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Wilderness are back on track

The Minnesota Wilderness scored three times in both the first and second periods and once more in the third, while Matt Smith stopped all 26 shots he faced in a 7-0 shellacking of the Minnesota Magicians in Richfield Saturday night. It was a home and home sweep for the Wilderness after a 5-3 win Friday night in Cloquet.

It was the first league shutout for Smith on Saturday. He kept his record perfect at 4-0 (3-0 since joining the Wilderness earlier this month).

The win is the fourth in a row for the Wilderness (19-18-1), all of them against the Magicians, and it moves them ahead of the Magicians (17-16-4) into fourth place, the final playoff spot in the Midwest Division.

The Wilderness began the offensive onslaught just 79 seconds into the first period. Sam Antenucci redirected a shot from the high slot from Cole Crusberg-Roseen that ended up slipping beneath the pads of goaltender Vincent Castelletti for Antenucci's third goal of the season and first since joining the Wilderness on Jan. 8.

They held the 1-0 lead until Max Neill scored back-to-back goals just 2:03 apart late in the first. Neill's first tally struck gold on the power play with 4:51 remaining, and he followed that with one with 2:48 left.

After failing to score or even mount any pressure on a power-play that began the second period, the Wilderness coaching staff called a timeout. Alarmed by some significant shorthanded pressure applied by the Magicians, the staff of coach Dave Boitz, and assistants Brendan Phelps and Scott Pionk got the team to settle down and return to the form that gave them a three-goal lead.

It was not long after when Reid Conn would fire one into the back of the Magicians net to make it 4-0 and put the rest of the game on cruise control.

Smith held on to preserve the shutout with the Magicians applying their strongest pressure of the game late in the final period. The rookie netminder's best save came when he denied Connor Mahony on a one-timer with a glove save with 4:59 left, after Mahony received a pass that forced Smith to move quickly from his left to his right.

The Wilderness outshot the Magicians 45-26.

On the powerplay, the Wilderness finished 1-5 and kept the Magicians scoreless on three chances.

The Wilderness return to the ice next weekend for another home-and-home series, this time against Chippewa. They go to Chippewa Falls Friday night and are home Saturday night.

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