WarHawks win to force Game 3 in Mason City

Hold off any division title celebration. North Iowa Bulls arrived in St. Cloud leading the best-of three series 1-0 after winning Game 1 at home on Friday night. Willmar WarHawks had other ideas though as they took Game 2 by the score of 2-1 to force the deciding Game 3.

Cal Nauss scored the only goal of the first period to give the Bulls the lead. It would be the only shot that got past WarHawks goaltender Lukas Haugen.

Gavin Uckele got Willmar on the board at 16:57 of the second with an assist from Alex Kupka. With the game tied 1-1 the WarHawks would carry that momentum into the final frame.

It didn’t take long after the puck dropped in the third as Nate Cox scored the eventual game winner just :58 in. Nate Jangula earned the lone assist on the Cox tally, his first of the playoffs.

Like Game 1, the WarHawks again held a shot advantage in the game. Willmar ended with 38 shots on goal while Haugen turned away 26 of 27 shots by the Bulls.

The series finale now shifts back to Mason City for Game 3 on Sunday. A berth to the NA3HL Fraser Cup finals along with the West Division title will be on the line. Game time at Mason City Arena is scheduled for 5:30 PM.

North Iowa take Game 1; WarHawks host on Saturday

Regular season NA3HL West Division winner North Iowa Bulls showed their experience on Friday winning Game 1 of the division finals 4-2 over the visiting Willmar WarHawks. The Bulls are now one win away from a trip to the Fraser Cup finals, leading the best-of three series 1-0.

Two third period goals from Max Savaloja powered the Bulls in the series opener while Carson Jones and Caden Smith also scored.

Isaiah Thomas scored in the first period for Willmar to tie the game at 1-1. North Iowa lead 3-1 in the third before Dylan Gajewski got the WarHawks back within a goal.

Willmar outshot the Bulls 32-31 in the game.

The series now moves north as the WarHawks host Game 2 at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 PM. It’s a must-win game for Willmar who will look to send the series back to Mason City for a potential Game 3 on Sunday.

Tickets for Saturday are available online https://tickets.willmarwarhawks.com/events/16360-north-iowa-bulls-vs-willmar-warhawks

West Division Finals matchup set

The NA3HL West Division Finals are set! Willmar WarHawks will face the regular season winner North Iowa Bulls in a best-of three series.
Game 1 is set to take place on Friday in Mason City. Their will be a WarHawks fan bus making the trip. Cost is $25 (adult) or $15 (youth) and seating is limited. Call 320-894-0205 to reserve your spot now!
The WarHawks will host Game 2 on Saturday, but due to ice availability the game will take place at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex (home of the St. Cloud Norsemen). Game time is scheduled for 7:30 PM.
If the series is tied the Bulls will host Game 3 on Sunday in Mason City.

Willmar win Game 2, sweep Lumberjacks

For the first time in Willmar WarHawks history the team has won a playoff series! After taking Game 1 on the road Thursday night the WarHawks returned home to complete the sweep winning Game 2 by the score of 3-1.

It was an emotional scene on the ice after the victory. For the players who have battled all year completing a 22-18-0-0 regular season with a playoff series win is a great accomplishment.

For the local fans who have endured WarHawks hockey for five seasons now, the chance to watch the home time clinch a series on home ice is reward in itself. Willmar had only competed in one playoff series prior to this season, losing to these same Lumberjacks in two straight games.

Ben Johnson got the WarHawks off to a good start scoring the opening goal 13:47 of the first. The period would end with Willmar holding a one-goal lead. Shots in the period were 16-11 in the WarHawks favor.

It was a much more determined effort by the Lumberjacks in the second and they were rewarded when Troy Dahlheimer tied the game at 2:56. Granite City would put 14 shots on net in the frame, but were held at-bay by Lukas Haugen who was in net for both playoff victories.

Entering the third Willmar knew they wanted to close out the series at home and avoid a potential Game 3 in Sauk Rapids. The teams didn’t give up much in the third with the WarHawks outshooting the visitors 12-6 in the opening 19 minutes.

Then with just :51 on the clock Dylan Gajewski and Lewis Rowan put pressure on the Granite City defense, forcing a turnover. Rowan then connected with a streaking Isaiah Thomas who buried the game winner.

Gajewski added an empty net goal in the final seconds to clinch the game and series.

“Unbelievable effort and win,” was the reaction of Kirk Olimb after the win. “Hats off to Granite City. They’re a great team and had an awesome season. Much respect to them.”

Oregon now turn their attention to the NA3HL West Division Finals. The Tradesmen will face the winner of the North Iowa Bulls-Alexandria Blizzard series. Those teams are playing Game 1 tonight in Mason City.