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New Wilderness coach gears up for next season.

New Minnesota Wilderness head coach Tim Madsen is flanked by assistant coach Michael Benedict (left) and general manager Dave Boitz during a meet-and-greet Monday afternoon. Jamie Lund/jlund@pinejournal.com

It seems like the last Wilderness hockey game just ended and now plans for the new season are already well underway. Along with the new season this year is a new head coach, new assistant coach and, of course, the new fresh faces under the helmets.

The new Minnesota Wilderness NAHL hockey head coach, Tim Madsen, stopped in Cloquet for a brief meet-and-greet Monday afternoon with assistant coach Michael Benedict.

Madsen, who is replacing Cloquet native Corey Millen, said he had done research on the team and asked several people their opinion on the Wilderness organization before accepting the job.

The 31-year-old Elk River native also mentioned this would be his opportunity to step up from an assistant coach to head coach back home in Minnesota. He has spent the last seven seasons as an assistant coach and associate head coach at Niagara University.

“This is my home; I am a Minnesota boy,” Madsen said. “I have not been home for 14 years.”

Madsen said he is looking forward to spending time with his family as well as seeing his parents and friends at the Wilderness games.

Madsen said he has been asked many times over what brand of hockey he is going to play.

His answer? Aggressive.

“We are going to play aggressive and relentless on and off of the ice,” Madsen said. “We will be active in the community and around town.”

He acknowledges the Wilderness hockey team is a winning organization and he plans to continue the tradition with a lot of success on the ice next season.

“The pressure I feel is self inflicted because I am very competitive,” Madsen said.

Madsen also plans to continue the tradition of recruiting local players for the team. Even though the team has to be rebuilt each season, there is a potential for several players from last season’s team to come back for the upcoming season.

“The first place we will look is our backyard,” Madsen said. “The most important thing is to bring in good kids. I am a big believer that if you bring in good kids, the results are going to come. We are going to play an aggressive, attacking style of hockey and we are looking for kids who will fit that mold.”

Madsen spent three hours on the phone and computer Tuesday making NAHL draft picks. He needed a total of 30 players for the roster. Madsen already had a protected roster of returning players from last season’s team as well as tenders already signed. That left 10 players to be drafted on Tuesday to complete the summer-protected roster.

Tryouts for the final team roster will be at the end of July.

Assistant coach Michael Benedict, 25, played Division I hockey for Madsen at Niagara University.

“The organization speaks for itself, it is a world class organization,” Benedict said, adding that he was honored that his former coach asked him to be the assistant.

“I wanted somebody I know I can trust and will have my back,” said Madsen.

Madsen saw the Wilderness play two years ago when they set the record for longest playoff game during the Robertson Cup playoffs in Austin.

In 2008-2009 Madsen helped bring the Robertson Cup home to the St. Louis Bandits NAHL, which was what the Minnesota Wilderness was called before the franchise was purchased and brought to Cloquet.

“Fun fact for you guys,” said Wilderness General Manager Dave Boitz, “this organization has had four championships and three championships before we bought the franchise and Tim was an assistant coach with the last championship team before we won two years ago. So he was a part of the organization. It's interesting how it has come around full circle.”

And what will Madsen do until tryouts at the end of July? Go back to New York and get married July 9.

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