The La Crosse Freeze start 2018 firmly in second place in the Central Division standings just 13 points out of first and 19 points above third.
Before looking ahead to next weekend’s 1-2 matchup with the North Iowa Bulls, the Freeze had a date with the Willmar WarHawks. The two teams previously met in October with the Freeze coming away with the sweep at home.
This time La Crosse traveled to Willmar for the first time. The WarHawks utilized that home-ice advantage in the first period on Friday night, jumping out to a 1-0 lead. From there on it was all Freeze scoring four goals in the second and third periods. Brady Lindauer (Matthew Francois) scored first for the freeze before Clayton Lackey (Flavien Fondadouze), Connor Losen (Toon De Schepper) and Zach Hanno (De Schepper) finished it out.
Will Graves took the win, looking tough throughout saving 21/22 shots, the lone goal coming on a penalty shot.
Saturday night’s game looked like two completely different teams on the ice both in terms of scoring and penalties. In the first period La Crosse bested Willmar 2-1 with goals from Laudon Poellinger and Lackey (Lindauer, Francois). In the second Lindauer (Francois, Alec Seeger) gave the Freeze a 3-1 lead before four straight goals into the third period forced La Crosse into comeback mode.
Nathan McComb (Fondadouze) and Brandon Ratzloff (De Schepper) tied the game at five with just over seven minutes remaining but Willmar’s Brandon Holt scored on a power play to clinch the victory.
The night before just three penalties were committed, all by La Crosse. On Saturday night the penalties told the story with six penalties called on the WarHawks and five on the Freeze. Seven of the 11 goals scored were on the power play, four of which were short-handed and three on the power play.
Both Jacob Silverstein and Will Graves both spent time in net, Graves picking up the loss.
The Freeze have a chance to gain ground on the first-place Bulls in a home-and-home this upcoming weekend. Catch the first game at home on Friday night at the Green Island Ice Arena.