Wings sweep Wilderness with big 7-2 win

It was a big night for the Aberdeen Wings.

After downing the Minnesota Wilderness 7-2 Saturday night inside the Northwoods Credit Union Arena, the Wings skated to their eighth straight win and 49th of the season, which ties the North American Hockey League record for all-time wins. And they’ve got two more regulation games left to play.

Captain Clayton Cosentino also picked up a franchise record in the win, while Jake Goldowski earned his second hat trick of the season. Aberdeen, who improve to 49-4-0-1 on the season, has tallied 99 points on the year and is eyeing triple digits as the regular season comes to a close next weekend.

The Wilderness got on the board first when Gunnar Thorseon charged the Wings net less than a minute into regulation play. However, the Wings answered back five minutes later when Goldowski took a feed from behind the net to even things up. Will Arquiett grabbed his 16th assist on the season, while Nathan Mann recorded his second.

Goldowski added his second goal of the night at the 8:09 mark on the power play when he tipped in the redirect from Cullen Ferguson. It was Ferguson’s 13th assist on the year, and Thomas Manty also picked up the apple, his first of four on the night. At the 11:54 mark, Arquiett added the third unanswered goal for Aberdeen when he sent a wrist shot over the right shoulder of Wilderness goalie Kaleb Johnson. Spencer Schneider notched his 16th assist of the season, while Manty picked up his second of the game. After outshooting Minnesota 11-6, the Wings headed into the first break with the 3-1 lead.

The Wings continued the scoring barrage just shy of five minutes into the second period when Natan Vertes took a cross-ice feed for his 23rd goal of the season. Liam Fraser picked up his 18th assist on the year, while Cosentino grabbed his league-leading 43rd — he also grabbed the Wings’ franchise record for most assists in a season in the process, edging out former star Joey Strada for the honor.

Grant Doctor got the Wilderness back within two points at the 9:47 mark, but penalties starting plaguing the home team and it was all Aberdeen from that point on.

At the 17:09 mark and on the power play once again, Schneider grabbed his second goal of the weekend and 24th overall to give the Wings the 5-2 cushion; Trevor Russell and Manty each got a credit on the assist. Just over two minutes later and less than 30 seconds on the clock in the middle period, Jordan Randall took a bouncing puck in front of a wide open backdoor to get the four-point lead. Payton Matsui recorded his 37th assist on the year, while Russell grabbed his second of the game and 32nd overall. Once again, the Wings outshot the Wilderness, this time 11-8, and headed into the final intermission leading 6-2.

Minnesota continued to pick up penalties in the game’s final 20 minutes — at one point, four players were crowded into the penalty box — and Aberdeen capitalized one final time. With just over three minutes left in regulation and with the man-advantage, Goldowski tipped in a shot for his 15th goal of the season, grabbing his second hat trick as a Wing. Manty racked up an impressive fourth assist in the game, totaling 28 overall on the season, and Nico deVita notched his 30th.

After outshooting the Wilderness 13-5 in the third, Aberdeen took 35 shots overall compared to just 19 from Minnesota. The Wings went 3-7 on the power play and didn’t give the Wilderness any extra-man chances.

“That was one of the must-win games for them,” Wings head coach and general manager Scott Langer said. “We got down early but our guys bounced back with a solid first period.”

A late addition to the Wings squad, Goldowski now has 15 goals and ten assists in 37 games played after adding five points in the weekend sweep.

“Jake was brought in to bring leadership and the ability to add to our offense,” Langer said. “He has lived up to those expectations since day one.”

Manty’s four-point game moves him up to eighth in the NAHL’s top scorers leaderboard with 52 overall points. Cosentino sits in fifth with 55 points, and Matsui’s three-point weekend keeps him at the top of the list with 63. Sixteen different Wings players added points to their totals over the two games, in which they outscored the Wilderness 14-3.

Minnesota’s Johnson stopped 28 of the 35 shots sent his way, while Dominik Wasik denied 17 of 19 shots. He improves to 7-2 on the season with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.

With the league’s final playoff spot still up for grabs in the Central Division, three teams are now just three points away from each other. Two of those teams — the Austin Bruins and the St. Cloud Norsemen — face off against each other three times this week for their final regular season games, with a Sunday 5 p.m. matchup paired with a weekend home-and-home bout. The Wilderness, the third team vying for the final slot, also have a three-game weekend — the first is a Thursday out-of-division game against the Chippewa Steel followed by a weekend hosting the Bismarck Bobcats.

Knowing that a league record for most wins is on the line, Langer is anxious to get back inside the Odde Ice Center for the season’s final two games before postseason play begins May 21.

“We have tied the all-time wins record in NAHL history,” he said. “We are coming home to prepare the right way to attain the goal of breaking the all-time record.”

Wings fans could see history when the Minot Minotauros head to Aberdeen this Friday and Saturday, May 14 and 15. Tickets can be purchased ahead of the game online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com. $10 general admission tickets can also be purchased at any of the four C-Express locations in Aberdeen, with additional purchase.