Sports stats

 Minnesota Wilderness

Wilderness Falls to Springfield in Penalty-Filled Season Finale

April 14, 2024 - North American Hockey League (NAHL)
Minnesota Wilderness News Release

The Minnesota Wilderness and Springfield Jr. Blues combined for 146 minutes in penalties Saturday night in the final 2023-24 regular season contest for both teams. The Wilderness also kept three of its top six scorers out of the lineup, as Springfield skated to a 5-2 victory.

Joe Cesario and Daniel Astapovich posted the lone tallies for Minnesota. Goaltender Nick Erickson suffered the loss in net allowing four of the five Springfield goals while playing 46:15.

Springfield won with five different goal scorers, as Landry Schmuck, Alex Fendler, Hadley Hudak, Aiden Dyer and Anthony Ruklic all found the back of the net. J.J. Cataldo earned the victory in goal for the Jr. Blues.

Four veterans were kept out of the Minnesota lineup, as the Wilderness sought to rest some of its key players in preparation for the post-season. The Wilderness qualified for the Robertson Cup playoffs Friday night after a 3-2 overtime win over Springfield in game 1 of the weekend set. Sitting out the game were forward Peteris Purmalis and defensemen Beau Janzig, Ren Morque and Gustavs Ozolins.

Minnesota began the contest with some high energy and grabbed the first lead. Cesario deposited his sixth of the season at the 1:04 mark of the first period after forcing a turnover in the offensive zone.

Springfield responded with four consecutive tallies with special teams factoring in the first two. Schmuck first scored on a power play at the 12:57 mark, and that was followed by a short-handed goal by Fendler less than two minutes later.

Hudak and Dyer added to Springfield's lead by lighting the lamp in the second period at the 3:56 and 15:37 marks.

Astapovich then cut the lead to two when his shot from the left circle just slipped under Cataldo's pads and across the goal line with 3:47 left in the middle frame. That goal was Astapovich's 13th of the campaign.

The Jr. Blues capped off the scoring with an empty-net goal with 41 second on the clock in the third period.

Officials whistled 11 infractions on the Wilderness for 69 minutes, while Springfield was called for 15 penalties for 77 minutes. Four players (two on each side) received game misconducts, while two others (one for each team) were given 10-minute misconducts.

The highlight of the night for many was a fight between Hudak and Wilderness defensemen Nolan Bettens. That altercation led to game misconducts for both participants.

Minnesota struggled on the power play as it was scoreless on eight opportunities. Springfield converted once on four situations.

The game ended the season for Springfield (21-29-10), as the Jr. Blues failed to qualify for the playoffs.

Minnesota (30-25-5) will begin its Midwest Division semifinal series next weekend, although the team does not yet know who it's opponent will be. That will be revealed later tonight. As the four-seed, the Wilderness will face the top seed in the division, which will be either the Anchorage Wolverines or Wisconsin Windigo. Both Anchorage and Wisconsin are tied for first place in the division, but the Wolverines have one more game left to play, while Wisconsin's season is over. If Anchorage picks up just one point vs. Fairbanks tonight, it will claim the regular season division crown and host the Wilderness for the opening of the playoffs next weekend. If Fairbanks wins tonight in regulation, the Windigo will win the division, and the Wilderness will travel to Eagle River, Wisconsin, to begin the post-season.

• Discuss this story on the North American Hockey League message board...

North American Hockey League Stories from April 14, 2024

The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

Other Recent Minnesota Wilderness Stories

Sports Statistics from the Stats Crew
OurSports Central