Windigo split at home against Wilderness
EAGLE RIVER, Wis. — The Wisconsin Windigo, who finished as the top team in the North American Hockey League’s Midwest Division, opened up their second round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs with a split against the Minnesota Wilderness this past weekend at the Eagle River Sports Arena in Eagle River, Wisconsin. The Wilderness took the series opener, 1-0, and the Windigo took the second game in overtime, 3-2.
Alternate captain Victor Widlund ensured that the series shifted to Cloquet, Minnesota, even when he scored just 1:12 into the first overtime. The goal, his team-leading third of the playoffs, came on a rebound off a shot from Sam Greobner.
Windigo coach Blake Hietala, a Houghton native and former Michigan Tech Huskies player, was extremely pleased with how Widlund came through when the team needed him most.
“What can I say about Victor?” Hietala asked. “He has been a clutch performer all season.”
The Windigo had to play Game Two without its scoring leader from the regular season, Luke Levandowski, who was out with illness, however they still found a way to get on the board first when Max Martin found the net just 36 seconds into the contest. He tipped a shot from Ben Anderson past Wilderness goaltender Isak Posch. Martin also picked up the second assist on Widlund’s game-winner.
Martin’s linemates, Anderson and Zach Burfoot were strong all night long. Burfoot also assisted on Martin’s tally. Hietala praised the trio for their efforts.
“I was much more pleased with our effort tonight. We cycled the puck down low in the offensive zone very well, and that resulted in scoring opportunities for us,” he said. “Martin stepped up and had a monumental game for us, up and down the ice. Anderson and Burfoot worked well with him.”
The Windigo thought they had their second of the night later in the opening frame, but upon discussion amongst the referees, the goal call was overturned, keeping the game at 1-0 in favor of Wisconsin.
However, Martin did extend Wisconsin’s lead late in the first.
In the second, the Windigo threw 13 pucks at Posch, but they could not extend their lead. Instead, the Wilderness found the back of the net at 14:15, cutting Wisconsin’s lead in half. Adam Johnson was credited with the tally.
Minnesota kept pressing into the third period and were rewarded at 12:31, just seconds after the Windigo successfully killed off a penalty to co-captain Jon Bell, sending the game into overtime.
In the series opener, the Windigo matched the intensity the Wilderness played with, but could not find a way to get any advantage.
Wisconsin killed off multiple penalties to keep the game even, but eventually bent when Minnesota found the net with 6:45 left in the second period.
“For the most part, the effort was there tonight,” said Hietala after Friday’s game. “We controlled the game for long stretches. We seemed out of sync at times, and took some undisciplined penalties.”
In the third, Wisconsin regrouped and controlled much of the play, outshooting Minnesota 10-5, however every time the Windigo had a look, Posch was there to make the stop.
Hietiala pulled goaltender Max Beckford with 1:24 left in the contest, but the Windigo could not find the net before the final buzzer rang.
“I liked our push in the third period to try to tie the game,” Hietala said. “We had difficulty setting up our power play and creating scoring chances with the man advantage. We will work on that.”
Beckford finished with 24 saves in the loss.
With the series tied, the two teams will play Friday and Saturday nights in Cloquet, Minnesota. If the series is still tied after Saturday’s contest, the two teams will return to Eagle River for a deciding game on Sunday. Game time on Sunday is set for 7 p.m. Eastern.