Wilderness Drop Opener to Springfield

The Springfield Junior Blues scored four third period goals Friday night to complete a 5-3 come-from-behind victory over the Minnesota Wilderness.

After Minnesota lit the lamp twice in the 2nd period to take a 2-0 lead, Springfield answered with four straight tallies—one in the second and three more in the third before the Wilderness would again get on the board in the latter stages of the third.  An empty netter with 1:36 left would seal the win for the Jr. Blues.

Minnesota was led by Reid Daavettila, who notched two assists for his second multi-point game in his rookie season.  Oliver Stümpel, Max Wattvil and Adam Johnson each registered single goals in a losing effort.

Stümpel opened the scoring 1:24 into the 2nd after a sharp backhand pass from Bo Cosman caught Stümpel’s stick at the left post that allowed the puck to slip past Springfield netminder Aksel Reid. Kevin Marx Norén also assisted on Stümpel’s seventh of the campaign and first since Jan. 6.

The Wilderness would then expand its lead to 2-0 just under six minutes later thanks to Wattvil firing in his first since joining the squad last month.  Cole Gordon helped set up the goal after freeing the puck from a scrum along the right half-wall in the Jr. Blues zone, and delivered a pass to Daavettila who then found Wattvil at the right point. The native of Stockholm, Sweden, responded by whipping the puck past Reid’s stick side with the help of a partial screen.

An Adyn Merrick tally with 9:10 left in the middle stanza allowed Springfield to cut the Wilderness lead in half to 2-1, and that score would remain through the end of the 2nd.

Springfield’s special teams came through in the final period with two goals on the power play and one short-handed to take a 4-2 lead.  Man-advantage tallies from Hagen Moe and Nikita Nikora came within the first 6:08 of the third, and Alex Fendler gave the Jr. Blues their first 2-goal lead while on the penalty kill with 7:37 remaining.

Johnson helped revive the Wilderness’ hopes when he fired in his 6th of the season to make it 4-3 with 5:31 left in regulation. After catching a cross-ice pass from Daavettila, the forward from Mahtomedi, MN, wristed the puck past Reid from the right circle to give him goals in consecutive games for the first time this season.  Gustavs Ozolins also helped on the tally for this 3rd assist in his last 2 games.

Fendler then drove in Springfield’s final goal, his second of the game, as Minnesota was applying pressure with goaltender Nik Erickson on the bench for an extra attacker.

It was Erickson’s first start in net after being acquired from the Oklahoma Warriors just before the trade deadline. The rookie turned aside 22 of 26 Springfield shots to even his overall NAHL record to 1-1.

The Jr. Blues outshot the Wilderness 27-20, including a 10-2 advantage in the final frame.

On the power play, Springfield (21-22-1) finished 2-for-4, while the Wilderness were blanked on four opportunities.

It’s the fifth consecutive loss for Minnesota (23-15-7), and the fourth time it has given up a multi-goal lead in the last 6 games.

The Wilderness will get a chance to finish the home weekend on a positive note Saturday night.  It will close out the 2-game set plus the season series with Springfield with a game scheduled for 7:15.  This will be the final home game before the team ventures north next week for its final Alaska trip of the 2022-23 regular season.