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Wilderness will go to playoffs

The Minnesota Wilderness clinched a fourth straight appearance in the North American Hockey League Robertson Cup playoffs on April 12 in Springfield, Illinois, getting an overtime game winner from Nick Blood to put an exclamation point on the achievement.

The Wilderness entered the game needing one point to secure the bid and hold off the fifth-place Chippewa Steel, and got it with a 2-2 regulation tie.

“The goal going into the year was to contend for and win a Robertson Cup to bring back to the city of Cloquet,” Wilderness head coach Colten St. Clair said in a news release following the game. “You can’t accomplish that goal unless you make it to the playoffs. There has been a lot of adversity throughout the year, and now the fun begins.”

Blood, of Minnestrista, Minnesota, scored 1 minute, 52 seconds into the 3-on-3 overtime, giving Minnesota the 3-2 win. The Wilderness led twice in the seesaw game, only to see the Jr. Blues get even both times.

The Wilderness (30-25-5) capped the regular season by falling to the Jr. Blues on Saturday, 5-2, in a game that combined 146 penalty minutes. Minnesota was whistled for 11 infractions, and Springfield 15. Four players, two each side, received game misconducts, while another player from each team was given a 10-minute misconduct. A fight precipitated the game misconducts.

Minnesota was scoreless on eight power play opportunities.

Minnesota begins its Midwest Division semifinal series this weekend, traveling to Anchorage, Alaska to play the Wolverines at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Games in the best-of-five series begin at 7 p.m. at the Ben Boeke Ice Arena.

As the fourth seed, the Wilderness are facing the division’s top-seeded team in Anchorage, which finished 39-14-7 and with 85 points compared to Minnesota’s 65.

On the other side of the Midwest Division bracket, the third-seeded Janesville Jets (33-22-6) will face the second-seeded Wisconsin Windigo (36-15-6).

“It’s the best time of year, and we are looking forward to being the best version of ourselves moving forward,” St. Clair said.

Minnesota last won the Robertson Cup championship in 2015-16 under coach Corey Millen. The franchise has made the playoffs nine times in its 11 seasons.