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Wilderness: Playoff chase is still active this weekend

Hopes the Minnesota Wilderness will ensure a chance to play in the postseason will have to wait one more week, as they fell Saturday to the Janesville Jets, 6-3.

The Jets scored twice in the first period and built a 5-1 lead before the midway point of the game. Two late Minnesota goals made things interesting in the final few minutes, but the Jets ultimately hung on for the victory, which kept their own playoff aspirations alive.

The win gave Janesville 67 points and moved them back within three points of the Wilderness, who sit in third in the NAHL’s Midwest Division. Janesville is one point behind Anchorage, which occupies fourth place. The Jets and Wilderness each have two games left in the season, while Anchorage will play three more.

Only the top four teams in each division qualify for the postseason. Fairbanks and Springfield have claimed two of the division’s four spots, leaving the Wilderness, Anchorage and Janesville to battle for the final two.

Minnesota will have two more chances to qualify for the playoffs next weekend, which they can do so with either a win or a Janesville loss. The Wilderness will take on Chippewa in a home-and-home series, set to begin Friday night in Chippewa Falls and concluding Saturday night in Cloquet.

On Saturday, William Gustavsson’s two goals led the way for Janesville (33-24-1). The 21-year-old Swede scored at the 3:23 mark of the second period to give the Jets a 3-0 lead. That was followed by the Wilderness (34-22-2) getting on the board on a shorthanded goal from Gunnar Thoreson at 5:03. That breakaway tally, Thoreson’s 17th on the year, seemed to give the Wilderness a spark, but that momentum turned back in the Jets’ direction just over two minutes later. The Jets would score two goals, just 2:36 apart, to give themselves a four-goal cushion.

Rookie Niko Rexine assisted on the goals by Thoreson and Daikawa to reach 61 points, a team rookie record.

Six players lit the lamp Friday night in leading the Wilderness to a 6-2 victory over the Jets. Ethan Wolthers led the way with a 3-point effort, as he added two assists.

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