 5-minute overtime, Wisconsin would outscore Minnesota, 1-0 in the shootout, with Luke Levandowski depositing the lone goal.
Isak Posch took the loss, stopping 23 of 27 Wisconsin shots. The Wilderness outshot the Windigo 35-27, including a 7-1 advantage in the overtime.
On special teams, Minnesota had its best outing in the season’s second half. Its power play went 2-for-3, and the penalty kill kept the Windigo scoreless on three chances, with the final opportunity starting late in third period and concluding in the overtime.
It’s the second time in the last three games when the Wilderness failed to hold on to a 3-goal lead. Fairbanks staged a similar comeback Thursday night, in a game which Minnesota still managed to win, 5-4 in overtime.
Minnesota (23-13-6) will now have close to two weeks to determine how to bounce back from this defeat. It will be idle next weekend and return Feb. 17-18 for another series vs. the Windigo (23-15-2) —this time in Eagle River, WI.
However, for five Wilderness players, that break will not start until after they have completed play in the Top Prospects tournament. Forwards Reid Daavettila, Cole Gordon, and Marx Norén will be joined by defensemen Michael Quinn and Severi Sulonen for the 2-day event being held in Cranberry Township, PA.