Jake Schultz is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune, working his first job out of college. He graduated from St. John's University (CSB/SJU) in 2016 and is a baseball fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @StJake29.
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WILLMAR—The Willmar WarHawks didn't let a late controversial goal ruin a perfectly good home opener Saturday night. Willmar goaltender Luke Fry stopped 35 of 36 shots he faced as he guided the pink-clad WarHawks to a 2-1 victory over Granite City. The controversy came with 3:30 remaining in the game when the Lumberjacks pried a puck from under Fry's blocker, skated away and scored into an open net for the team's only goal of the game. WarHawk players and fans alike thought a whistle was incoming but the referees allowed the goal.
Zach Martin laid on the ice with the wind knocked out of him and a shattered knee cap. He didn't know that until he tried to get up after a hit into the boards during the Willmar WarHawks inaugural home-opener last year, but he knew something was wrong. He was carried off the ice as trainer Jon Haefner tried to figure out what was wrong. It wasn't a torn ACL. In fact, Haefner thought there was no structural damage at all. Then Martin tried to sit down in his stall in the WarHawks' locker room and the problem became obvious: his kneecap was more or less gone.
The Willmar WarHawks scored early in Sunday's matinee matchup against the La Crosse Freeze but it didn't last as the Freeze completed a comeback with a goal early in overtime to take a 4-3 win. Sunday's final score gave the WarHawks, now 3-2-1 for second place in the West Division, the lone point of the three game weekend. Laudon Poellinger notched his third goal of the season for La Crosse just 35 seconds into the overtime period to earn the victory.
Breezy Point netted a short-handed goal with 3:43 remaining to hand the Willmar WarHawks their first loss of the season Friday night. Josh Maucieri was the hero for the North Stars, scoring his fifth of the season and second of the night while killing a 5-minute charging major penalty. Willmar's Wyatt Toll scored a power play goal just 1:04 prior to tie the game at 2-2. Maucieri also beat Willmar goaltender Luke Fry at the 11:11 mark in the third period as well, giving his team a 2-1 lead at the time.
Win streaks and win totals are arduous. They take time. Litchfield's Laney Huhner knows all about that as a newly-minted 100 match winner in the center of the Dragons' undefeated tennis season. Huhner recently became the first person to record 100 victories for 12th-year Litchfield head coach Matt Draeger, whose team starts its playoff run Thursday against BBE in the Section 5A opener in Litchfield.
The Willmar WarHawks appeared to be in midseason form in Saturday's 6-1 win over the Rochester Ice Hawks to keep the visiting team perfect through the first three games. Captain Braden Shea tallied a pair of goals and an assist as teammate Max Oelkers logged a goal and three assists. "We did what we were supposed to do in that game," head coach Chris Blaisuis said. "We got what we wanted from it: we got two points, we stayed healthy and it gave me the opportunity to get some guys in there."
WILLMAR — Wayzata proved why both the boys and girls cross country teams are nationally-known, winning in commanding fashion in Saturday's Willmar Invitational at Eagle Creek Golf Club. The hosts had an impressive showing of their own, taking second in the girls race.
WILLMAR — It often takes a team's best to defeat Ridgewater's volleyball team and that's what Minnesota State-Fergus Falls provided in the visiting team's 3-2 win Wednesday. The Warriors grabbed the opening set but let second and third set leads slip to give Minnesota State a 2-1 lead. The home team bounced back to take set four and an early fifth set lead before Minnesota State roared back to the fifth set 15-12. The match ended on a sour note with a controversial call, as Jessica Lemke was deemed a back row attacker, giving Minnesota State the match point.
GLENWOOD — The battle of the unbeatens proved to be the defensive battle many expected it to be as BOLD edged out Minnewaska 23-7 Friday night. The Warriors threatened early and often but the Laker defense was able to limit the vaunted BOLD offense to four scores despite numerous trips to the red zone. Minnewaska's defense was largely able to bottle up BOLD's running backs but Gavin Vosika was the one to break out and he did so with a 44-yard run to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. He finished the game with 119 rushing yards on 14 carries.
A battle of unbeatens always features a buzz of excitement, and this week's matchup between BOLD and Minnewaska is no different. Both teams enter as the area's last remaining undefeated teams and both have arrived with 3-0 records, staunch defenses and strong running games. That's not to say these teams are mirror images, however.