Wilderness/Windigo Kick Off Battle for Midwest Division Crown

Who:  Minnesota Wilderness vs. Wisconsin Windigo

When: May 5 and 6, 2023, 7:00 p.m. both nights

Where: Eagle River Sports Arena, Eagle River, WI

The lead: The top two seeds in the Midwest Division tangle in games 1 and 2 of the best-of-five division finals, with the second-seeded Minnesota Wilderness visiting the top seed Wisconsin Windigo.

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

Regular Season Records:  Wisconsin: 39-18-3; Minnesota: 35-18-7

Birthday: Forward Reid Daavettila completes another year around the sun when he turns 18 on May 4.

Other NAHL Playoff Series:  Three other division finals open this weekend. In the Central, #1 seed Austin hosts #3 seed St. Cloud; in the East, it’s top seed Maryland vs. third-seeded Maine; and in the South, third-seeded Shreveport hopes to knock off the #1 seed, Oklahoma.  The winners of each division final will meet for the league semi-finals beginning May 21 at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, MN.

Last weekend: Both the Wilderness and Windigo entered last weekend up 2-0 in their best-of-five division semi-final series and needing only one win to advance to the division final round.  Both teams succeeded by winning their game 3 contests April 28.  Wisconsin doubled up Chippewa 4-2, while Minnesota edged Kenai River in overtime, 2-1.

Playoff OT Skid Snapped: The Wilderness OT victory over Kenai last Friday marked the first OT playoff win for the Wilderness since May 6, 2016. That was when the Wilderness needed double overtime to defeat Fairbanks in game 3 of the Midwest Division Finals.  Brett Heikkila recorded that clinching goal which gave Minnesota a 2-1 win.  After that contest, Minnesota went on an 0-5 run, over the course of multiple post-seasons, in OT games.

Cruising in Kenai: By winning Friday, the Wilderness extended its all-time winning streak in Kenai River to nine games.  The last time the Brown Bears defeated Minnesota on their official home ice was on Oct. 25, 2014. This does not include two games held at Breezy Point Arena in Pequot Lakes, MN, which Kenai River established as its temporary home during the 2020-21 season due to COVID restrictions affecting the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. In that season, the Brown Bears won both “home” contests vs. the Wilderness.

USHL Draft: Two Wilderness players were selected in the Phase II portion of the USHL Draft held May 3. Defenseman Beau Janzig was taken by the Sioux Falls Stampede in the 7th round (96th overall), and forward Reid Daavettila was chosen by the Fargo Force in the 16th round (243rd overall).

Marx Norén’s Scoring Trio: After scoring a goal Friday in game 3, Kevin Marx Norén joined exclusive company regarding Wilderness franchise playoff history.  Marx Norén became just the 2nd Wilderness player to score a goal in the first three games of a postseason.  His performance matches the feat achieved by Tim Nicksic in the 2017 playoffs when he recorded red-lighters in the first three games of the 2017 playoffs.

Goalie Comparison: The series between the Wilderness and Windigo will feature the teams posting the 2nd and 3rd lowest goals against allowed so far in the post-season. Much of the credit for that can be given to the starting goaltenders.  Minnesota’s Isak Posch and Wisconsin’s Max Beckford started all three games for their respective squads in the first round.  Posch enters the division finals with a 1.00 goals-against average, which is 4th of all playoff netminders, while Beckford is 5th in the league with a 1.27 GAA. In save percentage, Beckford is 2nd in the NAHL at 96.6, closely followed by Posch, in 3rd, at 96.4.

Special Teams Comparison: The Midwest Division final will display the only 2nd round series where both teams have yet to allow a goal while on the penalty kill. The Wilderness kept Kenai River scoreless on five power play chances, while Wisconsin shut out Chippewa in nine opportunities. On the power play, the Wilderness has the NAHL’s 4th best playoff statistics, at 33.3% (3-for-9), while the Windigo have yet to score on 13 chances with the man-advantage.

Top scorer comparisons: Eight players have stretched twine for Wisconsin thus far in the 2023 playoffs, with Victor Widlund leading the pack. Widlund compiled two goals and two assists for four points in the first round series vs. Chippewa. For the Wilderness, Kevin Marx Norén also leads with four points, after posting three goals and one assist in round 1.  Minnesota has four players who lit the lamp thus far in the post-season.

Regular Season series:

Game # Date Score Location
1 Oct. 7 MNW 4, WIS 0 Cloquet, MN
2 Oct. 8 WIS 3, MNW 2 (OT) Cloquet, MN
3 Jan. 13 WIS 3, MNW 0 Eagle River, WI
4 Jan. 14 WIS 4, MNW 3 Eagle River, WI
5 Feb. 3 WIS 5, MNW 2 Cloquet, MN
6 Feb. 4 WIS 4, MNW 3 (SO) Cloquet, MN
7 Feb. 17 WIS 3, MNW 0 Eagle River, WI
8 Feb. 18 WIS 6, MNW 5 (OT) Eagle River, WI
9 April 6 WIS 1, MNW 0 Cloquet, MN
10 April 7 MNW 3, WIS 2 Cloquet, MN

 Windigo Notes/More on Beckford: One of the puzzles the Wilderness will need to solve in this series is how to beat Max Beckford.  The Windigo netminder was undefeated vs. the Wilderness during the regular season at 5-0, with a 1.40 GAA and save percentage of 95.6. The Toronto native also shut out the Wilderness in his last two starts on April 6 and Feb. 17. Beckford has kept the Wilderness scoreless over a span of 166:29, with Nic Haviar being the last Minnesota player to score on him on Feb. 3.