Who: Minnesota Wilderness vs. Kenai River Brown Bears and Anchorage Wolverines
When: Saturday, Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m. AKDT; Sunday, Nov. 6, 4:00 p.m. AKDT
Where: Saturday at Soldotna Sports Center, Soldotna, AK (to play Kenai); Sunday at Ben Boeke Ice Arena, Anchorage, AK (to play Anchorage)
The lead: Wilderness hit Alaska’s rugged southern coast to meet two rugged oppoents.
Media: All of the action can be seen on Hockeytv.com.
Records: Kenai River: 12-6-1, Anchorage: 7-7-3; Minnesota: 8-5-2
Midwest Division standings
Last weekend: Kenai River played a 3-game series at home vs. Chippewa. The Steel won the first two contests, 5-1 and 5-3, while the Brown Bears claimed the Sunday finale, 2-1.
Anchorage also had a 3-game set, as it took on Wisconsin at home. Again, the road team was victorious twice—the Windigo won Friday, 7-3, and Sunday, 7-2, while the Wolverines came out on top in the Saturday game, 5-3.
Minnesota split a home-and-home series vs. St. Cloud, with the St. Cloud taking the game in Cloquet, Friday, 4-1, while the Wilderness blew out the Norsemen Saturday in St. Cloud, 9-0.
Season series: This will mark the first meeting of the season between Minnesota and Kenai River. The Wilderness and Anchorage played three times Sept. 30-Oct.2 in Cloquet, with the Wilderness winning three close games: 3-2 (OT), 2-1, and 4-3 (OT)
All-time series: The Wilderness and Brown Bears have met 24 times, going back to the 2013-14 season, when Minnesota entered the NAHL. The Wilderness lead the all-time series, 17-7, including winning all five matchups in 2021-22.
Minnesota also leads the all-time regular season series vs. Anchorage, 6-3, with the first six meetings coming in Anchorage’s first season in the NAHL In 2021-22. In the post-season, the Wolverines have the upper hand after beating the Wilderness 3-games-to-1 in last season’s Midwest Division final.
Well-behaved Wilderness: Despite being penalized for 35 minutes last weekend, the Wilderness remain among the least penalized teams in the NAHL. Minnesota has logged 148 minutes in penalties throughout 2022-23. That is the lowest amount in the Midwest Division and third lowest in the entire league.
Thoreson/Kausch Win Honors: Teammates presented Gunnar Thoreson and Konrad Kausch with post-game awards following Saturday’s 9-0 win over St. Cloud. Thoreson, a forward, scored his first two goals of the season and added two assists to earn the player of the game award. Kausch was given the hard hat award as the winning goaltender, stopping all 16 shots he faced and picking up his first shutout of the season. The pair were also given honorable mentions by the NAHL for the Midwest Division Star of the Week award.
Primates Pealed: A 9-goal game can do a lot to help individual stats, and it allowed five players (including Thoreson – mentioned above) to shake monkeys off their backs in generating either their first goal or first point with the Wilderness for this season. Defenseman Michael Quinn and forward Hunter Bulger each lit the lamp for the first time in a Wilderness uniform. Quinn registered two while Bulger hit the back of the net with a 2nd period empty-net tally. Meanwhile, forward Blake Stafford’s 2nd period assist was not only his first point since joining Minnesota it was the 2-year veteran’s first ever point as a junior A player. Defenseman Severi Sulonen also wiped the goose egg off his season point totals by picking up two assists.
Adding to a weekend of firsts was defenseman Brian Lonergan, who scored his first goal in Friday night’s loss, and added his first assist on Saturday.
Kenai River Notes: A Northland native is pacing the Brown Bears’ early season scoring stats. Garrett Drotts is on top of Kenai’s goal-scoring stats with 9 red-lighters, after scoring two in their last outing last Saturday vs. Chippewa. The former Grand Rapids Thunderhawk is 2nd on the Brown Bears in points with 15 and recently announced his commitment to play college hockey at Augustana.
Anchorage Note: Forward Aidan Westin appears to have returned to his form from the 2021-22 season. The 5-year Jr. hockey veteran recorded 51 points in 54 games last season, but a slow start left him with only three for the first nine games of this season. The Anchorage native has since come alive and has registered at least 1 point in his last eight games. Over that span, Westin (who is committed to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks) has generated 7 goals and 7 assists, and was recognized by the NAHL as runner-up for the October Forward of the Month award.