Wilderness Take Aim at Steel to End Losing Skid

Who:  Minnesota Wilderness at Chippewa Steel

When:  7:00pm, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021

Where:  Chippewa Area Ice Arena, Chippewa Falls, WI

Streaming:  HockeyTV.com

The lead:  The Wilderness and Steel meet for the 2nd time this season.  They come into the game on opposite trajectories.  The Wilderness have lost their last 2, while the Steel have won their last 2 and 7 of their last 10.  This is the first game of a home-and-home series between the two teams; game 2 of the series will be Saturday, Nov. 20, in Cloquet, MN, at 7:15pm.

Records:  Minnesota:  11-7-1; Chippewa:  12-10

NAHL Midwest Division standings:

  Team Points Games played
1 Fairbanks 27 21
1 Springfield 27 21
3 Anchorage 25 19
4 Chippewa 24 22
5 MN Wilderness 23 19
5 MN Magicians 23 21
7 Janesville 15 19
8 Kenai River 6 19

 Previous meeting (10/28/21 in Chippewa Falls):  After the Wilderness dominated the 1st period, it was all Chippewa for the final 40.  The Wilderness jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening frame, but were outscored 5-1 the rest of the way, as Chippewa won 5-3.  The Steel were led by Ethan Benz and Ryan Waltman, who each registered a goal and 2 assists.  Niko Rexine assisted on all 3 Wilderness goals.  In net, Croix Kochendorfer picked up the win with 28 saves, while Jacob Zacharewicz suffered the loss making 24 saves.

Last weekend:  The Wilderness dropped both games in a road series vs. the Janesville Jets last Friday and Saturday by scores of 5-2 and 7-4.  Meanwhile, Chippewa took both games in a home-and-home series vs. the Minnesota Magicians.  On Friday, the Steel won in Richfield, MN, 3-1, and took game 2 of the series in Chippewa Falls on Saturday, 4-3 in overtime.

Wisconsin woes:  After getting creamed last weekend in Janesville, the Wilderness record in Wisconsin now sits at a very cheesy 0-3.  Including Thursday, they’ll have 2 more chances this month to churn out a victory in America’s Dairyland, with another game in Chippewa Falls set for Nov. 26.

Injuries:    Defenseman Makai Mitchell is out for the season due to a lower body injury, forward Haden Kruse is expected to miss about 2 months due to a lower body injury, while goaltender Jacob Zacharewicz has an upper body injury that will keep him out for a so-far undetermined amount of time.

Goaltender added:  With Zacharewicz out, the Wilderness have brought in Paul Cassin to help with netminding duties. Cassin, from Homer Glen, IL, comes from the Team Illinois 18U AAA program.

Special teams sputtering:  The Wilderness hope to turn around both special teams units this weekend.  Last weekend vs. Janesville, the power play had 10 opportunities, but scored only once, while the penalty kill allowed 6 goals on 11 chances.   

 Pionk persists:  Aaron Pionk continues his strong play from the blue line.  The Hermantown, MN, native now has points in 4 of his last 5 games, registering 2 goals and 5 assists during that span.

About the opponent:    The Steel have been getting consistent play from rookie Joseph Grainda.  The Carmel, IN, native has 3 points in his last 2 games and is tied for the team lead in rookie scoring with 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists).  His biggest goal so far came last Saturday when he scored the OT game-winner to beat the MN Magicians.