Minnesota Wilderness

The Minnesota Wilderness are an American Tier II junior ice hockey team based in Cloquet, Minnesota, and play in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The organization formerly fielded teams in the Canada-based Junior A Superior International Junior Hockey League for three seasons and in the American-based Tier III Minnesota Junior Hockey League.

Minnesota Wilderness
CityCloquet, Minnesota, United States
Home arenaNorthwoods Credit Union Arena
ColorsGreen, black, and white
General managerDavid Boitz (2013–14)
Head coachJon Vaillancourt (2019–20)
Franchise history
Junior A/Tier III franchise
2000–2004Northwest Wisconsin Knights
2004–2010Wisconsin Mustangs
2010–2012Wisconsin Wilderness
2012–2013Minnesota Wilderness
Tier II NAHL franchise
2003–2006Texarkana Bandits
2006–2012St. Louis Bandits
2013–presentMinnesota Wilderness

Prior to the 2013–14 season, the Wilderness' owners bought the franchise rights to the St. Louis Bandits of the Tier II North American Hockey League and began play for that season.


The organization was founded in 2000 as the Northwest Wisconsin Knights in Spooner, Wisconsin, as a Junior B team in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League (MnJHL). In 2004, the Knights changed their name to the Wisconsin Mustangs. In 2006, the MnJHL was promoted to Tier III Junior A status by USA Hockey.

From 2001 until 2003, the Knights had an interleague relationship with the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL) of Hockey Canada. The 2009–10 season saw them back in an interlock with the SIJHL.

On May 17, 2010, the Mustangs announced they were officially leaving the MnJHL, their players were released to a dispersal draft.[1] Soon after they applied for entry into the SIJHL. After a couple months of petitioning USA Hockey to join a Hockey Canada-sanctioned league, they were allowed entry. The team dropped the Mustangs logo, colors, and name as the organization entered the new league as the Wisconsin Wilderness.

On September 17, 2010, the Wilderness played their first game as a full member of the SIJHL, on the road, against the Sioux Lookout Flyers, winning the game 3–2. On September 24, 2010, the Wilderness became the first American-based full membership SIJHL team to host a regular season game in the United States. The Wilderness defeated the Fort Frances Lakers 4–3. In 2011, the Wilderness won the league championship in their inaugural SIJHL season.

In the summer of 2012, the team relocated to Cloquet, Minnesota, and changed their name to the Minnesota Wilderness.

On May 4, 2013, the Wilderness became the first American team to win the Dudley Hewitt Cup by defeating the St. Michael's Buzzers 4–3 in overtime in the Central Canada final. They also became the first American team to participate in the Royal Bank Cup tournament, the Canadian National Junior A championship.

After winning the Dudley Hewitt Cup, the Wilderness announced that the 2013 Royal Bank Cup would be their final foray in Canadian junior hockey as they joined the North American Hockey League (NAHL) at the beginning of the 2013–14 season. At the Royal Bank Cup, Minnesota finished fourth in the round-robin with a 1–3 record. In the semifinal, they surrendered a 4–2 third period lead to the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Brooks Bandits to lose 5–4 in overtime. Their loss to Brooks ended their hopes of a national championship and was their final game as members of the Superior International Junior Hockey League.

In 2013, the Wilderness bought the franchise rights of the dormant St. Louis Bandits franchise to obtain entry into the NAHL.

Season-by-season records

2000–01362691531921203rd, MnJHL
2001–024230102622271602nd, MnJHL
2002–034229103612211323rd, MnJHL
2003–0440142513321521945th, MnJHL
2004–0548113412251512676th, MnJHL
2005–0648212331461801964th, MnJHL
2006–0740251230531761303rd, MnJHLLost Semifinal
2007–08483855812681222nd, MnJHLLost Quarterfinal
2008–094829172602191724th, MnJHLLost Semifinal
2009–105028184601891484th, MnJHLLost Semifinal
2010–11564565952641221st, SIJHLWon Super Series, 1-1 (2-1 SO) (Lakers)
Won Semi-final, 4-0 (North Stars)
Won Final, 4-0 (Ice Dogs)
4th of 4 DHC Round Robin (0-2-1)
2011–1256496199259971st, SIJHLLost Super Series, 1-1 (5-6 SO) (Lakers)
Won Semi-final, 4-0 (North Stars)
Won Final, 4-3 (Lakers)
4th of 4 DHC Round Robin (1-0-2)
2012–13565132104282851st, SIJHLWon Semi-final, 4-0 (Iron Rangers)
Won Final, 4-2 (Lakers)
1st of 4 DHC Round Robin (2-0-1)
Won DHC Final, 4-3 OT (Buzzers)
4th of 5 RBC Round Robin (1-3-0)
Lost RBC Semi-final, 4-5 OT (Bandits)
North American Hockey League (NAHL)
2013–146037149831591152nd, MidwestLost Div. Semifinals, 2–3 vs. Wenatchee Wild
2014–156039156842091522nd, MidwestWon First Round, 3–2 vs. Coulee Region Chill
Won Quarterfinals, 3–0 vs. Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Won Semifinals, 2–0 vs. Janesville Jets
Won Finals, 2–0 vs. Austin Bruins
Robertson Cup Champions
2015–166034187761831613rd, MidwestWon Div. Semifinals, 3–1 vs. Janesville Jets
Lost Div. Finals, 2–3 vs. Fairbanks Ice Dogs
2016–176032226701881792nd, CentralWon Div. Semifinals, 3–2 vs. Brookings Blizzard
Lost Div. Finals, 2–3 vs. Aberdeen Wings
2017–186033216721841813rd, CentralLost Div. Semifinals, 1–3 vs. Austin Bruins
2018–196026295571701895th, CentralDid not qualify

Interleague records



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