A hometown newspaper with a local office, local owners & lots of local news

Wilderness make tiny bit of history in Wisconsin

The Minnesota Wilderness eclipsed a hurdle last weekend, when it won a regular season game in Eagle River, Wisconsin for the first time in franchise history. But it needed a thrashing first, losing 7-1 to the Wisconsin Windigo on Jan. 12 before winning a 4-3 shootout on Saturday.

The split allowed Minnesota to remain in sole possession of first place in the Midwest Division, as the Wilderness (22-12-3) now sits two points ahead of Janesville (21-10-3), which is now tied for second with Wisconsin (20-10-5). Minnesota owns 47 points compared to its closest challengers at 45.

Minnesota’s Nick Erickson earned the start in net in both games, taking the loss Friday and earning the win Saturday. The veteran netminder was pulled in game one after Wisconsin scored three times over a 1-minute, 11-second span in the second period to take a 4-1 lead. Newcomer Adam Mӧller, who was playing in his first game with the Wilderness after being acquired this week, finished the contest making 15 of 18 saves over 27:55.

A fighting major called on Minnesota defenseman Nolan Bettens led to a suspension that carried over into Saturday night’s game. That led to a depleted defensive corps, as the Wilderness dressed only five blue-liners in game two.

That did not deter the Wilderness effort, as the team managed to finally win in Eagle River. Going into Saturday night’s game, Wisconsin was 7-0 (not including playoffs) versus Minnesota at the Eagle River Sports Arena since the franchise started playing in Eagle River last season.

Luca Ricciardi paced the squad with two goals — his first two goals as a Wilderness player in his 37th game, while Oliver Stümpel notched the game-winner by scoring in the first round of the shootout. Erickson sealed off 33 of 36 Windigo shots through regulation and overtime, plus all three attempts in the shootout, to improve his record to 9-3.

Minnesota played Thursday in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, against the Steel, before a home-and-home series with St. Cloud on Friday and Saturday. The home game against the Norsemen is 7:15 p.m. Saturday at Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet. Cloquet native and hockey legend Cory Millen is the head coach at St. Cloud.