Kenai River to Make Lone Regular Season Appearance in Cloquet

Who:  Minnesota Wilderness vs. Kenai River Brown Bears

When: Jan. 6-7, 7:15 p.m. CDT both nights

Where:  Northwoods Credit Union Arena, Cloquet, MN

The lead: Kenai River arrives to challenge the Wilderness’ hold on first place with Minnesota’s first games of 2023.

Media:  All of the action can be seen on

Records:  Kenai River: 18-14-1; Minnesota: 18-10-3

Midwest Division standings

Team Points Games played
1 Minnesota 39 31
1 Fairbanks 39 32
3 Kenai River 37 33
3 Janesville 37 33
5 Chippewa 34 31
5 Wisconsin 34 31
5 Anchorage 34 32
8 Springfield 26 28

Last weekend:

Kenai River lost both games in a series at Wisconsin December 30-31.  The Windigo blanked the Brown Bears, 7-0 Friday and followed with a 4-3 victory Saturday.

Minnesota has been idle since Dec. 17.  It split its last series in Springfield, IL. The Wilderness claimed game 1, 3-1 and fell to the Jr. Blues 5-2 in game 2.

Season series:  The Wilderness and Brown Bears have played one game thus far this season.  On Nov. 5, Minnesota defeated Kenai, 2-1, in Soldotna, AK.  The two squads are scheduled to meet again in Soldotna on March 3 and 4.

Scorin’ Marx Noren: In the weekend series at Springfield, Kevin Marx Noren had his best offensive output since his first two games with Minnesota at the NAHL Showcase in September. The veteran forward generated four points with 1 goal and 3 assists over the two games. Marx Noren, from Knivsta, Swe., now leads the Wilderness in goals with 14 and points with 24 over 29 games.

Special Teams Highs and Lows: The series in Springfield was an example of the importance of good special teams. In the win on Dec. 16, the Wilderness scored two power play goals on four chances and kept Springfield scoreless on one opportunity.  On Saturday, it was the opposite, where Springfield had multiple goals on the power play, scoring three on four chances, while Minnesota finished 0 for 2. On the season, Minnesota is 5-0 when scoring more than one power play goal, and 0-3 when the penalty kill allows more than one goal.

Morque Movin’ On Up:  Ren Morque’s performance in the season’s first half has earned him a chance to play in the USHL. The Wilderness this week completed a deal that sends the 2nd year defenseman to the Sioux City Musketeers.  Leading up to the trade, Morque never missed a game while with Minnesota this season; over 31 games, he posted 4 goals and 20 assists for 24 points, and was a key component on the power play, compiling 15 points with the extra man.  In exchange for the Grand Rapids, MN, native, the Wilderness will receive a player to be named later.

Goose Leads Latvia:  Gustavs Ozolins not only led Team Latvia as its captain at the World Junior Championship, he also finished tied for the team lead in points and led the squad in assists.  Goose finished with four assists over his five tournament games.  He unfortunately could not play in his team’s final game due to a lower body injury, but did help Latvia win the best-of-three relegation round versus Austria. Ozolins, who is committed to play NCAA hockey at Bemidji State, picked up an assist in Monday’s 5-2 victory in game 1 of relegation, and could not suit up in game 2, which Latvia also won, 4-2. By winning the relegation round, Latvia secured its participation in the 2024 tournament, set to begin next December in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Military Appreciation: This weekend will mark the Wilderness’ annual appreciation of our men and women who serve the USA in the armed forces.  In both games, Minnesota will wear special military-inspired jerseys, and all active military members and veterans can attend at no charge.

Drotts Homecoming: This weekend will mark Kenai River forward Garrett Drotts’ first games in northern Minnesota since his junior career began.  Drotts, from Deer River, MN, is in his rookie season playing junior hockey, and has already produced some impressive offensive statistics. Drotts leads all NAHL first-year players with 17 goals and 30 points over 33 games.  The former Grand Rapids Thunderhawk has also secured a division 1 college commitment – he is set to play in the NCAA with Augustana University.