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Dudley-Hewitt Cup team preview: Minnesota Wilderness, SIJHL

Monday, April 29, 2013   by: BayToday.ca StaffNORTH BAY – The start of the 2013 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Junior A championship, hosted by the North Bay Trappers of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League April 30-May 4 at Memorial Gardens, is just three days away.

Joining the NOJHL champion Trappers at the four-team event will be the NOJHL finalist and defending Dudley-Hewitt title holding Soo Thunderbirds, along with the winners of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League, the St. Michael’s Buzzers and Minnesota Wilderness respectively.

The following is a Dudley-Hewitt Cup competing team preview of the Minnesota Wilderness, champions of the SIJHL:

THE WILDERNESS: Making their third consecutive trip to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, the Wilderness had yet another banner year in the SIJHL in 2012-13.

Based in Spooner, Wis. their first two years in the SIJHL before relocating to Cloquet, Minn. in the off-season, the club has finished first in the league regular season standings in each of those campaigns registering an impressive 145 wins against only 15 losses in regulation time and another eight in either overtime or a shootout in 168 games all-time.

With a 51-3-0-2 mark this season they set a new SIJHL record for points in a season with 104 and also boasted the best winning percentage in the entire 127-team Canadian Junior Hockey League at .929 while only allowing a CJHL-low 85 goals against. Including playoffs and showcase games, the squad has only one loss in regulation time since Oct. 24, which is a span of 56 games.

The Wilderness were tabbed No. 2 overall for the final 13 weeks of the CJHL Top 20 rankings, which were comprised in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting. They also had winning streaks of 17 and 18 games during the season.

Their playoff record in those three years has also been solid having won three straight Bill Salonen Cup titles, emblematic of being SIJHL champions. They have gone 28-9 in 37 postseason contests, including 8-3 in 2013.

HOW THEY ARRIVED: After cruising to the regular season crown and a bye in the opening round of the SIJHL playoffs, the Wilderness met the Minnesota Iron Rangers in semifinal action and promptly swept them in four straight games outscoring them 19-7.

Moving on to the Bill Salonen Cup final they took on the Fort Frances Lakers for a second straight year.

After defeating the Lakers in a full seven games in 2012, it was another tough test for the Wilderness who managed to win the title in six games, which was decided in double overtime in the finale.

PLAYOFF MVP: Minnesota captain Mike Dietrich earned the nod as most valuable player for the 2013 SIJHL playoffs.

In 10 postseason contests, the 20-year-old native of South Hampton, N.J., who also garnered SIJHL player of the year laurels as the league’s top performer during the course of the regular season, led all skaters in playoff goals with eight, while also tying for top spot overall in points with 15. He also shared second spot in assists with seven.

Among Dietrich’s postseason accomplishments was a pair of game-winning tallies along with an impressive five-goal performance in game 4 of the final in which he accounted all five markers in a 5-3 victory.

STATISTICS: While Dietrich shared the SIJHL playoff point lead he also led all skaters in regular season production in both points and assists with 77 and 49 respectively. He also tied for the league-lead in game-winning tallies with six.

SIJHL rookie of the year Jake Larson, who is also a finalist the CJHL top first-year player award, topped all shooters in the league in goals with 44. He also finished second in overall points with 72.

Jordan Shockley, Jeremy Johnson and Michael MacKinnon were all members of the club who finished in the top 10 in SIJHL scoring with 59, 58 and 52 points respectively.

Nick McCormack paced all SIJHL defencemen in scoring with 40 points, including 14 goals.

Between the pipes Gordy Defiel and JoJo Jeanetta both had stellar seasons in net as they were one-two in every major goaltending category.

Defiel led both the SIJHL and CJHL in goals-against average and save percentage at 1.39 and .945 respectively. His eight shutouts topped his league and tied him for the most in the CJHL.

He was named the SIJHL goaltender of the year and is also a finalist for the CJHL honour while playing every second of postseason action for his squad going 8-3 with a 1.82 GAA and .935 save mark.

As for Jeanetta, he was 22-2 in the regular season with an average of 1.79 and save percentage of .935 with five shutouts.

THE COACH: Guiding the fortunes of the Wilderness, since their inception, is their head coach and general manager Rod Aldoff.

Hailing from Lethbridge, Alta., he is a two-time SIJHL coach of the year recipient and is his league’s nominee for CJHL coach of the year laurels.

Earlier this season he served as head coach of Team West at the CJHL Prospects games during the World Junior A Challenge in Nova Scotia, where he led his squad to victory over Team East.

Aldoff is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he played four seasons of NCAA hockey for the Bulldogs before going on to a 15-year professional career playing defence.

DUDLEY-HEWITT CUP GAME SCHEDULE

Tuesday, April 30th: St. Michael's vs. Soo T-Birds 2:30 pm
Tuesday, April 30th: Wilderness vs. Jr. Trappers 7 pm

Wednesday, May 1st: Soo T-Birds vs. Wilderness 2:30 pm
Wednesday, May 1st: St. Michael's vs. Jr. Trappers 7 pm

Thursday, May 2nd: Wilderness vs. St. Michael's 2:30 pm
Thursday, May 2nd: Jr. Trappers vs. Soo T-Birds 7 pm

Friday, May 3rd: Semi-final: 2nd vs.3rd 7 pm

Saturday, May 4th: Final: 1st vs. Semi-final winner 7 pm
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