This weekend marks the second and last weekend the St. Cloud Norsemen will see the Minnesota Wilderness in the regular season, as the two non-divisional opponents face off in a home and home series.
The Wilderness hold a 15-7-2 record, which has them second in points in the Midwest Division but just a point behind the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and with three games in hand, so Minnesota has the best winning percentage in their division. They’ve won three in a row and eight of their last ten. As the Norsemen coaching staff points out, their special teams were special last weekend.
“Their power play was absolutely on fire and basically won the series,” acknowledges St. Cloud Norsemen Head Coach Corey Millen. “They scored six of their seven goals on the power play, clipping along at 50-60 percent, so that’s obviously going to be an area of concern for us.”
That power play went 6 for 11 against the Janesville Jets, scoring at a 54.5% rate to be precise, and they won both games by a 4-3 score, Friday night in regulation and Saturday in a shootout. The Wilderness’ success on the man advantage wasn’t just over a weekend; their 31.9% conversion rate (23 of 72) is tops of the 29 NAHL teams. On the other side of the coin the Wilderness were stingy on the penalty kill against Janesville last weekend, successfully killing off seven of the eight penalties in the series.
“The biggest thing for us is to stay disciplined, so they’re not getting those chances on the power play,” St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz reasons. “And after the last time we played them there’s a bad taste in our mouth so we’re excited to get up there and see them and show them what we can do.”
The leading scorer for the Wilderness is defenseman Ren Morque with 20 points (2-18-20 in 24 GP), although fellow blueliner Michael Quinn (4-8-12 in 14 GP) leads the team in points per game with a 0.86 average. Kevin Marx Noren leads the team in goals with 11 (11-7-18 in 22 GP), all but one of which were scored after he came over from Fairbanks. But the strength of the Wilderness so far has been their defense; their 2.33 goals against per game is 5th best in the league. St. Cloud State commit Isak Posch has been solid in net with a 10-5-1 record, 2.13 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts while backup Konrad Kausch has been pretty dependable too, posting a 5-2-1 record, 2.39 gaa and .912% with a shutout.
“They’ve had pretty good results,” admits Millen, “They’re a good team so it’s going to be a good weekend of competition, that’s for sure.”