After a weekend off, the Windigo hosted the Minnesota Wilderness on Friday and Saturday. Minnesota came into the weekend holding 2nd place in the Midwest Division with a record of 19 wins, 10 losses (1 OT loss and 3 shootout losses). The Windigo entered the weekend in 6th place in the division with a record of 16 wins, 13 losses (1 OT loss and 1 shootout loss). The Windigo welcomed Frank Jenkins to the team, after acquiring him from the NAHL Corpus Christi Ice Rays. The 6’3”, 212 lbs. defenseman hails from Frazer, MI. Frank spent his first two years of junior hockey with Hamilton of the Ontario Hockey League, then moved on to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before transferring to the NAHL to play for Johnstown and Corpus Christi.
Friday, January 13: Minnesota Wilderness 0 at Wisconsin Windigo 3 Frank Jenkins wasted no time in making his presence felt. On his very first shift as a Windigo, he carried the puck into the offensive zone and fed Zach Burfoot at the top of the crease. Burfoot then tapped the puck over to Max Martin, who buried the puck to put the Windigo up 1 to 0 just 1:12 into the game. A tight checking game ensued, and Windigo goaltender Gavin Moffat turned away all 8 shots he faced in the period. The Windigo’s league leading penalty killing unit (89.2% penalty kill rate) showed its offensive prowess when Victor Widlund stole the puck at his blue line and headed up ice on a breakaway. Widlund made a nifty move to deke the Minnesota netminder to tuck the puck in the net, putting the Windigo up 2-0 with 15 seconds left in the period. The Windigo went up 3 to 0 at 13:04 of the second period on a power play goal by Jenkins. Max Martin won an offensive zone draw cleanly back to Cole Mickel who quickly dished the puck over to Jenkins for a perfect one timer that blew past the Minnesota goaltender. Minnesota went on to outshoot the Windigo in the second period, 8 to 7, but Moffatt was up to the task. The third period saw the Windigo outshoot their opponent 9 to 7, but neither team was able to score. Moffatt recorded his league leading 5th shutout of the season with 20 saves and improved his league leading saves percentage to 0.952. Martin and Jenkins each finished the game with one goal and one assist. “We played excellent team defense tonight. It was great to see Frank Jenkins make an immediate impact with a goal and an assist. Max Martin, in just his 3rd game with us, also had a big night. I’m proud of our team welcoming those guys and making them feel at home so quickly,” commented Windigo head coach Blake Hietala after the game. “I’m thrilled to be in Eagle River with the Windigo. We’ve got a lot of talent here and I’m excited to make a run for the playoffs with these guys during the second half of the season,” noted Frank Martin after the game.
Saturday, January 14: Minnesota Wilderness 3 at Wisconsin Windigo 4 As was the case during the Windigo’s New Year’s Eve weekend homestand, the rematch on Saturday was a completely different game. The Wilderness pressed the play and outshot the Windigo 16 to 9 in the first period. Minnesota struck first at the 3:59 mark pouncing on a rebound off the pads of Windigo goaltender Max Beckford. Drew Fisher responded at 11:16 of the first period for his third goal of the season with a quick wrist shot from the slot. Chris Kernan and Sam Groebner assisted on the goal. The Wilderness went up 2 to 1 just over 6 minutes later only to see Fisher answer again with a goal (from Zach Cline and Kernan) at the 18:06 mark. Minnesota closed out the scoring just over a minute later to put them up 3-2 at the end of the opening frame. Ben Anderson scored his 10th goal of the season at 2:16 of the second period with a quick back handed shot from the low slot. Max Martin and Zach Burfoot set the scene for Anderson’s goal with an aggressive forecheck and cycling the puck below the goal line. The teams exchanged scoring chances to no avail for the balance of the middle stanza with each team placing 11 shots on net. The Windigo came out strong in the third period out shooting the Wilderness 11 to 6. With just over 7 minutes left, Luke Levandowski picked up a loose puck as he crashed the net to tuck the puck by the Wilderness netminder for his team leading 13th goal of the season. Everett Pietila and Will Schumacher were credited with the assists on Levandowski’s game winning goal. “We knew the Wilderness were going to come out with a much stronger effort tonight. They are a very good team and I’m proud of our guys for battling their way to a big win tonight. These are important points, as we make our push to earn a playoff spot,” noted Windigo head coach Blake Hietala after the game. Max Beckford recorded his 9h win of the season in net, with 28 saves on the 31 shots he faced.
Up Next: The Windigo commence a 7-game road trip with a 3,205 mile journey to Fairbanks, AK, to face the Midwest Division leading Fairbanks Ice Dogs in a three game set commencing on Thursday. They then travel south in Alaska to take on the Kenai River Brown Bears January 27-28. The Windigo continue their arduous road trip with two games at the Minnesota Wilderness on February 3 and 4. The Windigo will be home next on February 9 and 10, when they take on the Anchorage Wolverines. Puck drop is at 7pm on February 9 and 6pm on February 10.