Wilderness winning ways continueThe Cloquet-based Minnesota Wilderness junior hockey team has now won 11 straight games and is ranked No. 2 in this week’s Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) rankings.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Cloquet-based Minnesota Wilderness junior hockey team has now won 11 straight games and is ranked No. 2 in this week’s Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) rankings.
The Wilderness (23-3-0) won a pair of games against the second-place Dryden Ice Dogs last weekend, winning 3-2 in a shootout on Friday night and 7-4 on Saturday.
“The kids have been playing very well,” Coach Rod Aldoff said, “but you just have to take it day by day. You try to put the concept to them that you have to prove yourself every day. Rankings mean nothing today; they’re just a piece of paper. You have to put the work in to show that you belong. Our kids are focused.”
On Friday, the Wilderness rallied from a 2-0 second-period deficit on goals by Conrad Sampair and Jeremy Johnson to force overtime and an eventual shootout, where Johnson was the only shooter on either team to score.
Gordy Defiel stopped 20 of 22 shots on goal for the win.
On Saturday the Wilderness came out flying, using power-play goals by Sampair and Nick McCormack plus a goal by Jordan Shockley for a 3-0 lead after the first period. Jake Larson, Danny Bartkowiak and Michael MacKinnon scored in the second period and Sampair added a third-period power-play goal for the last tally on the night.
JoJo Jeanetta stopped 30 of 34 shots on goal for the win in goal.
The Wilderness now hold an 11-point lead on the Ice Dogs in the SIJHL standings despite having played four fewer games.
“We’re definitely in a rhythm,” Aldoff said. “With any team, you have an identity and when you have created that identity you play with confidence. You believe you deserve to be where you are. With our success, we believe we’ve earned it and are a good team.”
This year’s Wilderness includes former Cloquet standout Ben Michaud, who has scored twice and added 12 assists for 14 points while playing in 25 of the team’s 26 games this winter.
“Ben has been a great addition to our team,” Aldoff said. “He’s a good man first and foremost, a good guy and a leader in our dressing room. He shows up and works hard every day. He is playing very well.”
Aldoff knows that everyone else in the league will bring their best game every night.
“Teams will gun for us every day,” Aldoff said. “Teams grade themselves by what they do against us. That is a compliment that makes us be better every day, and makes us accountable every day. You have to be ready every day, every game and every practice to do the small things right every day. We have great talent, and now we have to use it properly.”