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Boys hockey: Stars' goalie stifles Cards

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton In a scrum for a loose puck, Willmar’s Cole Hagen, far left, and Joey Lee (25) battle River Lakes’ Matt Kissner (22) and Jake Herges (11) in the second period Thursday at the Willmar Civic Center.

WILLMAR — The Willmar Cardinals couldn’t solve Chris Skluzacek Thursday night at the Civic Center.

Not for lack of effort. They poured 45 shots on the River Lakes goalie but only two found the back of the cage.

The Stars held on to beat the Cardinals 3-2 on a game-winning goal by freshman wing Grant Thompson, from Dylan Jude,  with 8 minutes left in the third period.

Since Willmar swept the Highway 24 series in 2010-11, the Stars have won three straight of their Central Lakes’ clashes.

Willmar outshot the Stars 13-4 in the first period and 13-8 in the second frame but the visitors were in front 2-1. The Cardinal shooters just couldn’t find the corners, instead pouring shot many shot into the goalie’s midsection or high and wide.”

The Stars went up 2-0 on goals by Matt Kissner and Joe Spaulding in the second period. The second was on a 2-0 rush in which the Willmar goalie Joey Benson had little chance of making a save. He finished with 18 stops.

Willmar got one back when Ryan Woltjer, a junior wing, scored with just 1:08 left in the middle stanza.  Preston Peterson and Hunter Schneider assisted.

Senior wing Zech Streed on an assist by Hunter Schneider tied it 2-2 at 2:17 into the final period, a powerplay.

But Willmar, which had scored 26 goals in its first three games, were shut out the last 14-plus minutes.

“Skluzacek was the difference,” said Willmar coach Danny Tollefson. “We put some shots right on him but he controlled rebounds and he made some big saves, too.”

Willmar didn’t show a lot urgency until they got down 2-0 when the Cardinals quality of play picked up, but River Lakes stood strong killing off 7 of 8 Willmar powerplays, including a 5-minute major.

River Lakes 3, Willmar 2

River Lakes (0-1-1, 2-1-1)    0  2  1 — 3

Willmar (1-1, 2-2)    0  1  1 — 2

FIRST PERIOD – No scoring

SECOND PERIOD – RL: Matt Kissner (Dylan Jude, Jake Herges) 15:40 … RL: Joe Spaulding (Daiton Johnson, Grant Thompson) 11:30 …. Wil: Ryan Woltjer (Preston Peterson, Hunter Schneider) 15:52

THIRD PERIOD – Wil: Zech Streed (Hunter Schneider) pp, 2:17 … RL: Grant Thompson (Dylan Jude) 9:02

GOALIE SAVES – River Lakes: Chris Skluzacek 13-13-17-43 … Willmar: Joey Benson 4-8-6-18

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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