Junior Hockey: WarHawks overcome penalties to edge Granite City
WILLMAR—The Willmar WarHawks took 62 minutes in penalties Friday night but it was 12 seconds in the third period that lifted them over the West Division leader Granite City 2-1 at the Willmar Civic Center.
Max Oelkers and Nathan Ackerman scored third-period goals after the WarHawks killed a pair of major penalties early in the period to stay within a goal of the Lumberjacks.
The Lumberjacks (30-7-4) were the first to break through with a second period goal from Cole Buhl. The WarHawks continued to up their shot total throughout the second period and tallied a few scoring chances but were unable to break through.
Near the end of the second period, some of the WarHawks took exception to a Lumberjack slashing Willmar goaltender Alex Weissenborn and Leonardo Ewald was ejected for fighting and taking another player's helmet off.
The five-minute major put the WarHawks on their heels in the start of the third period and they were forced to kill another five minute major shortly after. Once those penalties were killed, however, momentum changed.
Oelkers weaved through a trio of Lumberjacks which elicited a delayed penalty but he scored on the play regardless to tie things at one. Kyle Wendorf won the ensuing faceoff for the WarHawks to Dylan Gast who then cycled the puck to Ackerman who shot the puck off the crossbar and in to give his team a 2-1 lead.
"Killing those majors were huge," said Willmar head coach Chris Blaisuis. "Then just seconds later we were in the lead."
Weissenborn and the defense kept the door shut the rest of the night to give the WarHawks their first home victory against the Lumberjacks this season.
"It feels good," Blaisuis said. "We've been so close with them all year and we've been there each time. They were trying to clinch the division tonight and we didn't want them doing that on our home ice."
Willmar held Granite City to 21 shots which is the first time all season the Lumberjacks have recorded less than 25 shots.
"The guys were gritty tonight," Blaisuis said. "(Michael) Tilly played great on the back end, Ackerman is really coming into his own. It was a gutsy effort and I'm proud of what we did tonight."
Willmar 2, Granite City 1
Granite City 0 1 0 — 1
Willmar 0 0 2 — 2
FIRST PERIOD — No scoring
SECOND PERIOD — GC: Cole Buhl (Spencer Nelson, Brady Dahl) 12:07
THIRD PERIOD — W: Max Oelkers (Braden Shea, Michael Tilly) 12:48 ... W: Nathan Ackerman (Dylan Gast, Kyle Wendorf) 13:00
GOALIE SAVES — Granite City: David Mulligan 22 ... Willmar: Alex Weissenborn 20