Wilderness Set for First Meetings vs. Chippewa

Who:  Minnesota Wilderness vs. Chippewa Steel

When: Nov. 18-19, 7:00 p.m. CDT both games and Nov. 23, 7:15 p.m.

Where:  Nov. 18-19 at Chippewa Area Arena, Chippewa Falls, WI; Nov. 23 at Northwoods Credit Union Arena, Cloquet, MN

The lead:  The Wilderness resume play in the lower 48 with three consecutive vs. the Chippewa Steel.

Media:  All of the action can be seen on Hockeytv.com.

Records:  Fairbanks: 12-8; Minnesota: 11-6-2

Midwest Division standings

Team Points Games played
1 Janesville 28 22
1 Fairbanks 28 23
3 Kenai River 27 23
4 Minnesota 24 19
4 Chippewa 24 20
6 Anchorage 20 20
7 Springfield 18 20
8 Wisconsin 17 21

Last weekend:  Chippewa was idle on Nov. 11-12.  On the previous weekend, it split a pair of home games vs. Wisconsin. The Steel triumphed on Nov. 4, 4-3, while the Windigo captured the win on Nov. 5, 6-3.

The Wilderness traded wins with Fairbanks on Nov. 11-12. Minnesota took game 1 of the series, 2-1, while Fairbanks earned a 5-3 victory in game 2.

Season series: The Wilderness have dominated the Chippewa/Coulee Region franchise since Minnesota’s debut season in 2013-14. At 62 games, this is the franchise the Wilderness has faced more than any other in its history, and it holds a lead of 38-17-7.  At Chippewa Area Arena, the Wilderness still holds a lead, albeit much slimmer at 6-4-1. At Northwoods Credit Union Arena, Minnesota has a record of 20-8-3.  The Steel won the season series in 2021-22 with a 5-3-2 mark.

In the playoffs, the two teams met once, in 2014-15, when the Steel were known as the Coulee Region Chill and based in La Crosse, WI.  Minnesota won that series, 3-games-to-2.

Cool Quinn:  After sitting out the game on Nov. 6 due to a minor injury, defenseman Michael Quinn returned to register assists in both games vs. Fairbanks.  It was the 2nd time this season the veteran from St. Louis, MO, had to miss time due to an injury. In his first hiatus, Quinn missed 11 games and has made the most of his time since coming back,  recording at least 1 point in 5 of his last six games, including the last 4.

Hail Cesario: Joe Cesario has appeared to regain the scoring consistency he set at the beginning of the season. The rookie from Denver, CO, began the year with 10 pts in his first 11 games. That was followed by a 4-game dry spell, which he suddenly shook off once the team arrived in Alaska.  Cesario earned an assist in each of the games at Kenai River, Anchorage, and both in Fairbanks.  His seven goals, seven assists and 14 points lead all Wilderness rookies.

Alumni History Made:  The 13th NHL game for Cole Koepke failed to be a curse for the rookie forward, as he scored his first NHL goal Sunday (which happened to be Nov. 13) vs. the Washington Capitals. That goal makes the Two Harbors, MN, native the first former Wilderness to score a goal in the big league. Assisting on the goal was Brayden Point and Pat Maroon, and the goaltender he beat was Charlie Lindgren. Koepke played 10 games with the Wilderness at the tail end of the 2015-16 season after completing his senior season of hockey at Hermantown High School.  He also skated in 8 of 9 games of the 2016 Robertson Cup playoffs.

Pineau Commits: Former Wilderness defenseman Alex Pineau also had a memorable weekend. On Saturday, Pineau announced he intends to play his college hockey at Brown University of the ECAC.  After spending last season playing 26 games with Minnesota, along with all nine playoff games, the Thunder Bay, ONT., native now skates for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL.

First 23-24 Tender Inked: The Wilderness announced last week that it has brought in a forward from the Esmark Stars AAA program as its first 2023-24 tender. Wes Schwarzmiller is a 2005 birth year from Bridgeville, PA.  He is in his second season with the Esmark program.  This season, with the 18UAAA squad, Schwarzmiller put up six goals, 13 assists for 19 points in the Stars’ 8 game NAPHL schedule.

Steel Notes: Chippewa goaltender Carter Wishart has had an impressive stretch since the beginning of October.  The rookie from Chaska, MN, won all of his starts in the month of October, and his first in November, going 5-0 in that span.  Wishart’s record is 6-2 with a 2.23 GAA and .927 save percentage with one shutout.