Wilderness and Norsemen to Tangle in Home-and-Home

Who:  Minnesota Wilderness vs. St. Cloud Norsemen

When:  Friday, 7:15pm; Saturday, 7:00pm

Where:  Friday, Northwoods Credit Union Arena, Cloquet, MN; Saturday, Municipal Athletic Complex, St. Cloud, MN

The lead:  These games feature one of the NAHL’s highest scoring teams, the Wilderness, vs one of the best defensive teams, the Norsemen.  The Wilderness enter the series 3rd in the league in goals scored with 99, while St. Cloud, has allowed only 62, which is also 3rd in the league.  

Records:  Wilderness:  13-12-1; St. Cloud: 11-9

NAHL Midwest Division standings:

Team Points Games played
1 Fairbanks  37 27
2 Springfield 35 26
3 Chippewa  31 28
4 Anchorage 29 24
5 MN Magicians 28 26
6 MN Wilderness 26 26
7 Janesville 21 25
8 Kenai River 10 24

Out-of-Division Collision:  This weekend marks the 1st game outside of their respective divisions for each team since the NAHL Showcase ended on Sept. 18.  St. Cloud plays in the Central Division, and currently sits in 5th place out of 6 teams.  The Norsemen have 22 points and are 5 points behind Aberdeen in 4th, and 7 points ahead of Bismarck in 6th.  However, St. Cloud has played anywhere from 3-6 fewer games than their division rivals.

Last weekend:  The Wilderness dropped both games vs. Fairbanks in a series played in Marshall, MN, by scores of 5-3 and 6-3.  St. Cloud swept a home-and-home series vs. North Iowa, winning in Mason City, IA, Friday, 4-2, and in St. Cloud Saturday, 3-2 in OT.

Power-less Play:  The Wilderness power-play showed signs of life last weekend, picking up one goal Friday, but overall struggled, finishing 1 for 9 in the 2 losses to Fairbanks.  The Wilderness have been successful only once in their last 23 man-advantage opportunities, dating back to their last victory on Nov. 20.

The Mighty Thoreson:  Forward Gunnar Thoreson continues his consistent offensive production.  Thoreson added to his totals with 2 assists last weekend, and now has points in his last seven games.  Along with being tied for the team lead in points (30) and assists (21), Thoreson leads the Wilderness in plus/minus at +16.  

Duffy Debut:  Ian Duffy will make his first appearance in a Jr. A hockey game this weekend.  Duffy comes to the Wilderness as an affiliate player from the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite U18.  The forward from Chester Springs, PA, has 2 goals and 3 assists through 6 games with the Penguins Elite.    

St. Cloud Notes:  3-year Jr. hockey veteran Ryan O’Neill has been leading the offensive charge for the Norsemen this season.  The Roseville, MN, native leads the team in goals (9), assists (15) and points (24) through 18 games.  He also leads the team in game-winning goals with 3, with his 3rd coming last Saturday in overtime to lead his team past the North Iowa Bulls.  O’Neill is currently committed to play college hockey at the University of St. Thomas.