The Anchorage Wolverines’ magical journey continued Friday night.
Next stop: Blaine, Minn., home of the Robertson Cup tournament, a four-team fight for the North American Hockey League championship.
Not bad for a first-year club.
Hell, not bad for any club.
The Wolverines marched on in the postseason courtesy of their elimination of the homestanding Minnesota Wilderness in Cloquet, near Duluth, to seize the best-of-5 Midwest Division Finals in four games.
The Wolverines delivered their 13th win in the last 17 games (13-2-2) dating back to the regular season, and they improved to 6-1 in the playoffs. They’re 4-0 on the road in the postseason.
Their latest win featured some of their trademarks – if it’s possible for a franchise so new to have trademarks.
Most importantly, Raythan Robbins of Anchorage did Raythan Robbins things – he snuffed 39 shots. He has played every second in goal this postseason and gone 6-1-0, with a 1.88 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. Consider the goaltending box checked.
Also, they received balanced scoring – 10 guys hit the scoresheet, but only two of them registered multiple points. Colton Friesen, the double-overtime hero in Game 3, furnished two goals, the last an empty-net dagger, and Matt Johnson provided two helpers. And the Wolverines stymied the home club’s momentum. After William Persson’s goal cut Anchorage’s lead to 2-1 54 seconds into the third period. Wolverines defenseman Andy Ramsey of Anchorage answered 2:56 later to restore Anchorage’s two-goal cushion. Bohdan Panasenko, the Ukrainian, pumped in a goal to make it 4-1 and all but sent the 1,527 fans at the Northwoods Credit Union Arena home for the season.
The Wolverines flexed early with two goals. Jackson Reineke struck just six minutes into the game off a helper from Hunter Schmitz of Anchorage and Friesen, added a power-play marker off a Johnson helper less than two minutes later.
The Wolverines owned a glorious chance to extend their lead to three when they enjoyed a 5-on-3 advantage shortly after Friesen’s goal, but they could not convert. Well, you can’t have it all. (Besides, as comedian Stephen Wright pointed out, where would you put it?).
Anyhow, coach Mike Aikens and crew will join three other division winners in the championship round in Blaine, where semifinalists play best-of-3 series and the winners close the season in a winner-takes-all showdown.
The first-year club sits just three wins away from hoisting hardware.
The magical journey continues.