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Windigo finds its back against the wall after two losses in Alaska | News, sports, jobs


Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report Wisconsin forward Tyler Grahme prepares to shoot at Anchorage goaltender Liam Beerman during an NAHL Midwest Division Championship Series game in Anchorage, Alaska.

EAGLE RIVER, Wis. – Despite offensive contributions from Michigan Tech Huskies hockey recruits Ethan DeKay and Quinn Disher, the Wisconsin Windigo dropped both games to open their North American Hockey League Midwest Division Championship Series against the Anchorage Wolverines, 3-2 and 6- 3.

The Windigo threw 31 shots at Marquette native Liam Beerman in the loss on Friday night, and followed that effort with another 25 shots on Saturday, but managed just five goals over the course of the weekend.

“We would have liked to at least steal one and get some ice from them, but we probably didn’t get the bounce we needed,” said coach Blake Hietala. “(We have) a few things we need to clean up.”

In the first game of the series on Friday evening at Ben Boeke Ice Arena, the Wolverines struck first 14:09 into the game.

Looking for an equalizer, the Windigo got it late in the first period when forward Everett Pietila scored his second goal of the playoffs while holding the man advantage. He tipped a shot from defenseman Erick Comstock past Beerman for the count at 19:14. DeKay picked up the second assist on the goal.

Despite conceding the goal, the Windigo were unable to build on the momentum they had in the middle frame as the Wolverines scored at 5:44 and 9:23 to jump out to a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.

Wisconsin needed a spark early in the third period, and they got it when defenseman Carter Theissen came down the ice, skating the puck nearly the entire length of the rink before depositing it into the net just 2:42 inches into the game. Disher and forward Luke Baker both assisted on the goal.

The Windigo threw ten more shots at Beerman, but was unable to clear it before the final buzzer sounded.

“It was a bit frustrating” Hietala said. “I thought we played a pretty good game overall. We absolutely tested them, owned them, had our chances to score. Our goaltending wasn’t good enough. Then, like I said, it felt like it was one of those nights where we couldn’t get the resilience we needed to hold it or keep going.

Goaltender Max Beckford made 13 saves in the loss for Wisconsin.

During the power play early Saturday evening, the Wolverines jumped to a 1-0 lead after just 1:50.

Co-captain Will Schumacher leveled the score after ten minutes when he fired a shot that bounced off a defender and past Beerman. Pietila and co-captain Max Martin both had assists on goal.

The Wolverines regained the lead and then extended it with a pair of goals from Taisetsu Ushio 6:38 apart, ending Beckford’s night between the pipes after 20 minutes of play.

‘Again, our goaltending was not good enough’ Hietala said. “We scored some goals both nights that we haven’t seen all year. From then on it felt like we were chasing the game 3-1 in the first.

“(I) didn’t think we played a bad game, we certainly had chances. We had three posts, but if you go down that early, it’s difficult to get back out, especially in a building like Anchorage.”

Linards Lipskis stepped in to start the second period, but Anchorage extended their lead again at 8:32.

Entering the third, the Windigo needed something quick, and they got it when forward Braydon Beahm scored just 26 seconds into the game. Beahm took a pass from Martin as he cut through the neutral zone and he fired a shot from high in the offensive zone. As Beerman made the save, Beahm jumped in and knocked the rebound past him for the goal. Assistant captain Tyler Grahme assisted on the goal.

Just eleven seconds later, the Windigo were once again three goals behind.

Forward Lucas Busch buried a one-timer on a pass from forward Zachary Cline to pull Wisconsin within two at 8:31, but that was as close as they got. Theissen grabbed the second assist on the goal.

The Wolverines added a goal and Lipskis made an extra attacker late in the game to seal the victory.

Beckford finished with nine saves and Lipskis made 16 saves on 18 shots for Wisconsin in the loss.

BETTER HOME

The Windigo have been very good at home this season, which bodes well as they look to recover from the tough trip to Alaska. Wisconsin has only lost four times at home this season, so they are as confident as possible that things appear to be going in their favor heading into Game Three.

“(It’s) definitely a challenge, but I think we looked at it as if there’s anyone who can do it in any situation, it’s lined up for us,” Hietala said. “We also have a good home record and a good home environment. Hopefully we can capitalize on that a little bit on Friday, and then if we can find a way to get it done on Friday, the momentum has changed and then we’ll see what happens from there.

NEXT ONE

The Windigo return to the friendly confines of the Eagle River Sports Arena this weekend and need to win three games in a row to progress to the semi-finals of the Robertson Cup. They play Friday evening at 8 p.m. If they win, the two teams will play again Saturday at 8 p.m. If Wisconsin also wins that game, a fifth and deciding game will be played on Sunday at 7 p.m.



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