Windigo split road series with Steel, remain in second in NAHL’s Midwest Division
CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. — The Wisconsin Windigo earned a split on the road this past weekend with in-state rivals, the Chippewa Steel. The Windigo won Friday night 4-3 in a shootout, before falling 8-2 on Saturday.
With the split, the Windigo remain second in the NAHL’s Midwest Division with a record of 11-9-3-1, good for 28 points, six points behind the division-leading Minnesota Wilderness, and just two points ahead of the Steel, the Janesville Jets, and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
After a scoreless first period Friday night, the Windigo struck first just 42 seconds into the middle frame when forward Jacob Jastrzebski scored from below the goal line. Forwards Max Martin and Braydon Beahm both picked up assists on the goal.
Down 2-1 in the late stages of the period, Martin evened the game with his 17th goal of the season at 19:24, when he knocked in a rebound. Beahm and goaltender Max Beckford both assisted on the goal.
Things remained 2-2 until defenseman Cashen Naeve gave Wisconsin a 3-2 lead at 15:59 of the third. Forward Tyler Grahme assisted on the goal, his 22nd assist of the season.
The lead was short-lived, unfortunately, as the Steel evened things at 17:42, forcing extra hockey.
In the shootout, the Steel struck in the first round when Anton Astashevich found the net. Grahme responded two rounds later for the Windigo. Jastrzebeski scored to open the fourth round, and Beckford stopped the Steel’s Gavin Middendorf to seal the win.
“I like the way we battled back after a slow start in the first period on Friday,” said Windigo coach Blake Hietala. “It was nice to finally win a game that went to overtime or a shootout. This was our first win in either overtime or a shootout this season.”
Beckford finished his night with 37 saves to earn the win.
“Beckford was clutch in net for us all night,” Hietala said, “especially during the shootout.”
Saturday night, things went south very quickly for the Windigo. The Steel scored four goals in the game’s first 7:45, chasing Beckford from the net in the process. Before the opening frame ended, Wisconsin trailed 5-0.
“Saturday’s game was a completely different story,” Hietala said. “It was apparent to me early on that we did not come out ready to play. I don’t know why. We have a tightly scripted schedule while on the road with the objective of being ready to play when the puck drops. For some reason, we came out extremely flat. Our best players have to be our best players, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday.”
Defenseman Erick Comstock got one back for the Windigo 6:48 into the second period. Forwards Everett Pietila and Will Schumacher both assisted on the goal.
Unfortunately, the Steel scored the game’s next three goals to lead 8-1 before Grahme scored his 10th of the year to get the Windigo back on board. Pietila and Martin both assisted on the goal.
“Every team in this division is capable of winning on any given night,” said Hietala. “Teams continue to get better as the season evolves. We have to be prepared to do the same.”
The Windigo return home this weekend to host the Wilderness with a chance to cut into their division lead. Opening faceoff both nights is set for 8 p.m. at the Eagle River Sports Complex.