Who: Minnesota Wilderness vs. Wisconsin Windigo
When: Jan. 13-14, 7:00 p.m. CDT both nights
Where: Eagle River Sports Arena, Eagle River, WI
The lead: Wilderness look to cool down the red-hot Wisconsin Windigo in first ever trip to Eagle River.
Media: All of the action can be seen on Hockeytv.com.
Records: Wisconsin: 16-13-2; Minnesota: 19-10-4
Midwest Division standings
Wisconsin was idle last weekend. The Windigo swept Kenai River in a series on December 30-31, winning 7-0 in game 1, and 4-3 in game 2.
The Wilderness split a pair of games January 6-7 vs. Kenai River, with both games ending in a shootout. The Wilderness took game 1, 4-3, while the Brown Bears came through with a 1-0 win in game 2.
Season series: The Wilderness and Windigo split a weekend series in Cloquet on Oct. 7-8. Minnesota won game 1, 4-0, while the Windigo responded with a 3-2 OT win in game 2.
Shootout Leaders: After getting points in both games when they each went to overtime last weekend, the Wilderness now leads the NAHL with 18 points generated from games that have extended beyond regulation. Minnesota has played in 11 games that have gone to overtime, which is tied for the league lead with Austin, and leads all Midwest Division teams. The Wilderness are 4-1 in games that have ended in overtime and 3-3 in games ending in a shootout.
Posch Starts Both: Last weekend marked the second time this season that goaltender Isak Posch played both games in a home weekend series, and in both weekends, he followed a Friday start with a shutout the next night. The Umeå, Sweden, native kept Kenai scoreless through three periods and overtime Saturday, stopping 31 shots, but failed to earn the win after the Brown Bears outscored the Wilderness 2-1 in the shootout. That performance followed Friday’s shootout win for Posch and Minnesota when the netminder stopped 21 of 24 Kenai shots.
Posch also started both games on Oct. 21-22 when the Wilderness hosted Springfield. That weekend, Posch followed a 1-0 loss on Friday with a 2-0 win on Saturday.
Skinner to Coach at TPT: The NAHL announced this week that Wilderness head coach Brett Skinner will be behind the bench at next month’s Top Prospects Tournament. Skinner will be the head coach for Team Midwest in the event set for February 6-7 just outside Pittsburgh, PA. The TPT is designed to showcase the league’s top players who have not yet committed to play hockey at NCAA institutions. Skinner was named head coach due to Minnesota holding the division’s top point percentage. The Wilderness will also get to send four players to play for Team Midwest—more than any other team in the division. The league will unveil all rosters for the tournament on January 19.
Newcomers: Three new players have been brought in to add depth due to the number of players on injured reserve and Ren Morque’s departure to the USHL:
- Mitch Simmons (D), from Raleigh, NC, was acquired after beginning the season with Bismarck. The 19-year-old played six games for the Bobcats posting two assists and is in his first season of Jr. hockey.
- Makhai Sparks (F), is a 19-year-old veteran from Meridian, ID. Sparks is in his second season of Jr. hockey, with all of his previous experience coming in the NA3HL—splitting 2021-22 with Bozeman and Sheridan, and playing 28 games with Sheridan before coming to Cloquet. With the Sheridan Hawks, he finished second in goals with 25, and points with 47.
- Max Wattvil (D), from Stockholm, Sweden, is a 3-year Jr. hockey veteran, but is playing in his first season in North America. The 20-year-old is committed to play college hockey at Merrimack and began this season with Omaha of the USHL. With the Lancers, Wattvil played 28 games, recording one goal and five assists.
Winning Windigo: While the Windigo may not be positioned high in the Midwest Division standings, it has become one of the league’s hottest teams over the last 2 months. Wisconsin has won 10 of its last 13 games playing a similar style to the Wilderness. The two squads are among the best defensive teams in the NAHL – they are currently tied in goals against at 79 and hold the two lowest goals-against averages in the Midwest Division (they are also tied in goals for at 92). Both teams also have had great success at special teams, although in different categories. While Minnesota is among the league leaders in the power play at just over 28%, The Windigo leads the NAHL in penalty-kill percentage at 88.5%