Who: Minnesota Wilderness vs. St. Cloud Norsemen
When: Friday, 7 p.m. St. Cloud, Saturday, 7:15 p.m. Cloquet
Where: Municipal Athletic Complex in St. Cloud, Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet
The lead: In-state battle features the teams holding the NAHL’s longest current winning streaks
Records: Wilderness: 22-18-1, 45 pts; Norsemen: 27-13-1, 55 pts.
NAHL Midwest Division standings:
St. Cloud Standings: The Norsemen play in the Central Division and are currently in first place, 5 points ahead of 2nd place Austin.
Previous games: The Wilderness defeated Fairbanks in a home matchup on Feb. 12, 7-5, to extend their winning streak to season-high 7.
St. Cloud has won 12 straight, and swept a home-and-and-series last weekend vs. Austin, winning Friday, 5-4, at home, and Saturday, 5-1, on the road.
Season series: The Norsemen won the first two meetings in the season series vs. the Wilderness. St. Cloud took game 1 on Dec. 11 in Cloquet, 5-1, and followed that with a 5-0 win on Dec. 12 at home.
Persson Power: Forward Will Persson continued his strong play two weeks ago with his first NAHL hat trick. He finished the game vs. Fairbanks with 3 goals and 1 assist, including the game-winning goal on the power play in the 3rd period. Persson now has 18 goals on the season, which leads the team.
Gunnar Gears Up: Forward Gunnar Thoreson extended his point-streak to 6 with the win on 2/12. The native of Andover, MN, finished the game with 1 goal and 1 assist, and now leads the team with 42 points.
CCR Crushes one: Defenseman Cole Crusberg-Roseen added to his goal collection on 2/12 with his first tally in the new year. CCR’s 2nd period goal was his first since Dec. 10. His 14 goals on the season continue to lead all league defenseman.
Penalty Box Vacancies: This weekend’s matchup vs. St. Cloud will feature two of the least penalized teams in the NAHL. The Wilderness will enter the game with 624 PIMs, which is 6th lowest in the league, while St. Cloud’s 587 PIMs is 4th in the league.
Bus Driver Donations: The Wilderness are asking fans to help with the medical bills for the family of long-time bus driver Scott Bryant. A crowd funding account has been established for Scott’s wife, Janelle, who recently had to have a kidney transplant. If you would like to help, please donate to https://gofund.me/7b9e340e. Bryant has been the team’s bus drive since its inaugural NAHL season in 2013-14.
St. Cloud Notes: One big reason St. Cloud has the league’s longest winning streak is its penalty-kill, specifically its ability to turn the tide on teams and score short-handed. As a team, the Norsemen lead the league with 14 short-handed goals, while individually, Blake Mesenburg leads all NAHL players with 5.