The 2022-23 Minnesota Wilderness season has come to an end. After a 35-win regular season, and advancing through two playoff rounds to capture its 2nd Midwest Division title in team history, Minnesota’s post-season run ended Saturday night at the hands of the Oklahoma Warriors.
The Warriors took game 2 of the Robertson Cup playoffs 3-1 to sweep the best of three series 2-games-to-none and punch its ticket to play in the league championship game Tuesday night in Blaine, MN.
Brendan Williams scored all three Oklahoma goals, and Daniel Duris made 27 saves to earn the victory in net. The Wilderness were held off the scoreboard until the final minute when Cole Gordon broke through with his first marker of the 2023 post-season.
William Lawson-Body helped set up all of Williams’ goals: the first with 5:29 left in the first period, while the 2nd and 3rd came in the final period with 6:37 and 1:42 left in the frame. The final goal to complete the hat trick was scored with the Wilderness net empty, as goaltender Isak Posch was pulled for an extra attacker.
Gordon’s goal came off a face-off the Windsor, CO, native won in the circle to the right of Duris. Gordon drew the puck to Michael Quinn on the left boards, and Quinn then sent it to Max Wattvil along the blue line. Wattvil then fired the puck toward the Warrior net where it was redirected by Gordon past Duris with 42 seconds remaining.
With that assist, Quinn earned his 10th post-season point, setting a new Wilderness career record for post-season points by a defenseman—previously set by Ivan Chukarov over the 2014 and 2015 playoffs.
Minnesota had an opportunity to take an early lead when Reid Daavettila broke through with a breakaway within the first few minutes of the opening frame, only to have it turned aside by Duris.
The Wilderness were also shutout on three power play chances, while Oklahoma failed to convert on its lone opportunity with the man-advantage.
Posch finished the night with 26 saves, and the loss dropped his post-season record to 6-3.
The loss also ends the junior careers of Posch, along with others born in 2002, including Gordon, Wattvil, Hunter Bulger, Bo Cosman, Charlie Erickson, Nicolas Haviar, Kevin Marx Norén, Donovan O’Neill, Sawyer Scholl and Gunnar Thoreson.
“Really proud of the group for their effort during the series,” said first year Minnesota head coach Brett Skinner.
“We laid it all on the line and unfortunately came up short. From start to finish this season, it was a great group to work with that continued to get better as the season went on and I genuinely enjoyed the journey we were on together”
The next phase for the Wilderness will be to begin the process of building its team for the 2023-24 season. That starts with a series of pre-draft camps, the first of which is scheduled for June 2-4 in Trenton, MI. Details on its camps can be found at wildernesshockey.com and nahl.com. The NAHL draft will be held June 14.