After coming off a weekend home sweep of the Minnesota Wilderness on January 13-14, the Windigo traveled 3,205 miles to Fairbanks, AK, to take on the Midwest Division leading Ice Dogs. Fairbanks entered the weekend with a record of 22 wins, 11 losses and 3 overtime losses. The Windigo entered the weekend in 5th place in the division with a record of 18 wins, 13 losses, 1 overtime loss and 1 shootout loss. The 3-game sweep over Fairbanks propelled the Windigo to 3rd place in their division, just 1 point behind 2nd place Minnesota and 3 points behind Fairbanks. Windigo forward Luke Levandowski scored 5 goals during the three games in Fairbanks to earn recognition from the NAHL as the Bauer Midwest Division Player of the Week. For the season, Levandowski leads the Windigo in scoring despite playing in just 24 games, he leads the team with 29 points (18 goals, 11 assists). “Luke shows up in big games and moments and continues to prove he is one of the most dynamic players in this league. Getting a sweep in Fairbanks is a hard thing to do but he was great all weekend and helped lead us to three big wins,” said Windigo head coach Blake Hietala.
Thursday, January 19: Wisconsin Windigo 5 at Fairbanks Ice Dogs 3
The Windigo shed their road legs early as they came out pressing the play with an aggressive forecheck and crisp passing. Windigo leading goal scorer Luke Levandowski opened the scoring at the 3:01 mark. Victor Widlund and Axel Begley sprung Levandowski on a breakaway from his own blueline and he tucked the puck between the goalie’s legs. Fairbanks answered 5 minutes later with a one-timer off a power play. The first period closed with the teams tied 1 to 1. The Windigo took charge in the second period peppering Fairbanks with 14 shots on net. Levandowski scored his second of the game 4:00 into the middle stanza during a goal mouth scramble, with Max Martin and Zach Burfoot assisting. Zach Cline put the Windigo up 3-1 at the 9:23 mark of the second, as he drove to the net and took a feed from Drew Fisher. Begley logged the second assist. Just a minute later, Fairbanks brought the game to within a goal. The Windigo power play came to life during the 3-game series, starting with Frank Jenkins finding the back of the net with a quick wrister from the high slot. Excellent puck movement on the power play resulted in Cole Mickel and Axel Begley picking up the assists. The period closed with the Windigo leading 4-2. Just 4:12 into the third period, Fairbanks brought the game to within a goal once more. Chris Kernan sealed the victory for the Windigo with just 8 seconds remaining with an empty netter (Cline and Sam Jacobs drew the assists). Gavin Moffatt recorded his 11th win of the season, saving 21 of the 24 shots faced. Kayden Hargraves took the loss for Fairbanks with 22 saves on 26 shots. Axel Begley finished the game with 3 assists. Luke Levandowski scored twice and Zach Cline was the other multi-point scorer for the Windigo with 1 goal and 1 assist. Windigo defenseman Frank Jenkins was named first star, based on his goal and excellent defensive play throughout the game. Levandowski and Cline were named second and third star, respectively.
Friday, January 20: Wisconsin Windigo 6 at Fairbanks Ice dogs 2
After winning their fifth straight game on Thursday which moved them into 3rd place in the Midwest Division, the Windigo came out hungry for more and scored 6 unanswered goals over the first 2 periods on Friday. Will Schumacher registered his 8th goal of the year to start of the scoring just 7:54 into the game. Axel Begley’s playmaking prowess was on display once again, with Mario DiMaggio registering the second assist. Zach Cline (from Sam Groebner and Everett Pietila) scored his 8th of the year at the 10:54 mark. Fairbanks outshot the Windigo, 11 to 9 in the opening frame. Frank Jenkins continued the onslaught just 1:05 into the second period with a heavy wrist shot from the top of the circle after taking a nice pass from Windigo assist leader Victor Widlund. The second assist went to Ben Anderson. Luke Levandowski (from Zach Burfoot and Schumacher) put the Windigo up 4 to 0 at 13:38 of the second period. It was Everett Pietila’s turn next (from Schumacher and Burfoot) at the 17:46 mark with a laser shot from the far hash mark that went top shelf. Mario DiMaggio took advantage of a power play opportunity to score his first NAHL goal off a slapshot that beat the Fairbanks goalie far side. Sam Groebner and Sam Jacobs picked up the assists on DiMaggio’s goal. The Windigo outshot Fairbanks 12 to 9 in the second period. However, the third period was a different story, as the Ice Dogs would not go down without a fight. Fairbanks peppered Windigo goalie Gavin Moffatt with 13 shots in the third period, two of which found the back of the net. Moffatt earned his 12th win of the season, turning away 31 of the 33 shots he faced. For his effort with 1 goal and 1 assist, Mario DiMaggio was named second star of the game. “I was happy and relieved that shot went in for my first NAHL goal. As a rookie, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. My teammates have been great. Our defensive core is probably one of the best in the league with, several good veterans. We’ve got great goaltending and great scoring too. I’m just happy to be a part of this group,” commented DiMaggio after the game.
Saturday, January 21: Wisconsin Windigo 5 at Fairbanks Ice Dogs 3 Saturday’s game looked to be a route for the Windigo, scoring 3 power play goals in a row in the opening 20 minutes of play. At the 11:20 mark of the first period, Frank Jenkins took advantage of a 5 on 3 power play to start the scoring with a one-timer from the high slot, after he and Axel Begley exchanged several quick passes to get the Fairbanks goalie and defenders scrambling to maintain coverage. Zach Cline picked up the second assist. The 5 on 3 then became a 5 on 4 advantage for the Windigo, which resulted in Max Martin scoring off a rebound at 12:14 into game. Jenkins and Begley picked up the assists. The Windigo continued their power play clinic as Luke Levandowski took advantage of a screen set up by Ben Anderson to rifle a wrist shot to the far top corner. Cole Michel and Daniil Dolzhenko assisted on the play. Fairbanks came to life in the second period, outshooting the Windigo 15 to 3. Fairbanks scored twice on the power play to come within one goal of the Windigo. In rare 5 on 5 action during the second period, Max Martin put the Windigo up by 2 when he took a cross ice feed from Zach Burfoot and fired the puck into the short side. Anderson picked up the second assist on Martin’s goal. A few minutes into the third period, two questionable calls found the Windigo with two men in the penalty box. Fairbanks capitalized on the 5 on 3 man advantage to close the gap to one goal again. Max Martin closed out the scoring with 49 seconds remaining on an empty net goal. Martin and Levandowski each scored twice for the Windigo, earning them first and second star of the game, respectively. Windigo goalie Max Beckford made 21 saves on 24 shots to earn his 10th win of the season. Windigo head coach, Blake Hietala, expressed his pleasure with his team’s performance after the game, “To come into Fairbanks and take 3 games from the division leader is a huge accomplishment for us. This is one of the toughest buildings for a visitor to play in our league. The guys continue to work as a team and support each other. Our power play was great this weekend. Our team defense and goaltending are tough to compete against. We have grit and we have speed. The guys are focused on whatever it takes to win.”
Up Next: The Windigo head south to the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska to take on the Brown Bears on January 27-28. The Windigo will continue their road trip with two games at the Minnesota Wilderness on February 3-4. The Windigo will be home next on February 9 -10, when they take on the Anchorage Wolverines. Puck drop is at 7pm on February 9 and 6pm on February 10. Tickets are available online at www.wisconsinjuniorhockey.com/tickets or at the door. Limited reserve section access is available for $15 and general admission is $10.