SAUK RAPIDS — The Willmar WarHawks stormed out to a huge lead and then held on to beat the Granite City Lumberjacks in an NA3HL playoff game Thursday night.
Willmar beat Granite City 4-3 at the Armadillo Deck Sports Arena to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Granite City is the second seed in the West. Willmar is the No. 3 seed.
It was the WarHawks’ first playoff win as a franchise.
Game 2 is 6:10 p.m. Friday at the Willmar Civic Center Arena. A third game, if needed, is Saturday back in Sauk Rapids.
Willmar took a 3-0 after the first period, getting goals from Ethan Light, Isaiah Thomas and Alex Kupka.
The WarHawks then made it 4-0 with a goal at :52 seconds of the second period from Gavin Uckele.
From there, Willmar hung on.
Granite City scored the next three goals. Hanson O’Leary, Ben Anderson and Tal Halliday scored for the Lumberjacks. Halliday’s tally came at 17:11.
Granite City pulled its goalie at 17:21, meaning the Lumberjacks played with six skaters for the final 2:39.
But, Willmar held firm.
Lukas Haugen made 33 saves to pick up the victory. The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder from Excelsior came into the game with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage.