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Windigo split with Jr. Blues, remain in division lead

Wisconsin goaltender Linards Lipskis defends the net during a game this season at the Eagle River Sports Arena. (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Windigo)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Wisconsin Windigo traveled to Springfield, Illinois, this past weekend to face the Springfield Jr. Blues. On Friday, the Windigo shut out the Jr. Blues, 4-0, thanks, in part, to a pair of goals from Quinn Disher. Saturday, the Windigo again got a two-goal performance out of a forward, this time Tyler Grahme, but ultimately fell, 5-4.

With the split, the Windigo remain at the top of the NAHL’s Midwest Division with a record of 31-11-3-3, good for 68 points in 48 games. They hold a seven-point advantage over the Janesville Jets, who have two games in hand.

On Friday, Disher got the Windigo on the board just 8:32 in. The Michigan Tech commit scored his ninth goal of the season and came on the power play. Forwards Braydon Beahm and Jacob Jastrzebski both earned assists on the play.

It did not take long for Wisconsin to strike again as forward Logan Nickolaus scored just 15 seconds later when he tipped a shot from defenseman Jack Thomas into the net.

Grahme put the Windigo up 3-0 just 1:19 into the middle frame when he buried his own rebound. Forwards Luke Baker and Max Martin both earned assists.

Disher scored his second of the night 5:11 into the third period on a shot from the slot, putting the game out of reach at that point. Jastrzebski and Beahm both picked up assists.

Goaltender Linards Lipskis made 25 saves to earn the shutout win, his 17th victory overall and sixth by way of blanking his opponent.

“I liked our effort on Friday,” said Windigo coach Blake Hietala. “We took care of business and converted on a couple of power play opportunities.”

Hietala also likes what he is seeing out of Disher, who has 10 goals and 17 points in 17 games since arriving in Eagle River.

“Disher gets better and better,” Hietala said. “He has a knack for placing shots to hit small openings.”

While Lipskis earned another shutout, Hietala was proud of the way the team played in front of him.

“Everyone was responsible defensively,” he said, “and Lipskis was sharp on the few scoring chances we did give up.”

Trailing 1-0 on Saturday, the Windigo evened things up at 14:34 of the opening period when forward Everett Pietila found the net for the 12th time this season. Grahame and forward Will Schumacher both earned assists. However, less than three minutes later, the Jr. Blues struck again.

Looking for a spark in the second period, the Windigo got it when Grahme picked up his second point of the game on a tally 4:49 in. Schumacher and Martin both assisted on the goal.

Martin found the net for the 35th time this season to give Wisconsin a 3-2 lead at 6:33. Baker and Jastrzebski both earned assists on the tally.

Springfield struck twice in less than two minutes to take a 4-3 lead into the third period. They extended that advantage with a goal at 15:17.

Hietala pulled Lipskis for an extra attacker and the gamble worked as Grahme pulled the Windigo back within one at 18:59. Both Schumacher and Martin were in on the play again.

However, that was as close as the Windigo could get before the final buzzer sounded.

Lipskis made 24 saves in the loss.

“Saturday was a different story,” said Hietala. “I was pleased by the way we jumped on some loose pucks, that resulted in guys like Pietila and Martin scoring. Grahme’s shot and goal with the extra attacker was fantastic. But, we had long periods where we seemed to be doing too much watching and poking at pucks.”

Hietala felt that, defensively, the Windigo made too mistakes, which eventually proved costly.

“We gave up too many odd man rushes and didn’t move our feet consistently,” he said. “Every team in this division has talented players that will take advantage of mistakes. We made too many mistakes on Saturday to overcome.”

WINDIGO LEADING THE LEAGUE

Lipskis’ sixth shutout Friday put him into the league lead.

Martin maintained his status as the leader in total points in the NAHL, with 35 goals and 44 assists in 48 games played. Martin’s 35 goals leads the league in that category.

Grahme’s scoring over the weekend kept him in fourth place in total points with 23 goals and 36 assists. Pietila slipped to 13th position in league points, with 12 goals and 38 assists. Schumacher is tied for second in goals scored in the league with 27 goals in 40 games played.

UP NEXT

The Windigo continue their seven-game road trip this weekend, heading next to Minnesota to take on the Wilderness on March 2-3.

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