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NA3HL Hockey: Big night keeps WarHawks perfect

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."

Everything went Willmar's way from the first drop of the puck. Jordan Cooper logged the game's first goal just 4:28 into the opening period, his third of the season, and the WarHawks kept up the pressure from there. Keegan Bauman scored his first goal in a WarHawks sweater later in the first period and Shea added his first of the season just minutes later. The three goals in the opening period were only part of a dominant performance in which the WarHawks outshot the Ice Hawks 23-2.

"That whole line (of Shea, Oelkers and Peyton Bolstad) was dominant," Blaisuis said. "They were good. They did what I expected they would do against an opponent like that. They moved their feet well, they're big strong kids that can work along the well and they played all three zones. They were able to transition to offense well and put the puck in the net."

The second period was another nearly spotless one for Willmar, scoring another three goals while outshooting the home team 24-8. The WarHawks ended the game with a 58-28 shooting advantage. Shea and Oelkers scored the first two goals just 2:10 and 3:18 into the second period via powerplay.

Rochester's Sylvain Rooney showed signs of life with a goal at the 8:40 mark but Willmar's Peyton Bolstad got one back with the final goal of the game three minutes later. Shea earned an assist for his team-leading fifth of the season.

Drew Schenkenberg helped keep the game respectable for the Ice Hawks with 52 saves.

Luke Fry earned the win in net for the WarHawks, saving nine of 10 shots in the first two periods. Drake Voell entered for his first game action of the season in the third period where he saved all 18 shots he faced.

The only mark against the WarHawks in the game came via penalties. The WarHawks finished with 41 penalty minutes on 10 infractions, highlighted by Wyatt Toll's ejection for fighting. Through three games, Willmar leads the West Division in penalty minutes with 82 but Blaisuis said he's not concerned with the number of penalties.

"Our penalty kill is really good," Blaisuis said. "We're not going to kicked around. If we have to take a few more penalties to get that across then I'm okay with that, if it's in the right situation. It's an important message to send to the rest of the division."

Willmar now looks to the first weekend of the season with multiple games. The WarHawks will travel to Breezy Point Friday and play a pair of games in La Crosse Saturday and Sunday.

Willmar 6, Rochester 1

Willmar 3 3 0 — 6

Rochester 0 1 0 — 1

FIRST PERIOD — W: Jordan Cooper (Eli Slagter, Jacob Berkowitz) 4:28 ... W: Keegan Bauman (Jacob Takashima, Zach Martin) 15:41 ... W: Braden Shea (Max Oelkers, Peyton Bolstad) 17:28

SECOND PERIOD — W: Shea (Wyatt Toll, Oelkers) PP 2:10 ... W: Oelkers (Martin, Luke Fry) PP 3:18 ... R: Sylvain Rooney (Austin Renn) 8:40 ... W: Bolstad (Shea, Oelkers)

THIRD PERIOD — no goals scored

GOALIE SAVES — Willmar: Luke Fry 9, Drake Voell 18 ... Rochester: Drew Schenkenberg 52

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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