Running Wild: Wilderness onto Midwest Finals with Game 5 win
April 20, 2015
Lost in the offensive explosion in the last three games for the Wilderness was Brock Kautz, who stopped 79 of 84 shots in Games 3-5 to help the Wilderness come from behind to claim the series.
Midwest Division Semi-Finals (MN Wilderness win series, 3-2)
Game 5: Coulee Region 1 @ MN Wilderness 9
In the same fashion they dominated Games 3 and 4, the Minnesota Wilderness returned home for Game 5 and put on another offensive showcase as they defeated the Coulee Region Chill 9-1 on Monday to claim the fifth and deciding game of the semi-final series. The Wilderness will now advance to the Midwest Division Finals where they will face the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The Wilderness, who lost the first two games of the series at home, are the first team to win a best of five series after trailing 2-0 since the 2009-10 St. Louis Bandits.
Dan Litchke had a four-point night, which included two goals and Niklas Lehtimaki and Tyler Cline also had two goals on the night.
It didn’t take long for the Wilderness to grab the lead and it was a shorthanded goal that put them ahead. Off a Chill turnover, Darian Romanko found Litchke in front, who slid a shot through the legs of Adam Carlson for a 1-0 lead. Less than six minutes later, more special teams play gave the Wilderness a 2-0 lead as Tyler Cline scored the first of his two goals on the power play.
The game was blown open in the 2nd period as the Wilderness scored six times. The backbreaker may have come just :31 seconds into the period as Billy Exell intercepted a puck at the Coulee Region blueline and circled around the right wing to roof a shot over the shoulder of Carlson for a 3-0 lead. Niklas Lehtimaki made it 4-0 just four minutes later as he blasted a slapshot past Carlson from the left wing. Three minutes later, Litchke added his second goal of the night to make it 5-0 and the rout was on. Aaron Miller added a goal less than two minutes later on a 2 on 1 to make it 6-0 and that would be the end of the night for Carlson, who would give up six goals on 22 shots. Jimmy Thomas would replace Carlson, but the Wilderness would not let up their offense as two more goals in the period from Cline and Romanko made it 8-0 after two periods. The 2nd period would also spell the end of the night for Wilderness goalie Brock Kautz, who was pulled in favor of Ryan Anderson.
In the 3rd period, the Chill would get on the board early as a nice passing play from Jack Sorensen to Richard Zehnal found an open Sean Lang in front, who sent a shot past Anderson for the lone Chill marker of the night. Five minutes later, Lehtimaki would add his second of the game as he got a pass in the high slot and deked Thomas for the final goal of the game.
Miller ended up with a four-point night and Romanko and Cline each had three points. Brock Kautz picked up the win in goal and Thomas made 14 saves in his relief appearance.
The Wilderness will host Games 1 and 2 of the Midwest Division Finals this weekend, with the series then shifting to Fairbanks the following weekend for Games 3-5.