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Windigo offense explodes in sweep of Kenai River

Wisconsin forward Will Schumacher skates up the ice looking for a pass during a game last weekend against Kenai River at the Eagle River Sports Arena. Schumacher was named Midwest Star of the Week for his seven goals and eight points. (Photo courtesy of Kitty Sookochoff)

EAGLE RIVER, Wis. — After a disappointing pair of losses to the visiting Fairbanks Ice Dogs, the Wisconsin Windigo needed a better effort last weekend at home against the Kenai River Brown Bears. The Brown Bears entered the weekend with a 5-2 record, but could not stop the Windigo attack from putting up 19 goals en route to a sweep, 9-2 and 10-3, at the Eagle River Sports Arena.

With the wins, the Windigo sit tied for second with the Brown Bears in the Midwest Division standings with a 5-3 record, good for 10 points.

A big part of the reason for all the offense was the play of forward Will Schumacher, who racked up seven goals and eight points in the two games, earning Midwest Star of the Week for his efforts.

Coach Blake Hietala was encouraged by the offensive outburst his team put up.

“After struggling during our home opening weekend, we engaged in some soul-searching and were determined to show the best fans in junior hockey what we are capable of this year,” he said. “Going as far back as our tryout camp during the first week of August, we felt that our forwards would generate significant offense this season. In training camp, during the preseason, and during the showcase, much of our offense came from our defensemen.

“Our forwards showed their mettle this weekend.”

Hietala was especially impressed with Schumacher and fellow forward Max Martin, who also had a strong showing with a goal and two assists on Friday, followed by a goal and four assists on Saturday.

“Schumacher was phenomenal,” said Hietala. “He’s been shooting well in practice. It was no surprise to see him snipe the way he did this weekend.

“Martin was phenomenal with an eight-point weekend.”

Hietala also was happy to see forward Zachary Cline and forward Adam Timm score their first goals on Friday. Forward Everett Pietila, defenseman Mario DiMaggio, and forward Braden Beahm got into the fun with their first goals on Saturday.

“A few players had their first goals of the season or their first NAHL career goals,” Hietala said. “Everyone contributed to the wins over Kenai. They are a surprisingly fast team. Our hard work, aggressive forecheck, and team defense kept them on their heels.”

Kenai River took a 1-0 lead into the second period on Friday night before the Windigo broke open the gates. Martin got Wisconsin on the board just 49 seconds into the middle frame. Forward Drew Fisher and Schumacher scored nearly eight minutes apart to put the Windigo up 3-1 heading into the final frame.

After the Brown Bears cut the lead to 3-2, the Windigo offense exploded. Schumacher struck twice, the first just 80 seconds after Kenai River scored, and the second at 6:06. Cline, defenseman Daniil Dolzhenko, Cline again, and Timm scored over an 8:43 stretch to put the game out of reach.

Goaltender Lindards Lipskis earned his third win of the season.

Saturday, Schumacher got the Windigo on the board first just 1:24 into the contest. After Kenai River evened the score, defenseman Erick Comstock regained the lead just 38 seconds later. Pietila then stretched the lead to 3-1 at 9:05 before the Brown Bears pulled back within one before the period ended.

Martin, Schumacher, DiMaggio and Beahm all scored in the middle frame. Martin’s tally came just 1:10 in. Schumacher followed at 4:19. DiMaggio and Beahm scored less than three minutes apart.

In the third, Schumacher struck again at 13:33. After Kenai River scored to make it 8-3, forward Tyler Grahme struck at 15:00. Schumacher added the final goal of the weekend at 19:46 to seal the win and the sweep.

Lipskis made 33 saves to earn his fourth win of the season.

ROWE GETS ON THE BOARD

Houghton native Matthew Rowe, a defenseman in his first season with the Windigo, picked up his first two career points in Friday’s 9-2 win. His first point came on Schumacher’s hat trick goal at 6:06 of the third period. His second came as the primary assist on Timm’s first goal at 15:58.

UP NEXT

This weekend, the Windigo look to continue their winning streak against their rivals, the Janesville Jets. The Jets lead the Midwest Division with a record of 5-2-2, good for 12 points.

Opening faceoff on both Friday and Saturday is at 7 p.m. at the Eagle River Sports Arena.

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