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WarHawks run into brick wall

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Willmar WarHawk Leonardo Ewald, right, carries the puck through the neutral zone in the first period of Wednesday night's game against Granite City. Curt Hogg / Tribune2 / 5
WarHawk goaltender Alex Weissenborn moves in the crease with a Granite City Lumberjack looking for a pass. Curt Hogg / Tribune3 / 5
WarHawk forward Kyle Wendorf battles with a Granite City centerman in the first period of Wednesday's game at the Willmar Civic Center. Curt Hogg / Tribune4 / 5
Willmar WarHawk Max Oelkers carries the puck into his offensive zone Wednesday night against Granite City. Curt Hogg / Tribune5 / 5

WILLMAR—The Willmar WarHawks ran into a brick wall in David Mulligan who stopped 40 of 41 WarHawks shots as his Granite City Lumberjacks defeated Willmar 3-1 Wednesday night at the Willmar Civic Center.

The Lumberjacks entered the game as the top team in the North American Tier III Hockey League's West Division and jumped on the last-place WarHawks early when Keenan Lund converted on a power play. Kevin Swope was off on a hooking penalty.

From there, the WarHawks began to catch up in the shot differential, eventually taking an 11-10 shots edge into the first intermission.

"They jumped on us early but we outplayed them for the rest of that game," said WarHawks head coach Chris Blaisuis. "I think we settled down a bit. We were a bit startled at the beginning but we eased up and it showed."

The WarHawks seemed to command the second period but it was the Lumberjacks who found the back of the net. Willmar goaltender Alex Weissenborn dove to poke a puck away from a would-be shooter but Brady Dahl picked up the rebound and beat Weissenborn to put the game at 2-0 with just more than a minute left in the period.

With 11:50 remaining in the third period, the WarHawks got on the board with some nice stickhandling and a pinpoint shot from Danny Nugent for his third goal of the year. The WarHawks kept up the pressure in the ensuing minutes and picked up the pace when they emptied the net with 2:02 remaining. Their best opportunity came with a Riley Tigrett break away but that Mulligan turned away and the Lumberjacks responded with an empty net goal.

"We deserved a better fate tonight," Blaisuis said. "I have no complaints with how we played. They are a good team and, once again, they took advantage of the few mistakes we made and that was the difference."

Willmar outshot Granite City 41-37 and it's the team's highest shot total since the NA3HL Showcase in early December. Weissenborn said he thinks the shot total is the step in the right direction.

"Tonight was a good start towards getting to where we need to be," Weissenborn said. "Their goalie just made plenty of saves so there's not much we could do. But I think that's one that we could have won. If we keep playing like that then we'll make the playoffs."

Blaisuis agreed, crediting the type of shots that his team took, as well.

"It wasn't just that we outshot them, we had plenty of good shots," Blaisuis said. "Once we get healthy I think we'll be in the right place."

Granite City 3, Willmar 1

Granite City............. 1 1 1 — 3

Willmar............... 0 0 1 — 1

FIRST PERIOD — GC: Keenan Lund (Brady Dahl, Spencer Nelson) 5:13

SECOND PERIOD — GC: Dahl (Chase Di Bari, Nelson) 17:12

THIRD PERIOD — Willmar: Danny Nugent 8:01 ... GC: Owen Sikich (Nelson) 19:36

GOALIE SAVES — Granite City: David Mulligan 40 ... Willmar: Alex Weissenborn 34

Jake Schultz

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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