It was a frustrating early evening for the Willmar WarHawks who were hosting the Granite City Lumberjacks in a key NA3HL West Division clash. That all went away in the third period as the WarHawks score four times to complete a comeback victory 5-4.
“Huge comeback!,” said coach Kirk Olimb. “Boys never gave up. Stayed the course. Capitalized on powerplay opportunities when we had them.”
Despite outshooting their opponent 29-24 in the opening 40 minutes the WarHawks found themselves trailing 4-1 after two periods. Isaiah Thomas was the lone man to beat Lumberjacks goaltender Bailey Huber early into the second frame. Alex Kupka and Cole Wigestrand assisted on the tally, the third for Thomas in just eight games with Willmar.
The third period got off to a great start for the home team when Kaleb Miller scored just :48 after intermission.
The score held at 4-2 for the next 15 minutes of play as Huber continued to deny the WarHawks, who would outshoot Granite City 22-12 in the frame.
Momentum then took a huge turn as Lewis Rowan scored twice on the powerplay, first at 16:04 then :42 later to tie the game 4-4.
A cross checking minor was whistled on the Lumberjacks at 17:11 and the WarHawks once again took advantage. Dylan Gawjewski whistled a shot past Huber at 18:10 for the game winner.
“We drew penalties with our work ethic in the end,” added Olimb.
Will Pinney stopped 32 shots for Willmar earning his fifth win in six starts.
Willmar (14-12-0-0) and Granite City (13-8-0-0) meet again this Wednesday in Sauk Rapids.
The Warhawks began the week with a trip to New Ulm on Wednesday night. Willmar continued their winning ways with an 8-1 victory. After a scoreless first period, Jonah Jangula opened the scoring a minute and a half into the second. Ben Johnson and Michael Sweetland assisted on Jangula’s third of the year. Dylan Gajewski added two more for a 3-1 lead after two.
Willmar poured in five more goals in the third to cruise to victory. The Warhawks displayed a balance of scoring in the third with goals from Jeremiah Konkel, Gavin Uckele, Isaiah Thomas, Jack Willis, and Cole Wigestrand. Hunter Bjorge and Isaiah had multi-point nights, and Cooper Olson stopped 29 of 30 for the victory in net.
Saturday night they hosted Granite City, and it was the Lumberjacks skating away with a 5-3 victory. Another scoreless first period gave way to Willmar coming out and scoring a minute and a half into the second period. Alex Kupka scored his seventh of the season on the powerplay with assists from Gavin Uckele and Dylan Gajewski. Lewis Rowan scored another power-play goal late in the period for a 2-1 lead after two periods.
Granite City came out firing in the third scoring four goals in the first seven minutes. Rowan added his second of the game and seventh of the season late in regulation but it wasn’t enough as Granite City snapped the Warhawks home winning streak at five.
Sunday night saw Willmar travel to North Iowa and come away with a thrilling 3-2 win in overtime. Dylan Gajewski tied the game 1-1 with his fourth of the season midway through the second period. Gavin Uckele and Isaiah Thomas picked up the assists.
Trailing 2-1 with just under 6 minutes to go, Alex Kupka came through with the equalizer on assists from Lewis Rowan and Isaiah Thomas. Then in OT Kupka gave the Warhawks their first victory against the Bulls with his ninth of the year with assists from Hunter Bjorge and Cole Wigestrand. Will Pinney made 35 saves for the victory in net.
Willmar (13-11-0-0; 26 points) is alone in second place in the West Division. They host North Iowa on Friday and Granite City on Saturday. The puck drops both nights at 7:10 pm. Tickets are available at tickets.willmarwarhawks.com or catch the action on HockeyTV.
Willmar WarHawks put an end to many streaks on Sunday night. Since joining the NA3HL in 2016 the WarHawks had never beaten the North Iowa Bulls in Mason City. The same Bulls team who had won 18-straight games on home ice. Check. And check. Alex Kupka scored in overtime helping Willmar defeat North Iowa 3-2.
The second place WarHawks (13-11-0-0) traveled south and stunned the home crowd in Mason City. Trailing 2-1 with six minutes to play in regulation Kupka evened things for Willmar with his eighth goal in just 10 games this season. Lewis Rowan and Isaiah Thomas assisted on the tally.
Kupka was not done though as he would tip a Hunter Bjorge shot over the Bulls goaltender at 2:24 of overtime for the victory.
“The boys never quit and bought in to what they needed to do,” said WarHawks Head Coach Kirk Olimb.
North Iowa opened scoring in the first when Lucas Jorgensen scored on the powerplay. Dylan Gajewski tied it for Willmar at 13:15 of the second with helpers from Gavin Uckele and Thomas.
Kyle Heffron quickly answered the Willmar goal at 13:51 to give the Bulls a 2-1 lead. That held until the Kupka heroics.
Goaltender Will Pinney stopped 35 of 37 shots to improve his record to 4-1 after joining the club from St. Cloud. His 1.60 GAA and .948 save% are making an impression.
“Huge night in net for Will Pinney and Alex Kupka just keeps on scoring,” added Olimb.
The victory came one day after a third period collapse resulted with a home loss to the Granite City Lumberjacks.”Great bounce back after a disappointing loss last night to grab the franchise’s first ever win at North Iowa.”
Willmar return to action at home next weekend hosting the same North Iowa team on Friday then Granite City on Saturday night.
Join us for Community Night Presented by Jennie-O Turkey Store on February 13th, March 6th, and March 19th. Bid on the Warhawk’s throwback jerseys at https://web.dashapp.io/auctions/willmarwarhawks. Proceeds go to the Kandiyohi County Food Shelf and The United Way.
Published: Thursday, 11 Feb 2021
By: Scott Ludwig
It took a period for the Willmar WarHawks to get going, but when they did… Willmar scored three in the second and five in the final frame to cruise to an 8-1 victory over the host New Ulm Steel.
The win by Willmar (12-10-0-0) was their seventh in their past eight games as the team has climbed up the NA3HL West Division standings. North Iowa Bulls (18-4-0-0) still sit on top with a comfortable lead, but the WarHawks extended their points advantage over third place Alexandria Blizzard to five. The top two teams in the division will have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
After a frigid 80-mile bus ride south the WarHawks and Steel played a scoreless opening period. That score didn’t last long though as Jonah Jangula opened scoring at 1:34 of the second. A pair of goals by Dylan Gajewski gave Willmar a 3-0 advantage before the Steel scored on the powerplay shortly before second intermission. Gajewski also picked up a pair of assists for a four-point game.
Willmar came out of the locker room ready to fly in the third scoring three goals in a 1:14 stretch. Jeremiah Konkel, Gavin Uckele and Isaiah Thomas helped the WarHawks to a 6-1 lead by the 4:03 mark of the period.
Jack Willis would convert on the powerplay then just :22 later Cole Wigestrand finished off the scoring frenzy with his seventh of the season. Austin Jozwick assisted on both goals.
“Great team win,” was the post-game reaction by WarHawks head coach Kirk Olimb. “Cooper Olson played great in net. When we’re moving our feet and working hard consistently we’re a pretty good team!
Olson picked up his first NA3HL victory in his sixth start of the season giving up just one goal on 30 shots. The 19-year old is a 2020 graduate of Osseo High School.
Despite the seven-goal win Olimb still sees things to work on saying, “we need to focus a bit more on taking care of the puck. But overall pretty good.”
Willmar return to home ice this Saturday hosting Granite City Lumberjacks.