Windigo Split Road Series with the Chippewa Steel
Playoff Berth Assured with Anchorage Loss to Springfield
The combination of a win on Friday over the Chippewa Steel and a win by the Springfield Jr. Blues over the Anchorage Wolverines on Saturday, March 25, have assured the Wisconsin Windigo of a playoff berth in their first season of operation in Eagle River. The battle for playoff spots in the closely contested Midwest Division finds the Windigo in the lead (71 points) over second place Minnesota Wilderness (69 points). Kenai River has moved into third place with 61 points. Chippewa earned 3 points (with a win and shootout loss) versus the Windigo this past weekend, which propelled them into fourth place in the division with 60 points. The top 4 teams in the division advance to the playoffs upon conclusion of the regular season on April 15.
Thursday, March 23: Wisconsin Windigo 6 @ Chippewa Steel 5 (OT-Shootout): In a rare Thursday game, a reported 20 NHL scouts turned out to evaluate the players. The Windigo wasted little time impressing the scouts, jumping out to a 3-goal lead by the middle of the opening stanza. Ben Anderson scored his 14th of the year from Cashen Naeve and Zach Cline, just 2:05 into the game. Sam Jacobs made it 2-0 seven minutes later. Cline and Victor Widlund were credited with the assists. Zach Cline scored a goal of his own at 11:11, from Max Martin and Widlund. Drew Fisher continued the onslaught for the Windigo, scoring 5:52 into the second period. Jacobs and Cole Mickel assisted on Fisher’s goal. Cline (from Anderson and Zach Burfoot) scored his second of the game 10:35 into the second period and the Windigo seemed destined to roll to victory with a 5-0 lead mid-way into the game. But that’s when the tide turned. Chippewa got on the board at 11:26 of the second period and came out flying in the third period, outshooting the Windigo 18 to 5. Windigo netminder Gavin Moffatt kept Chippewa at bay until just 4:16 remaining in the game. Chippewa would go on to score 3 more goals in the final 4 minutes of play to force overtime. After 5 minutes of scoreless 3 on 3 overtime, in which Chippewa held the shot advantage 10 to 4, the game went to a shootout. Will Schumacher scored on the first shootout attempt for the Windigo. Moffatt stopped all 3 Chippewa shootout attempts, earning the victory. Moffatt had 49 saves in total. The Windigo registered 36 shots on Chippewa’s Adam Gajan. Zach Cline finished the game with 2 goals and 2 assists. Other muti-point performers for the Windigo included Ben Anderson and Sam Jacobs, each with 1 goal and 1 assist, and Victor Widlund with 2 assists.
Friday, March 24: Wisconsin Windigo 2 @ Chippewa Steel 5: In Friday’s re-match, the Windigo struck first just 4:28 into the game. Mario DiMaggio made a nice cross ice pass to Victor Widlund who released a shot that beat the Chippewa goaltender high to the far side. Will Schumacher was credited with the second assist. Chippewa bounced back with two goals to close the first period with a 2-1 lead. The Windigo outshot Chippewa 14 to 13 in the first period. Chippewa carried the play for most of the second period, outshooting the Windigo 17 to 10, and widened their lead to 3-1 with a goal at 15:58 of the second. Chippewa went up 4-1 just over a minute into the third period. Frank Jenkins scored his 11th of the season (from Zach Burfoot and Patrick Isiguzo) to close the gap to 2 goals, but that’s where the Windigo comeback attempt ended. Chippewa scored an empty net goal with just 51 seconds remaining to seal the victory. Gavin Moffatt saved 36 of the 40 shots he faced but took the loss in net for the Windigo. The Windigo placed 39 shots on Chippewa’s net.
Coach Hietala’s Comments: “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a collapse like we experienced on Thursday. We held a comfortable 4 goal lead deep into the third period. But it seemed like we stopped moving our feet and they clawed their way back to force overtime. Moffatt was fantastic in the shootout. He’s been tough to score on in shootouts all season. Will Schumacher came through for us when scored on his shootout attempt to give us the win and two points,” commented Windigo head coach Blake Hietala after Thursday’s win. “On Friday, we simply got out-worked during long segments of the game. I give Chippewa credit, they worked hard and deserved that win. We seemed hesitant to pull the trigger, passing up a number of opportunities where we should have shot. We seemed flat from the start. We’ll address that, put it behind us after we review the video and move forward with a great week of practice to get ready for next weekend,” continued Hietala.
Up Next: The Windigo return home for their final two regular season home games to take on the Springfield Jr. Blues. Puck drop on Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1, is at 7pm at the Dome, in Eagle River, WI. Tickets are available online at https://www.wisconsinjuniorhockey.com/tickets or at the door.