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Wilderness tandem shares net success

One's from Duluth and the other a waterborne city in Sweden that's about the size of Duluth.

They're both 20 years old, but one's got more junior hockey experience than the other.

They're basically alternating starts in goal for a Minnesota Wilderness team that's close to reaching the holiday break in first place in its North American Hockey League division.

They are Isak Posch and Konrad Kausch, and they're goalies leading the Cloquet junior hockey team that's off to a banner start under first-year head coach Brian Skinner.

"They're both good goalies," Skinner said. "That helps when you're trying to figure out who you're going to play."

Sometimes a position battle can mean a team doesn't have a true starter at all. But in the case of Posch and Kausch, it's proving the opposite: an embarrassment of riches.

The two goalies took time after practice at Northwoods Credit Union Arena last week to speak about their friendly timeshare.

Standing on skates, their helmets tilted back atop their heads, showed just how imposing they must be to would-be playmakers. Which is to say, they're both really big.

"That's what it takes to be a goalie nowadays," said Posch, the Swede from Umeå. "In the NHL, they put the limit at 6-foot-3 as the lowest."

How tall is Posch?

"I'm always 6-3," he cracked.

And Kausch?

"Pert near 6-3," said Kausch, a curly-mopped Duluth East product.

Their statistical numbers are nearly identical. Posch owns 10 wins, seven losses and a tie to go with a 2.26 goals against average and 0.923 save percentage. Sublime numbers, all. Kausch comes into the weekend at 7-2-1, with an even more miniscule 2.01 goals against, and 0.928 save percentage.

"If you want to be a successful team, it's good to have two goalies," Posch said. "It's good to have a partner to take some time off for you, especially with a good team in front of you. It makes it a lot easier."

The Wilderness practice was modern and fast-paced, but featured one relic from Skinner's earlier coaching days - each drill saw skilled players unloading repeated shots on both goalies.

"My first three years in coaching, my head coach was a former goalie and we probably did spend more time than maybe anyone else in our practice-planning thinking about what would be good for the goalies," Skinner said. "They do get to see a lot of (puck) rubber, which is good for them."

Style-wise, the goalies are as different as their grins - Kausch's wide smile to Posch's sly curve to the lip.

It's obvious Kausch likes the glove hand. He snares pucks and holds them high, admiring the glove as if he's posing in an art class titled "Paint the Goalie." Posch is more utilitarian. Known as a good skater, he practices smaller movements. Less appears to be more when it comes to his game.

"We have pretty different playing styles," Kausch said. "But learning from Poscher, he's really good on his feet. For sure I look at what he does, to learn from little things he does."

They both talk about having each other's back, even in the face of their daily competition. Posch said it's nice to have the mental support during a game to help shake off adversity.

"You have personal goals, but, of course, you win as a team," Posch said. "How you perform gives you more opportunities. At the moment we're both playing well."

It's a motivator to see the other put up a gem.

"It pushes you to another gear the next game," Kausch said. "There really are no off days. Having that competitive side every day is really important."

It's too soon to say if Skinner will narrow in on a single starter as the season moves along. He's given most extra starts to Posch, who played with Skinner last year in Sioux Falls, earning the coach's trust.

"It helps when you've got two good goalies at this age," Skinner said. "I believe in that at the junior level. They're good athletes, with good size and they're in shape. You're not necessarily concerned about workload, but we're definitely happy to have them both performing well."

On Sunday, Posch threw up one of the only duds of the season, allowing seven goals in a 7-3 loss to Janesville. He still made 26 saves. In his previous start, he'd allowed the game-winner in a 3-3 shootout loss to Chippewa on Dec. 9.

In between those Posch starts, Kausch made 30 saves Saturday en route to a 4-0 shutout of Janesville. Even the 1-2 weekend kept Minnesota atop the Central Division standings with 37 points, three ahead of second-place Chippewa's 34.

"It's a long season," Posch said. "It's hard to know. Usually a team has one goalie who starts, but it always depends on how the games go."

For now, the team is winning and has scored 14 more goals than it has allowed (83 to 69).

Next year, Posch is committed to play at St. Cloud State University. After that, he hopes there's even more hockey.

"You want to play pro and have a successful career," Posch said.

The NHL is the dream, but there are other stops he'd also gladly make.

"Coming from Europe, I'd be happy playing in pro leagues there and winning a lot of trophies and being recognized as a good goalie," Posch said. "Also, being a good human being outside the hockey arena."

Kausch, who remains uncommitted to college hockey, agreed, looking up to Posch, while learning how to handle the life of a junior player.

"You want to have a good name for yourself around the community," Kausch said. "Hockey is a lot more than a sport, it's being able to help the kids and younger families around you. That's really big. Everybody dreams of the NHL, but there are a lot of options."

For the Wilderness at goalie, those options are two good ones.

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