SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – One day away from their opening game at the Royal Bank Cup Canadian national junior A hockey championship in Summerside, P.E.I., the Minnesota Wilderness will look to build on earlier successes that helped get them there as they go in search of yet another title.
SIJHL Champs in RBC CUP
The Wilderness will join host Summerside Western Capitals (MHL), Truro Bearcats (MHL), Brooks Bandits (AJHL) and Surrey Eagles at the nine-day event to crown a RBC Cup champion at an event which runs May 11-19.
Minnesota rolled to a Superior International Junior Hockey League regular season crown with a 51-3-0-2 record as they established a new league record for most points in a season with 104 while also allowing only 85 goals against, which was the fewest of any club in the 127-team Canadian Junior Hockey League.
That saw the squad record a winning percentage of .929, which was also the best of any club in the entire CJHL and would go on to be ranked No. 2 the overall the final 13 installments of the CJHL Top 20 rankings, which were compiled in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting each week during the course of the regular season
After a first round bye the Wilderness then swept the rival Minnesota Iron Rangers in four straight games in semifinal play before going on to meet the Fort Frances Lakers in the Bill Salonen Cup final for a second consecutive year, in what would be yet another grueling affair before a winner could be determined.
After going a full seven games before the 2012 final was decided this years’ series was equally competitive before the Wilderness eventually won again in six hard-fought games, including capturing the title in double overtime in the final contest.
“Fort Frances was a great series, and as always with them, all the games were tight and down to wire,” offered Minnesota head coach and general manager Rod Aldoff.
“That series was a great physical and mental battle, which definitely helped us heading into the Dudley-Hewitt Cup,” added Aldoff.
At the Dudley-Hewitt Cup in North Bay, April 30-May 4, the SIJHL champs fell 4-1 in their opener to the host North Bay Trappers, but turned it on from there as they found their skating legs after a 14-hour trek from Cloquet, Minn., where the team is based, to go unbeaten the rest of the way.
After back-to-back shutouts over the defending DHC champion Soo Thunderbirds, (NOJHL) and the St. Michael’s Buzzers (OJHL) by scores of 7-0 and 3-0 respectively, the SIJHL title holders advanced to the Dudley-Hewitt final vs. St. Michael’s, champions of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Minnesota jumped out to a quick 2-0 only to see the Buzzers bounce back to grab a 3-2 lead heading late in regulation.
That is where Wilderness assistant captain Ben Michaud forced overtime as he knotted the equalizer with three and half minutes to go setting the stage for Nick Szopinski to win it 11:59 into the extra session as the club persevered yet once again giving the SIJHL their first RBC Cup appearance since 2006 when the Fort William North Stars advanced all the way to the semifinals before falling in OT to the eventual champion Burnaby Express.
“The Dudley-Hewitt Cup was a great experience and winning it was a tremendous honour,” said Aldoff.
“Our team played some solid hockey there as well and it was gratifying to see them get the results from that,” stated the Wilderness bench boss.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge ahead at the Royal Bank Cup and we know we will have to be at our best,” replied the two-time SIJHL coach of the year recipient.
“The team is ready and excited to be in P.E.I. representing the SIJHL and the Central Region as we start our new challenge and journey.”
Game No. 1 for the Wilderness at the Royal Bank Cup goes Saturday as they meet the host Summerside Western Capitals at 7:30 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time.
2013 Royal Bank Cup
May 11-19 @ Summerside, P.E.I.
Host: Summerside Western Capitals (MHL)
Eastern: Truro Bearcats (MHL)
Central: Minnesota Wilderness (SIJHL)
Western 1: Surrey Eagles (BCHL)
Western 2: Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
Schedule (All start times Atlantic Standard Time)
Saturday, May 11
Brooks vs. Truro 3 p.m.
Summerside vs. Minnesota 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 12
Surrey vs. Truro 3 p.m.
Minnesota vs. Brooks 7:30 p.m.
Monday, May 13
Summerside vs. Surrey 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 14
Truro vs. Minnesota 3 p.m.
Brooks vs. Summerside 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 15
Minnesota vs. Surrey 3 p.m.
Thursday, May 16
Surrey vs. Brooks 3 p.m.
Summerside vs. Truro 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 18
*Semifinal No. 1 – 2 p.m.
*Semifinal No. 2 – 6 p.m.
Sunday, May 19
RBC Championship Game – Time T.B.A.
*-1st place team play chooses semifinal time slot.