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Wildcat skaters keeping it close

Wildcat senior co-captain Max Morrow (21) draws the attention of a pair of Minnehaha Academy defenders while handling the puck in the neutral zone in the first period of the Cats' 3-2 overtime loss to the Redhawks Saturday, Dec. 23, at Wildcat Centre. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
Wildcat sophomore Braedon Harer fires a shot from the high slot in the first period of the Cats' 3-2 overtime loss to the Redhawks Saturday, Dec. 23, at Wildcat Centre. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

Chippewa Falls scored a pair of third period goals to beat the Wildcats in Big Rivers Conference action before the Cats dropped a pair of one-goal decisions later in the week, including an overtime loss to a very good Minnehaha Academy team, to slip to 2-7-1 on the season.

Chippewa Falls score the go ahead goal 2:50 into the third period Tuesday, Dec. 19, then added an empty-net goal 11 seconds remaining to beat the Wildcats, 3-1, in Chippewa Falls.

The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead into the third period before Logan Graetz tied it up for the Cats with a power play goal 1:31 into the third, assisted by Max Morrow and Joe Stoffel. But the Cardinals regained the lead just 1:19 later and sealed the win late with an extra Wildcat attacker on the ice.

River Falls coach Jim Joseph said the Cats came close to stealing one against a Big Rivers Conference opponent on the road.

"The teams in our conference are so talented and to have a chance to win on the road was pretty exciting," he said.

Wildcat goalie Jake Miller stopped 39 shots in just over 50 minutes of action as the Cardinals outshot the Cats, 42-27.

Thursday, Dec. 21, at Amery, Jake Bergmanis scored a pair of third period goals but it wasn't enough to catch the Warriors in a 4-3 loss.

Amery took a 1-0 lead 4:13 into the game before the Cats made it a 1-1 game after one on a goal by Braedon Harer, assisted by Graetz and Stoffel.

The Warriors scored three times in the third to extend their lead to 4-1. Bergmanis found the back of the net at the 7:49 mark of the third, assisted by Cody Wilson and Eric Bark, and scored again at 10:06 with assists from Tye Kusilek and Wilson but the Wildcats came up one goal short despite outshooting the Warriors, 39-17.

"Amery played with great confidence and took full advantage of their opportunities," Joseph said.

Saturday all three of Minnehaha Academy's goals came on the power play, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Redhawks defeated the Wildcats, 3-2.

After a scoreless first period, Bergmanis gave River Falls a 1-0 lead at the 4:57 mark of the second, assisted by Kusilek and Wilson, but Minnehaha scored eight seconds into a Wildcat penalty with just over two minutes remaining in the period to tie the score.

River Falls answered with a power play goal of its own by Wilson at the 5:00 mark of the third period, assisted by Harer, to take a 2-1 lead. But another Wildcat penalty resulted in another power play goal by Minnehaha to tie the score with 3:13 remaining and the Redhawks scored on their fifth power play opportunity of the game in overtime to pull out the win.

"We took way too many penalties," Joseph said. "In order to win these close games, and win more in general, we need to keep it simple and stop taking short cuts."

Miller finished with 38 saves as the Redhawks outshot the Wildcats, 41-29.

The Cats will host a holiday tournament at Wildcat Center this weekend. Coon Rapids and Somerset will kick things off at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 29, and the River Falls JV and Marshfield will skate at 5:30 p.m. with the Wildcats and Faribault varsity taking the ice at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Faribault and Somerset square off at 1 p.m. followed by the River Falls and Coon Rapids JV at 3:30 p.m. and the varsity at 5:30 p.m.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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