The Wisconsin Windigo continued their winning ways as they hosted Midwest Division rival Chippewa Steel for a two game series on February 24-25, at the historic Dome in Eagle River, WI. The Steel brought a record of 22 wins and 21 losses into the weekend. The Windigo carried a record of 26 wins and 18 losses going into last weekend’s action, good for 1st place in the very tight Midwest Division.
Friday, February 24: Chippewa Steel 2 @ Wisconsin Windigo 4: First period action saw the Windigo outshoot the Steel by the margin of 9 to 6, but the period ended scoreless. The Steel got on the board first with a goal 4:26 in to the middle frame. They added to their lead just 4 minutes later with a short-handed goal. The Windigo commenced their comeback with a goal of their own on the same power play that saw them give up the short hander. Zach Burfoot scored his 11th goal of season after pouncing on a rebound shot of the stick of Frank Jenkins. Max Martin drew the second assist on the play. The comeback continued at the 8:26 mark of the third period when Windigo defenseman Axel Begley split the seam between two Steel defenders and then wristed a shot high to the back of the net. Begley’s 8th goal of the season was assisted by Cashen Naeve and Sam Jacobs. Windigo forward Will Schumacher scored the go ahead goal on a one timer on the power play, off a pass from Daniil Dolzhenko. Schumacher’s goal was particularly impressive in that he had just been leveled to the ice by a big check that clearly rocked him. He recovered a few moments later to stand up and deliver a one-timer just under the crossbar. Drew Fisher (from Chris Kernan and Naeve) sealed the victory with an empty netter at 19:02 of the third period. “Once again, we started out a little slow and passed on some shots we’d like to see the players take. Begley’s goal was a great effort. He’s been contributing offensively for us over the last several games. Schumacher’s one-timer shot results in a goal in just about any league,” commented Windigo head coach Blake Hietala after the game. Max Beckford earned his 14th victory of the season, with 21 saves in the game.
Saturday, February 25: Chippewa Steel 1 @ Wisconsin Windigo 2 : In Saturday’s re-match, the Steel came out of the gates flying, determined to avenge the previous night’s loss and outshot the Windigo 7 to 6 in the opening frame. It took until 18:55 of the first period for the Windigo to solve Steel goalie Adam Gajan. The Slovakian is considered one of the best goaltenders in all of junior hockey, coming off an impressive performance earlier this year at the World Junior Championships, in which he was named best goaltender of that tournament. Windigo forward Victor Widlund beat Gajan with a wrist shot high to the glove side, after teammate Frank Jenkins faked a shot and dropped the puck to Widlund trailing just behind him. The deception worked, as Gajan seemed to respond to Jenkins’ fake shot, giving Widlund the opening he needed. Just 18 seconds into the second period, the Windigo found themselves shorthanded for 5 minutes as the result of a major penalty assessed to Windigo defenseman Axel Begley. Strong penalty killing, which has become a trademark of the Windigo this season, kept the Steel at bay. Windigo forward Everett Pietila put his team up 2 to 0 with a goal at 10:59 of the second period. Zach Burfoot and Max Martin exchanged passes deep in Chippewa’s zone until Martin found Pietila all alone in the far slot and threaded the needle with a pass to him. Pietila pounced on the opportunity to score his 6th goal of the season. The Steel eventually mounted a comeback, scoring at the 15:21 mark of the third period to make it a one goal game. Aggressive forechecking by the Windigo kept the Steel from pulling their goalie for all but a short time during the remainder of the game. According the Windigo head coach Blake Hietala, “It was great to pick up 4 points this weekend. Our division is so tight, every point is crucial. I am proud of our overall team effort. Max Martin made a phenomenal pass to set up Pietila’s goal. Max seems to get stronger every game and has become a huge asset for us since joining the team. We beat a very good team tonight, backstopped by an outstanding goalie. Our penalty kill was huge for us once again. That’s reflective of hard work, grit, determination and communication on the ice.” Windigo netminder Gavin Moffatt earned his 14th win of the season, stopping 27 of the 28 shots he faced.
Up Next: The Windigo hit the road to face the Springfield Jr. Blues on March 3-4. Then they travel to Janesville, WI, March 10-11 to take on the Jets. The next Windigo home games are March 17-18, as they host the Janesville Jets at the Dome in Eagle River, WI. Puck drop is 7pm on March 17 and 6pm on March 18. 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.