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Wilderness promote new head coach

The Minnesota Wilderness announced Monday that Brett Skinner had been promoted to head coach. In a corresponding move, David Boitz announced he was stepping down from head coaching to focus solely on being the team’s general manager.

Skinner had arrived in August as an associate head coach, acquitting himself immediately on his way to becoming the fifth head coach in the franchise’s North American Hockey League history.

Skinner — a Brandon, Manitoba native — quickly convinced his new boss he could handle the role of head coach.

“Brett is going to be an outstanding coach for our program,” Boitz said in a team news release. “His ability to teach in practice and create an environment for our players to learn and develop is exactly what we were looking for in a coach. I have no doubt that Brett beginning his head coaching career with the Wilderness will be a start to a very long and successful coaching career.”

Prior to being hired by the Wilderness, Skinner was an assistant coach with the Sioux Falls Stampede for five seasons, taking part as the Stampede won the Clark Cup in 2019.

“I would like to thank the Wilderness owners and GM Dave Boitz for giving me this opportunity,” Skinner said. “I’m excited to be a part of the process of the player development of the athletes that pass through the Minnesota Wilderness organization.”

Skinner had a successful playing career. His 12 seasons included a stint in the NHL with the New York Islanders, an AHL Calder Cup championship with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and a European pro league title while playing in the Czech Republic. He also won two national championships in college with Denver University.

Boitz took over as head coach for the second time in his tenure with the Wilderness prior to the 2021-22 season. He guided the team to a spot in the 2022 Robertson Cup playoffs, where it was eliminated in the second round by the Anchorage Wolverines.

Boitz also led the team during the 2018-19 season.

Wilderness open


The Wilderness were swept in their season-opening series against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs last weekend, falling 6-2 and 3-2, in Cloquet.

The Wilderness outshot the Ice Dogs both nights, including 36-24 on Saturday at Northwoods Credit Union Arena, and 70-56 overall on the weekend.

Konrad Kausch, in his first start in goal, took the loss Saturday for Minnesota, making 22 saves. Isak Posch made 25 saves Friday in his first start.

The series marked the first meeting between the Midwest Division rivals since last spring’s best-of-five division semifinal series won by Minnesota, 3-2.

Joe Cesario scored two goals in the weekend series for the Wilderness. Veteran defenseman Ren Morque assisted on all four Minnesota goals over the weekend.

It was a quick turnaround for Minnesota, with the Wilderness traveling to Blaine, Minnesota, this week for the NAHL Showcase tournament — an event in which all 29 league teams participate across four days at the National Sports Center’s Super Rink.

The Wilderness (0-3-0) kicked off their schedule Wednesday night, taking a 3-1 loss against the Shreveport Mudbugs. Cole Gordon fired in his second goal of the season on a power play for Minnesota. Posch was stellar in the net for the Wilderness, with the veteran netminder from Umea, Sweden, finishing with 30 saves on 32 shots.

The Wilderness had remaining Showcase games against the Northeast (Attleboro, Massachusetts) Generals, the El Paso Rhinos and the Bismarck Bobcats. Minnesota played Northeast on Thursday, El Paso at 4:45 p.m., Friday, and Bismarck at 5:15 p.m., Saturday.

Minnesota, competing in its 10th season, has a long history against Bismarck, owning a 31-21-4 edge in the series.