ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

WarHawks cruise in home opener

It took a few weeks but the Willmar WarHawks finally had their highly anticipated home opener on Saturday night and they started their Civic Center-tenure off the right way, defeating the New Ulm Steel 5-2.

2896100+0B9bJSRVYhGTtb0I3MldIeEZOcW8.jpg

It took a few weeks but the Willmar WarHawks finally had their highly anticipated home opener on Saturday night and they started their Civic Center-tenure off the right way, defeating the New Ulm Steel 5-2.

The Willmar debut began with a rocky start as New Ulm scored with plenty of commotion in front of WarHawk netminder Alex Weissenborn.

The WarHawks answered quickly, though. Tape-to-tape passing from Max Oelkers and Jacob Dobberstein ended with Kyle Wendorf who shot the puck right by Steel goaltender Jon Albers.

The Steel opened the second period with similar aggressive play, managing a few shots in the opening minutes but Willmar proved to be efficient, scoring on its first shot of the second period off the stick of Riley Tigrett.

Willmar didn't make it easy on themselves after taking the 2-1 lead, though. Shortly after the goal, forward Jacob Dobberstein took a four-minute minor for high sticking and just as that penalty finished Tigrett was sent to the box for slashing. Despite playing more than nine-plus minutes shorthanded, Willmar limited New Ulm to only a few shots, none of which found the back of the net.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Those nine minutes really swung the game for us," said WarHawk Head Coach Chris Blaisuis. "We could have gone down a couple of goals in that second period but instead we won the period and that really changed the game."

Willmar carried that momentum into the third period, scoring in the opening minutes when Oelkers passed the puck from behind the net to Alex Syring right in front and buried it in the back of the net. Just minutes later, Wendorf scored his second of the night and the team's only power play goal at home. It was his team-leading fifth goal of the season.

The Steel got one back later in the period when a bouncing puck slipped by Weissenborn to make it 4-2.

That would only last for a moment though as Oelkers put on a stickhandling display, sneaking by multiple Steel defensemen to earn his third point of the night and give the final 5-2 score.

"We were all a bit nervous," Blaisuis said. "I was hoping we could come out here and keep them off the board the first five minutes or so but the crowd helped. They were incredible."

The official attendance for the night was 1,021, a big jump from what many of the WarHawks players have been used to. Willmar visited the Rochester Ice Hawks who sold 927 tickets but aside from that game, the other highest was 550 at the Armadillo Deck Sports Arena in Sauk Rapids.

"We have the best in the whole league," Syring said. "They really helped us tonight. It's a good thing for the city and it definitely gives you the advantage."

Defenseman Wyatt Toll was appreciative of the early fandom.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It was unreal to play at home," defenseman Wyatt Toll said. "I didn't know what to expect but the fans really showed up. They seem really into us and we definitely appreciate it. I think we'll have a great year."

What To Read Next
The league would launch in summer 2024 and is polling interest in possible host cities.
The Tuesday, Jan. 31, game between Sioux Falls Lincoln and Watertown was forced to move after junior JT Rock broke the rim with a powerful two-handed dunk. Rock is committed to play at Iowa State.
Hull was a five-time 50-goal scorer, led the NHL in goalscoring seven times, twice won the Hart Trophy and was voted a First-Team All-Star on the left wing 10 times.
Willmar beats the Minnesota Loons 9-6 on four 3rd-period goals