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6A Boys Hockey: Willmar's run in playoffs comes to end

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Willmar's Zech Streed, crowded by Otters' defenseman Bradie Wahlgren, deflects a point shot in the second period but it won't make it past Fergus' Falls' goalie Ian Bjorgum on Saturday in St. Cloud.

ST. CLOUD -- The Fergus Falls Otters scored two empty net goals and slipped by Willmar 5-2 for the third time this season in boys hockey on Saturday.

This Section 6A result ended the Cardinals' season at 10-18. The Otters twice nudged the Cards 5-4 in their Central Lakes' games.

It's an all-Falls final as the No. 3 seeded Otters (14-11-1) will meet No. 1 Little Falls (18-9) in the Section 6A championship Thursday back at the Dave Torrey MAC-Arena.

No. 7 Willmar, which lost in last year's section final to Alexandria (2-1), this year upset No. 2 Alexandria 4-3 to reach the semis.

The game, at the Torrey, came after the Flyers crushed Sartell 8-1 behind a three-goal evening by the section's top scorer, Joey Hanowski, who now has 30.

The second game was fast and furious. It started out with bang-bang goals 10 seconds apart by the Otters' Spenser Fenske and Willmar's Graham Dahl.

The Cards put together flurries in the second period but couldn't dent Fergus goalie Ian Bjorgum. Wide-open Jake Ahlgren (21-32-53), the section's second-leading scorer, one-timed a quick cross-ice pass from the right circle for a 2-1 lead.

The Otters went up 3-1 with shorthanded goals in the last minute of the period. Willmar goal Derek Baker came out of the net to the bench-side boards to flip the puck up ice but Sam Rausch stole the puck and fired it past a scrambling defenseman trying to protect the open cage.

Fergus went up 4-1 at 4:21 of the third on a Colton Buseth goal.

Hunter Schneider, from Preston Peterson, scored on the power play to make it 4-2 at 7:16.

Buseth added insurance in the last minute with Baker pulled.

Baker, one of six seniors, finished with 21 saves. He logged the most minutes of any goalie in the section this season and ended up with a save percentage of just below 89 percent.

Schneider, a junior, ends up with 23-26-49, third most points in 6A. Five of the team's top six scorers will return.

Besides Baker, Willmar loses third-leading scorer center Graham Dahl (14-8-21), wing Cam Swenson (6-5-11) and defensemen Chris Odens (9-1-10), Matt Eddy(3-3-6) and Austen Hilding (0-1-1).

Fergus Falls 5, Willmar 2

Willmar (10-18) 1 0 1 -- 2

Fergus Falls (14-11-1) 1 2 2 -- 5

FIRST PERIOD - FF: Peter Gaustad (Sam Rausch) 2:22 ... Wil: Graham Dahl (Trey Tollefson) 2:33

SECOND PERIOD - FF: Jake Algren (Casey Ward, Devin Johnson) 4:06 ... FF: Rausch, sh, 16:35

THIRD PERIOD - FF: Colton Buseth (Algren, Ward) 4:21 ... Wil: Hunter Schneider (Preston Peterson) pp, 7:16 ... FF: Buseth, empty net, 15:27

GOALIE SAVES - Willmar: Derek Baker 8-7-6-21 ... Home: Bjorgrum 2-9-9-20

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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