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Willmar cools off Hutchinson

Willmar junior goalie Ben Leitch deflects a Hutchinson shot as the Tigers' Jesse Baune (20) attacks the net while being guarded by Willmar junior defenseman Jake Tone, Saturday at the Civic Center. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

WILLMAR - Don't get too excited, but the Willmar Cardinals have won two in a row for the first time since the season opened in early December.

The Cardinals beat Hutchinson 2-1 Saturday 24 hours after dropping a 4-1 loss on Sauk Rapids.

Beating the Tigers with 52 minutes of all-out skating and smart playmaking is just what the Cardinals need heading into a rough week -- albeit at home -- when Alexandria (No 8 in Class A) and Brainerd invades the Civic Center.

At 12-2 Hutchinson came in to Willmar off a 9-1 win over Shakopee on Thursday and favored to beat up on the Cardinals, whose struggles to score have been season-long.

The Cardinals didn't explode offensively, but first-period goals by Todd Gregg from out on the left wing and Trent Fader on his own rebound were just enough.

Junior goaltender Ben Leitch was solid in the nets for Willmar for the second straight night and the defense kept errors to a minimum. Leitch and his counterpart, Zak Swenson, each ended up with 24 saves.

Gregg filtered a 30-foot bullet from the side under Swenson's glove, after Grant Schow bumped the puck to him along the boards at 8:08.

Riley Bengston's power-play goal tied it 1-1 at 10-56. But Fader jammed the puck between Swenson's pads at 13:31 to end the scoring.

Fader was working on a new line with Rory Schneider, who got the assist, and Jay Bredberg.

"We've been switching up lines to see what we can do to score some more goals," said Fader. "We've picked up the intensity the last two games and getting more hits using our bodies."

Added Bredberg: "I think we got some confidence (Friday) night. We got the feel of winning again and that led to a better attitude and got our spirit up."

Willmar's showed an improved penalty kill. For the second straight game, the Cardinals rode out a third-period opponent's 5-3 powerplay without damage.

Willmar 2, Hutchinson 1

Hutchinson (12-3) 1 0 0 -- 1

Willmar (6-9) 2 0 0 -- 2

FIRST PERIOD - Wil: Todd Gregg (Grant Schow) 8:08 ... Hut: Riley Bengston (Michael Hantge), pp, 10:56 ... Wil: Trent Fader (Rory Schneider) 13:31

SECOND PERIOD - no scoring

THIRD PERIOD - no scoring

GOALIE SAVES - Hutchinson: Zak Swenson 8-10-6--24 ... Willmar: Ben Leitch 10-6-8-24