Wilderness Meet Steel in Crucial Midwest Division Battle

Who:  Minnesota Wilderness vs. Chippewa Steel

When:  Saturday at 7:15p.m.

Where:  Northwoods Credit Union Arena, Cloquet, MN

The lead:  The Wilderness and Chippewa Steel renew their rivalry with their first game in the 2022 calendar year.  This marks the 6th meeting of the season between the two teams, with Chippewa winning 3 of the first 5.  

Records:  Wilderness:  15-17-1; Chippewa: 16-15-1

NAHL Midwest Division standings:

Team Points Games played
1 Fairbanks  47 34
2 Springfield 44 32
3 Anchorage 41 33
4 MN Magicians 34 31
5 Chippewa 33 32
6 MN Wilderness 31 33
7 Janesville 29 32
8 Kenai River 18 33

Previous games:  The Wilderness split a New Year’s weekend series with Fairbanks.  The first-place Ice Dogs took game 1 Friday, Dec., 31, 2-1, while the Wilderness came back to win Saturday, 5-4.    

Chippewa will be playing its first game since Dec. 18.  The Steel began a 3-week holiday break following a home-and-home series vs. the Minnesota Magicians.  The Magicians took game 1 Dec. 17 in Chippewa Falls, WI, 3-1, while the Steel won game 2 in Richfield, MN, 4-1. 

Balanced Scoresheet:  With 1 assist for Calvin Knight last Saturday, all active Wilderness forwards/defensemen have at least 1 point during the 2021-22 season.  Knight registered his 1st point in his Jr. A career by helping set up Aaron Pionk’s goal in the 2nd period.  Meanwhile, two Wilderness players scored their 1st goals of the 2021-22 season in Saturday’s victory.  Jackson Lucia scored in the 2nd period, while Reid Conn scored the game-winner in the 3rd.

Penalty Kill Progressing:  The Wilderness penalty kill continued its strong play  over the New Year’s holiday weekend, keeping Fairbanks and its potent power-play scoreless throughout the weekend series.  Fairbanks could not solve the Wilderness PK through 4 opportunities in the 2 games.  Overall, the Wilderness have kept opponents scoreless in their last 10 short-handed situations, dating back to Dec. 19.

Daikawa’s Debut:  Kullan Daikawa began his Wilderness career by generating 1 point in each game last weekend vs. Fairbanks. The Lino Lakes, MN, native registered an assist in each game vs. the Ice Dogs.  He was acquired last week from the NA3HL’s Granite City Lumberjacks. Kullan is a forward and son of former Wilderness Assistant Coach Dan Daikawa.

Antenucci Acquired:  The Wilderness this week acquired Sam Antenucci in a trade with the Lone Star Brahmas for Matt McQuade.  Antenucci is a forward in his 4th season of Jr. hockey and is committed to play college hockey at Colorado College.  The Detroit, MI, native also played 2 seasons in the USHL with Sioux City and Omaha after beginning his Jr. career in 2018-19 with the Brookings Blizzard of the NAHL.

Chippewa Notes:  In its first game of 2022, Chippewa hopes to continue to see strong play from top scorer Ethan Benz.  The Shakopee, MN, native scored 2 goals in his team’s last game of 2021 on the road at the Minnesota Magicians.  Benz has scored 13 goals this season and has added 17 assists for 30 points.  He leads the Steel in all 3 offensive categories.