LILLICO’S TWO LATE GOALS PROPELS STEEL TO 5-4 SHOOTOUT WIN

By: Joel Rains, nusteelhockey.com

The Steel looked to extend their winning streak to 14 on Friday night as the Willmar WarHawks came to town.

It was the WarHawks who got things started early in the first period as Danny Klatt scored his eighth goal of the season, to give the WarHawks an early 1-0 lead. Nick Foldesi followed with his third goal of the year to give the WarHawks a 2-0 lead just 11:33 into the game.

To extend the winning streak to 14 the Steel would have to provide another come-from-behind win. The comeback started with just 23 seconds remaining in the first period as Joey Gimberlin knocked in his 11th goal of the year to cut the WarHawks lead in half as the WarHawks ended the first period up 2-1.

Jake Santarelli scored the lone goal in the second period, his 12th of the season to give the WarHawks a 3-1 lead, just 1:58 into the second period. Lukas Haugen was near perfect, saving 21 out of 22 opportunities in the WarHawks net through two periods.

The Steel entered Friday’s game with nine come-from-behind wins all year, including two in the last three games. Much like against Breezy Point, the Steel found themselves down two to start the third period. 

Jacob Halvorson attempted to get the comeback going, scoring his 31st goal of the year to cut the deficit to a 3-2 WarHawks lead. Willmar got one back off the stick of Marquez Ginger, to put the WarHawks back up two, for a 4-2 lead with just under five minutes to be played.

Comebacks usually come from an unpredictable source and for the Steel they’d find their magic from Teddy Lillico. Lillico entered Friday with just one goal on the season and it was off Lillico’s stick that the Steel cut the lead back down to one, 17:48 to go in the game. Lillico knocked in his second and third goal of the year, 24 seconds apart to tie the game up 4-4.

60 minutes of hockey weren’t enough to separate the WarHawks and Steel, and neither was a five-minute overtime period. The game went to a shootout. 

The shootout was pushed to a fourth round after Nick Weiben scored the only goal for the Steel in the first round and Eli Slagter leveled the field for the WarHawks in the third round. After AJ Cohen saved the fourth opportunity from the WarHawks, it was Dawson Schwengler’s turn for the heroics. Schwengler knocked in a sudden death opportunity to extend the Steel’s winning streak to 14, after trailing by two with under five minutes to play.

The Steel travel to Alexandria next Friday for a 7:10 p.m. puck drop.