Wisconsin Beats Wilderness by a Whisker; Takes Division Crown

The Minnesota Wilderness again struggled to find the back of the net vs. the Wisconsin Windigo Thursday night, as the Windigo slipped by with a 1-0 victory.  By winning, Wisconsin expanded its lead in the Midwest Division to six points over the 2nd place Wilderness with only three games remaining for both teams, which allowed the Windigo to clinch the 2022-23 regular season division title.

Victor Widlund scored the game’s lone goal while Max Beckford made 20 saves in securing his second shutout of the season.  In fact, it was a Beckford save that was part of a dramatic series of events that led to the Windigo goal.  It started when Wilderness defenseman Beau Janzig had a point-blank chance from directly in front of the Wisconsin net that Beckford knocked aside with his blocker.  Shortly thereafter, the Windigo were on a rush into the Minnesota zone, led by Will Schumacher.  From the left side, Schumacher took a shot that went off the side of the Wilderness cage, he then grabbed the rebound and swooped behind the net, skated toward the right boards, turned and whipped a pass to Widlund who was breaking down the middle. Widlund then slipped the puck just between Wilderness netminder Isak Posch and the left post to give the Windigo a lead it would not relinquish.

Posch had another strong game, turning aside 25 Windigo shots, including one on a 3-on-1 opportunity late in the 3rd period.

A late penalty hampered Minnesota’s efforts to tie the game.  With 3:43 left in regulation time, Gustavs Ozolins was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking.  In the final seconds, while short-handed, the Wilderness pulled Posch for an extra attacker, but the Windigo kept the door closed, and completed its eighth straight win in the season series with Minnesota.

It marks the third time this season the Wilderness could not score against Wisconsin, and 2nd straight game in which Beckford shutout Minnesota, as he also held them off the scoreboard in a 3-0 win on Feb. 17 in Eagle River, WI.  The Windigo’s first time blanking Minnesota was also by a 3-0 score, at home, on Jan. 13.

Wisconsin had the advantage in shots on goal Thursday, by a 26-20 count.

Penalty kills for both teams were strong Thursday. Minnesota (32-18-7) kept Wisconsin (37-17-3) scoreless on five chances, while the Windigo killed both of the Wilderness’ opportunities.

While the division is now out-of-reach for Minnesota, it still has a chance to clinch second place, and guarantee home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. That can be accomplished with just one more victory, and the Wilderness will get a chance Friday night, when it again hosts the Windigo.  That contest will also mark the Wilderness’ regular season home finale and is set to begin at 7:15 p.m.