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Wilderness blank Steel to sweep weekend series

Sam Livecchi stopped all 26 shots he faced Saturday night to earn his first Junior A shutout as the Minnesota Wilderness defeated the Chippewa Steel 6-0.

It was the second-straight strong performance from Livecchi, who paced the Wilderness to a 3-2 shootout win Thursday in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, in the first game of the home-and-home set. Livecchi made 32 saves in the Thursday win.

Offensively, six goal scorers found the back of the net Saturday night for the Wilderness. It started at the 4:19 mark of the first period when former Duluth East Greyhound Charlie Erickson was able to find Cole Crusberg-Roseen at the bottom of the face-off circle to the left of Steel netminder Croix Kochendorfer. The one-timer from Crusberg-Roseen earned him his 10th goal of the season.

The Wilderness added one more in the first period when Matt McQuade scored a power play goal at the 8:57 mark. for his ninth tally of the season.

The 2-0 lead carried over through a scoreless second period. The Wilderness extended the lead to 3 when Hermantown native Aaron Pionk fired in a blast from the slot for his sixth goal of the season, just 23 seconds into the final frame. That was followed by a goal at the 5:55 mark when Brendan Doyle picked up his first with the Wilderness in his first game after being acquired in a trade with Janesville. Will Persson would later score a power play goal at 9:41 for his 10th of the season, and Barrett Hall would close out the scoring with his first as a Junior A player with 4:00 remaining.

The biggest save of the night for Livecchi came in period 2. With the Wilderness up 2-0, he was able to turn aside a penalty shot opportunity from Ryan Waltman.

Kochendorfer suffered the loss for the Steel, stopping 29 of 35 Wilderness shots.

The win improves the Wilderness record to 13-7-1 on the season, and moves them ahead of the Steel in the Midwest Division, as the teams entered the night in a three-way tie for third place with Anchorage. Pending the results of Anchorage’s game with Fairbanks, the Wilderness could be alone in third place in the division when the night is over.

For the Wilderness special teams, it was also a strong night, as they scored twice on five opportunities, and held off the Steel in all five of their chances with the man advantage.

The Wilderness were back at home on Wednesday, when they took on the Minnesota Magicians for the annual Thanksgiving Eve contest.