Who: Minnesota Wilderness vs. Kenai River Brown Bears
When: April 21 and 22; 7:15 p.m. each night; if necessary: April 23, 5:15 p.m.
Where: Northwoods Credit Union Arena, Cloquet, MN
The lead: The Minnesota Wilderness and Kenai River Brown Bears kick off the Midwest Division Semi-Finals Friday night in the first of what could be three straight playoff games in Cloquet.
Media: All of the action can be seen on Hockeytv.com.
Regular Season Records: Kenai River: 32-24-4; Minnesota: 35-18-7
Final Midwest Division standings
|3||Kenai River (x)||68||60|
x=clinched playoff spot; y=clinched first place
Last weekend: Kenai River split its final regular season weekend series vs. Anchorage. In Soldotna, AK, the Brown Bears slipped past the Wolverines in a shootout Friday night, 5-4, before the Wolverines closed out the series with a 5-3 win Saturday.
The Wilderness pulled off a road sweep vs. the Chippewa Steel, winning 2-1 Friday and 6-3 Saturday.
Road Warriors: Last weekend’s sweep of Chippewa allowed the Wilderness to finish with its best regular season road record in team history. With a 19-8-3 mark, the team surpassed the previous best set in 2014-15, when it finished 17-9-4. The road schedule reflects 28 games played in opposing team’s arenas + two games at the NAHL Showcase. Minnesota completed a home record of 16-10-4.
Kenai’s road record finished 17-11-2, while at home, it compiled a 15-13-2 mark.
Other Midwest Division series: #1 Wisconsin vs. #4 Chippewa has its first 2 games this weekend in Eagle River, WI.
Alaska Schedule Rules in effect: Due to the 3,000+ miles separating Cloquet and Soldotna, AK, this series will follow the special Alaska divisional playoff round scheduling. That means the date and location of Game 3 depends on what happens in Games 1 and 2.
Game 1: Friday, April 21 @ Cloquet, 7:15pm
Game 2: Saturday, April 22 @ Cloquet, 7:15pm
Game 3: If Minnesota is up 2-0, Friday, April 28 @ Kenai River, 7:30pm AK time
Game 3: If series is tied 1-1 or Kenai River is up 2-0, Sunday, April 23 @ Cloquet, 5:15pm
Game 4: Friday, April 28 or Saturday, April 29 @ Kenai River, 7:30pm AK time
Game 5: Saturday, April 29 or Sunday, April 30 @ Kenai River, 7:30pm AK time
Season series: The Wilderness were victorious in 4 of 5 regular season meetings:
|1||Nov. 5||MNW 2, KNR 1||Soldotna, AK|
|2||Jan. 6||MNW 4, KNR 3 (SO)||Cloquet, MN|
|3||Jan. 7||KNR 1, MNW 0 (SO)||Cloquet, MN|
|4||March 3||MNW 4, KNR 1||Soldotna, AK|
|5||March 4||MNW 4, KNR 1||Soldotna, AK|
PIM Contrast: This playoff series will feature teams who finished at the extreme ends of team penalty minute totals in the Midwest Division. Kenai River’s 1095 PIMs led the division, while Minnesota’s 688 finished 8th and set a team record for lowest regular season PIMs.
Stars Will be Out: The latest to be named the top two stars in the Midwest Division will face-off in this series. Wilderness forward Kevin Marx Norén was named the star of the week for his three goal/one assist performance last weekend at Chippewa, while Kenai forward Nick Stevens was named 2nd star after he posted four points vs. Anchorage. Stevens finished with one goal, three assists in the split vs. the Wolverines.
Hot Tenders: This series will feature two goaltenders who finished the regular season with 25+ victories.
- Brown Bears’ Nils Wallstrom: 26-16-3, 2.89 GAA, 92% save percentage, 4 shutouts.
- Wilderness’ Isak Posch: 25-13-6, 2.12 GAA, 92.6% save percentage, 4 shutouts.
Top Scorers: Marx Norén finished atop the Wilderness scoring and set a franchise record for most single-season goals and finished tied for the NAHL lead in goals. Grand Rapids native Garrett Drotts topped the scoring for Kenai.
- Marx Norén: 34 goals/26 assists, 60 pts.
- Drotts: 27 goals/26 assists, 53 pts.
Special Teams #s: Wilderness PP: 48 for 189 (25.4%); PK: 154 for 189 (81.48%);
Brown Bears PP 36 for 186 (19.4%); PK 181 for 231 (78.4%)
Into the Wilderness: Special players-only playoff preview show is available now!