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Team falls from first place stance

Losers of three straight games last week, the Minnesota Wilderness (22-14-4) lost its grip atop the division standings, tumbling into third behind red-hot teams from Wisconsin in the Janesville Jets and Eagle River’s Windigo.

The Wilderness lost on the road in Chippewa Falls, a 3-2 shootout on Jan. 17, then dropped both games of a home-and-home series with St. Cloud, 5-2 and 2-1, last weekend. The St. Cloud Norsemen won the season series over Minnesota, winning all four meetings.

Minnesota is 4-5-1 in its last 10 games. Meanwhile, Janesville is 9-0-1, while the Wisconsin Windigo are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games each to seize the top spot in the Midwest Division of the North American Hockey League with 49 points each. The Wilderness trail in third place with 48 points, and have now been outscored on the season with 111 goals allowed compared to 104 scored.

The Jets and Windigo are the league’s highest scoring teams, with 152 and 141 goals, respectively.

Minnesota was 1-for-16 on the power play in three games last week, a season-long bugaboo for the club, which has struggled to take advantage.

The Wilderness continued to get an impact from Cloquet native Patrick Dunaiski, whose furious forechecking effort Friday helped set up the Wilderness’ second goal. The rookie chased down the puck in the offensive zone leading to the 15th goal of the season from Peteris Purmalis.

Minnesota will look to get back on track next weekend. The Wilderness will take on the Chippewa Steel in a home-and-home series. The two-game set begins Friday night in Chippewa Falls, before returning to Northwoods Credit Union Arena at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

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