First Place Wilderness Embark on Wisconsin Tour

Who:  Minnesota Wilderness at Chippewa Steel and Janesville Jets

When: Dec..9 and 10, 7:00 p.m. CDT and Dec. 11, 3:00 p.m. CDT

Where:  Friday night at Chippewa Area Ice Arena, Chippewa Falls, WI; Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Janesville Arena, Janesville, WI

The lead:  The Wilderness get their first chance in five years to defend a first-place position with trips to Chippewa Falls and Janesville.

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

Records:  Chippewa: 15-10-2; Janesville: 12-8-6; Minnesota: 16-8-2

Midwest Division standings

Team Points Games played
1 Minnesota 34 26
2 Fairbanks 33 29
3 Chippewa 32 27
4 Kenai River 31 27
5 Janesville 30 26
6 Anchorage 27 26
7 Wisconsin 25 25
8 Springfield 22 24

Last weekend:

  • Chippewa took on Fairbanks in a pair of games at Red Baron Arena in Marshall, MN. The Steel were victorious in both contests by scores of 4-3 and 6-3.
  • Janesville was idle last weekend after visiting Minnesota on Nov. 25-26. The Wilderness swept the 2-game series by identical scores of 4-3, with the Saturday night game ending in a shootout.
  • Minnesota split a home-and-home series with St. Cloud, dropping game 1, 1-0, and winning game 2, 4-1.

Season series:

  • Versus Chippewa, this will be Minnesota’s 4th of 10 meetings scheduled between the two squads this season. They played their three previous games on Nov. 18, 19 (both in Chippewa Falls) and 23 (in Cloquet). with the Wilderness winning game 1 in overtime, 4-3, the Steel countering with a 5-2 triumph in game 2, while Minnesota needed a shootout to win game 3, 2-1.
  • Minnesota and Janesville are schedule to meet six more times this season, with this weekend’s games being their third and fourth meetings.

View from the Top: The Wilderness win Saturday, combined with Fairbanks’ loss to Chippewa, vaulted Minnesota into a divisional position they have not held in almost five years. The last time the Wilderness held first place was Jan. 5, 2018, when it led the Central Division.  That tenure in the top spot only lasted five days (1/31/2017 to 1/5/2018) in a season in which it finished in third place. Prior to that, Minnesota was the sole leader of the Midwest Division for 59 days, from Dec. 31, 2014, to Feb. 28, 2015.  The Wilderness relinquished its lead to Fairbanks but snuck back to again tie the Ice Dogs for the top spot on the final day of the regular season, although Fairbanks was officially declared the division-winner due to having more wins.

Johnson Jam: Adam Johnson came through with his best goal output of the season Saturday.  The forward from Mahtomedi, MN, netted two goals, including the game-winner in the victory over St. Cloud. Johnson has now scored three goals in his last three games, compared to only one goal in his first 23 games this season.

Goose Returns to WJC: Defenseman Gustavs Ozolins will again get a chance to represent his country at the World Junior Championships.  Ozolins will skate for Team Latvia at the tournament scheduled to begin Dec. 26. The Canadian cities of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick will co-host the event. Ozolins, who hails from Riga, Latvia, also played in the previous WJC, which was held in Edmonton, Alberta, last August. In that tournament, Latvia advanced to the quarter finals for the first time in its WJC history where it was eliminated by Sweden.  Ozolins scored the lone Team Latvia goal in its quarter-final contest.

Wilderness Birthday:  Forward and co-captain Cole Gordon is celebrating a birthday this week. The 3-year Jr. hockey veteran from Windsor, CO, will turn 20 on Dec. 9.

Steel Chips:  Sam Rice played a big part in the Steel’s sweep of Fairbanks last weekend. The native of Prior Lake, MN, was named the Midwest Division Star of the Week for his 4-point performance. On Friday night, Rice notched one goal and one assist, and completed the weekend with a 2-goal game on Saturday night

Jet Fuel:  Janesville can credit Connor Deturris for allowing it to earn its lone point in its trip to Cloquet last month.  The 2nd year Jr hockey veteran scored a 3rd period goal that tied Saturday’s game and helped force overtime.  The forward from Naperville, IL, led his teammates with three points on the weekend series, with one goal and two assists.