Who: Minnesota Wilderness in 4 games vs. Shreveport Mudbugs, Northeast Generals, El Paso Rhinos, and Bismarck Bobcats
When: vs. Shreveport Wednesday, 7:15 p.m., vs. Northeast Thursday, 4:45 p.m., vs. El Paso Friday, 4:45 p.m., and vs. Bismarck Saturday, 5:15 p.m.
Where: Super Rink, National Sports Center, Blaine, MN
The lead: The 2022-23 season kicks into high gear as the Wilderness face a Showcase slate with three of its four opponents having made the 2022 NAHL playoffs.
Media: All of the action can be seen on Hockeytv.com.
Showcase opponent 2021-22 results:
|Shreveport||South||34-21-5 74 pts||4th||Lost in South Division Semi-finals to Lone Star|
|Northeast||East||35-24-1 71 pts||4th||Lost in East Division Semi-finals to New Jersey|
|El Paso||South||15-41-4 34 pts||8th||Did not qualify|
|Bismarck||Central||29-27-4 62 pts||4th||Lost in Central Division Semi-finals to St. Cloud|
Last weekend: The Wilderness opened its 10th NAHL season vs. the Fairbanks Ice Dogs with a 2-game home series. Fairbanks took game 1 Friday, 6-2, and followed with a 3-2 win Saturday.
Shreveport, El Paso and Bismarck will open their seasons at the NAHL Showcase on Wednesday and did not play last weekend. Northeast opened its season with a road series at the Maine Nordiques. Maine took game 1 Friday, 6-3, and Northeast countered with a 4-1 win Saturday.
All-Time Regular Season Series:
- Wednesday’s game between Shreveport and Minnesota will be the 2nd meeting all-time between the two franchises. The Wilderness won the inaugural matchup, 3-0, in 2019.
- Minnesota will mark its first ever games vs. Northeast and El Paso this week.
- Bismarck and Minnesota have a long history. Until 2021-22, the two squads had played each other at least 4 times each season since Minnesota entered the NAHL in 2013, with the Wilderness leading the all-time regular season series 31-21-4. The two were also rivals in the Central Division for 5 seasons, and their last meeting was in a playoff series. The Bobcats swept the Wilderness 3-games-to-none in the 2021 Central Division Semi-finals. Saturday’s contest will be the first time the two teams will meet in the NAHL Showcase.
About the Coaches:
- Wednesday’s game will mark the first since Brett Skinner was officially announced as the Wilderness new head coach, and it will be the first time ever coaching at the NAHL Showcase for him and assistants Kyle Brodie and Clay Wilson.
- Jason Campbell has been part of Shreveport’s staff since the team entered the league in 2016. Since then, the Mudbugs have captured two Robertson Cup championships—with Campbell as an assistant in 2018 and as head coach in 2021. He is entering his fifth season leading the Shreveport coaching staff.
- Bryan Erikson has also been part of Northeast’s coaching staff since the team’s inception in 2016, while also holding the general manager role. He started as the Generals’ head coach during the team’s inaugural season and followed that with three seasons as an assistant. Erikson reclaimed head coaching duties in the middle of the 2019-20 season and has held it ever since. He coached the team to a franchise record 35 wins in 2021-22.
- El Paso’s Joe Coombs will make his debut as the Rhinos bench boss this week. Coombs has a long history as an NAHL head coach. He previously spent 9 seasons leading the Jamestown Rebels franchise—which goes back to when the team existed as the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, Aston Rebels and Philadelphia Rebels.
- Layne Sedevie is going into this 13th season as the Bismarck bench boss. His tenure is the longest of all active NAHL coaches. Prior to being named head coach in 2010-11, Sedevie served one season as an assistant, and helped lead the team to a Robertson Cup championship. As head coach, he has compiled a record of 393-261-60.
Cesario and Morque Shine in First Weekend: Despite dropping both games vs. Fairbanks, the Wilderness saw 2 players shine well enough to land themselves among the top league scorers for the weekend.
- Veteran defenseman Ren Morque assisted on all four Minnesota goals, and his four points put him in a tie for the league lead in points and assists. For his efforts, Morque was named Midwest Division 2nd Star of the Week.
- Rookie forward Joe Cesario scored single goals each night, and his two goals put him just one behind the three scored by Sixten Jennersjo of Northeast.
Strong power play premier: Both of Cesario’s goals over the weekend were scored with the Wilderness on the man-advantage. Minnesota finished Friday 1-for-2 on the power play, and Saturday 1-for-3, and has started the season with a 40% power play success rate.
Penalty Kill crash: It’s a good bet the Wilderness were doing some work on the penalty kill in this week’s practices. Minnesota gave up two opponent power play goals in last weekend’s contests vs. Fairbanks on five chances.
Shooting gallery: While Fairbanks picked up the “W”s in both of last weekend’s games, they were put to the test in both contests. The Wilderness managed to outshoot the Ice Dogs in four of the six periods played over the two games. The two also managed to tie in shots in the 3rd period Saturday; therefore, the Ice Dogs only managed to outshoot Minnesota in one period—the 3rd period of Friday night’s contest. Final shots over the two games were Minnesota 70, Fairbanks 56.