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Depth scoring difference in Windigo sweep

Windigo forward Logan Nickolaus drives to the net during a game Friday against the Wilderness at the Eagle River Sports Arena in Eagle River, Wisconsin. (Photo courtesy of Kitty Sookochof)

EAGLE RIVER, Wis. — The Wisconsin Windigo returned home last weekend and earned a sweep over the NAHL’s Midwest Division-leading Minnesota Wilderness, 3-0 Friday and 4-3 in a shootout Saturday.

With the wins, the Windigo closed the gap on the Wilderness to three points as they are now 12-9-3-1, good for 32 points.

“I like our team’s focus and resilience this weekend,” said Windigo coach Blake Hietala. “After our debacle last Saturday, we challenged the guys to be ready to play from the opening faceoff.

“We lost to the Wilderness in regulation and then in a shootout in their home barn a couple of weeks ago. We were hoping to return the favor here, at home. Four points this weekend are huge.”

Young forward Elliot Gulley scored his second goal of the season on Friday and his third on Saturday to help the Windigo earn the wins.

“It was great to see a young player like Elliot Gulley pick up key goals both nights,” Hietala said. “Gulley has come a long way this season and we look for him to continue to improve.”

The Wilderness held forwards Max Martin, Tyler Grahme, and Will Schumacher to zero goals combined on the weekend, and they held defenseman Erick Comstock to just one goal. Hietala was really proud of the way Gulley stepped up, along with forwards Jacob Jastrzebski, Logan Nickolaus, and Everett Pietila, to help the team earn the wins.

“Our top guys like Martin, Grahme, Schumacher, and Comstock, draw more and more attention from the opposition each week,” said Hietala. “It’s great to have others like Jastrzebski, Nickolaus, Pietila, and Gulley, contribute the way they did this weekend.”

Gulley took a pass from forward Luke Baker and made a quick move in close to beat Wilderness goaltender Adam Prokop 8:29 into the second period. Martin also assisted on the goal.

Nickolaus’ goal was very similar after he received a pass from forward Adam Timm and he made a quick move in close to beat Prokop at 17:41. Defenseman Sam Groebner picked up the second assist on the goal.

With a 2-0 lead in the third, the Windigo put the game out of reach when Comstock took a pass from Schumacher and converted it into a 3-0 lead at 6:30. Grahame picked up the second assist on the goal.

Max Beckford made 29 saves on 29 shots by the Wilderness to earn the win.

Saturday, the Wilderness led 3-0 32:32 into the contest. They struck just 1:49 into the game, and added a pair just over four minutes apart in the second.

Gulley got the Windigo on the board with a back-door goal at 17:26 off a well-placed pass from Groebner. Schumacher earned the second assist.

With Wisconsin trailing 3-1 in the third, Jastrzebski pulled them within one goal when he scored at 12:45. Forward Braydon Beahm and defenseman Zephyr Tangri both assisted on the goal.

Pietila then evened the contest with just five seconds left. He batted home a rebound off a shot from Beahm that found its way to him. Martin picked up the other assist on the play.

The two teams played through a scoreless overtime session, setting up a shoot out.

Grahme missed the opening shot for the Windigo, but so did Ashton Dahms for the Wilderness. Schumacher scored his attempt, giving the Windigo the advantage. Beckford then stopped Peteris Purmalis to seal the win.

Beckford settled in after the rough first half, and finished with 26 saves on 29 Minnesota shots. Hietala felt that his calming presence made a difference throughout the weekend.

“Beckford was huge in net for us,” he said. “The shutout on Friday highlighted our team defense.

“He shut them down completely in the shootout on Saturday. That’s difficult to do against a talented group like the Wilderness.”

UP NEXT

The Windigo remain home this weekend as they will face the Chippewa Steel. Game times both nights are 8 p.m. at the Eagle River Sports Arena in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

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