Wilderness and Steel Meet on Opposite Trajectories

Who:  Minnesota Wilderness vs. Chippewa Steel

When:  Friday at 7p.m., Saturday at 7:15p.m.

Where:  Friday at Chippewa Area Hockey Arena, Chippewa Falls, WI; Saturday at Northwoods Credit Union Arena, Cloquet, MN

The lead: Wilderness, winners of 4 straight, meet the Steel, winless in their last 4 

Records:  Wilderness:  19-18-1, 39 pts; Steel: 17-18-2, 36 pts.

NAHL Midwest Division standings:

Team Points Games played
1 Springfield 52 36
1 Fairbanks 52 39
3 Anchorage 45 36
4 MN Wilderness 39 38
4 MN Magicians 39 38
6 Chippewa 36 37
7 Janesville 35 37
8 Kenai River 23 39

Previous games:  The Wilderness completed a second consecutive sweep of the Minnesota Magicians to extend their winning streak to 4.  They won Friday at home 5-3, and Saturday in Richfield, 7-0.  Chippewa Traveled to Springfield and lost both games in the road series by identical 5-2 scores.  

Season series:  These will be the 7th and 8th meetings of the season for these two teams.  The Steel have won 4 of the previous 6, including the last 3.   

TPT Talent:  The NAHL this week announced the rosters for its Top Prospects Tournament, to be played Feb. 7-8 at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township, PA. The tournament is primarily made up of players who have not yet secured college commitments, with a handful of exceptions made for those identified as prospects by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau (CSB).  The Wilderness will have two defensemen representing the Midwest Division:  Max Ruoho, an uncommitted 20-year-old from Verona, WI, and Aaron Pionk, a 19-year-old from Hermantown who recently committed to MSU-Mankato and who was recently included on the CSB’s mid-season report for June’s upcoming NHL draft.

Massive Margin: Saturday’s 7-0 win over the Minnesota Magicians ties a Wilderness record for largest margin of victory for a road game.  The previous record was set on March 28, 2015, in an 8-1 win over the Coulee Region Chill. 

Max-mania!  Max Neill is currently in the midst of his longest goal-scoring streak of his NAHL career.  The forward from Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, has scored in each of his last 4 games. The biggest of the goals scored in that span came last Friday, when his tally with 3:20 left in the 2nd period resulted in being the game-winner. 

Deuces Wild: Gunnar Thoreson jumped into a tie for the team’s lead in assists last weekend, while continuing his own type of point streak.  Thoreson has now posted 2 assists in 3-consecutive games.  The 6 helpers now give him 28 on the season, which places him even with Max Ruoho in that stat category.  

Friday Firsts:  Two rookie forwards posted career firsts Friday.  Bryce Howard scored twice for his first 2-goal game, while Calvin Knight’s 3 assists gave him his first multi-point game.  Howard is a Celina, TX, native now with 7 goals and 4 assists for 11 points on the season, while Knight, from Thornton, CO, has 4 points, all from assists.

 Steel Notes:    Three Steel players will be headed to PA for next month’s Top Prospects tournament.  Chippewa’s representatives include two forwards and a goalie, all from Minnesota.  Ethan Benz, from Shakopee, and Jack Brown, from Woodbury, will skate as forwards for Team Midwest, and they’ll be joined by goaltender and St. Paul-native Croix Kochendorfer.