NA3 TEAM SECURES HISTORIC HIPPODROME AS HOME ARENA

One of the NA3HL’s newest teams will call the oldest rink in Minnesota its home. The Eveleth City Council today approved an agreement with the Minnesota Wilderness to house the organization’s new NA3HL squad at the historic Hippodrome. The Hippodrome (also known as...

TENDERS/DRAFT PICKS ADDED TO NA3 ROSTER

The Minnesota Wilderness NA3HL (North American Tier 3 Hockey League) team has added 11 players over the last few weeks to its roster for its first ever season. The Wilderness made two selections in the NA3HL Draft held April 24 and followed that with nine player...

NA3HL SQUAD HIRES FIRST COACH/GM

The new Minnesota Wilderness North American Tier 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) franchise has found who will lead the team in its premier season. Zach Stepan has been hired as the team’s first head coach and general manager. A 30-year-old from Hastings, MN, Stepan has spent...

WILDERNESS APPROVED TO BRING NA3HL TO NE MINNESOTA

Since it originated in 2012, the Minnesota Wilderness has built a tradition of high performance junior hockey in the greater Twin Ports area. Later this year, a new era in the history of the Wilderness organization will begin as it was officially granted the rights to...

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NA3 TEAM SECURES HISTORIC HIPPODROME AS HOME ARENA

NA3 TEAM SECURES HISTORIC HIPPODROME AS HOME ARENA

One of the NA3HL’s newest teams will call the oldest rink in Minnesota its home.

The Eveleth City Council today approved an agreement with the Minnesota Wilderness to house the organization’s new NA3HL squad at the historic Hippodrome.

The Hippodrome (also known as “the Hipp”) first opened in 1922. Since then, it has hosted some of Minnesota’s top hockey players, with 12 having been inducted into the nearby United States Hockey Hall of Fame—including legendary names such as Frank Brimsek, John Mayasich, John Mariucci and Sam LoPresti.

Wilderness NA3HL hockey will officially open at the Hipp beginning in September. Until that time, renovations are expected to be made to locker rooms and other parts of the arena to accommodate the team. 22 of the team’s 47 regular season games will be played at the Hippodrome.

TENDERS/DRAFT PICKS ADDED TO NA3 ROSTER

TENDERS/DRAFT PICKS ADDED TO NA3 ROSTER

The Minnesota Wilderness NA3HL (North American Tier 3 Hockey League) team has added 11 players over the last few weeks to its roster for its first ever season. The Wilderness made two selections in the NA3HL Draft held April 24 and followed that with nine player tenders.

The first player added to the franchise was Cloquet-Esko-Carlton forward Ryan Jones. The 18-year-old Jones was the 49th overall selection (2nd round) of the NA3HL draft. Jones played 23 games for the CEC Lumberjacks in his senior season of 2023-24, recording six goals and six assists.

Forward Mark Denoyer of Hastings, MN, was the Wilderness’ second draft pick. Coming to the team as tenders are four Duluthians: Christian Houser, Wyatt Peterson, John Scott and Noah Teng. Cooper Ellena of Cloquet, Brady Johnson of St. Michael, MN (who played high school hockey in Brainerd), Nicholas Maffeo of Austin, TX, Lance Murray of Eagan, MN, and Jay Svaren of Rosemount, were also tendered.

Draft picks:

Name Position DOB Shoots Previous team
Ryan Jones (2nd round 49th overall) F 3/22/2006 Left CEC Lumberjacks
Mark Denoyer (3rd round, 73rd overall) F 9/16/2005 Left Oakmoor Academy AAA

 

Tenders:

Name Position DOB Shoots Previous team
Cooper Ellena D 11/3/2005 Right CEC Lumberjacks
Christian Houser LW/D 3/18/2006 Left Duluth East HS
Brady Johnson F 8/28/2005 Left Brainerd HS
Nicholas Maffeo F 12/4/2005 Right Phoenix Jr. Coyotes AAA
Lance Murray D 12/29/2005 Eagan High School
Wyatt Peterson F 5/22/2005 Right Duluth East HS
John Scott F 6/9/2007 Left Duluth Denfeld HS
Jay Svaren G 1/26/2005 Left (catches) Oakmoor Academy AAA
Noah Teng F 4/2/2006 Right Duluth East HS

 

The nine tenders and two draft picks will be invited to the Wilderness main tryout camp, which will also include players seeking a spot on the NAHL team. That camp will be held July 14-18 in Cloquet.

The NA3HL Wilderness roster is also expected to include players who spent the 2023-24 season with the Minnesota Loons. The Loon franchise was rebranded as the Wilderness after being purchased by Wilderness owner Barry Bohman after its 23-24 season had concluded.

The Wilderness NA3HL squad is expected to begin play in September at a location in northeastern Minnesota that has yet to be announced.

NA3HL SQUAD HIRES FIRST COACH/GM

NA3HL SQUAD HIRES FIRST COACH/GM

The new Minnesota Wilderness North American Tier 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) franchise has found who will lead the team in its premier season.

Zach Stepan has been hired as the team’s first head coach and general manager. A 30-year-old from Hastings, MN, Stepan has spent six seasons as either a head coach or assistant in the NAHL, NA3HL and United States Hockey League (USHL). He spent this past season as an assistant with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL. Prior to that, Stepan spent two seasons as an assistant with two NAHL franchises—the Aberdeen Wings in 2021-22 and Chippewa Steel for a portion of the 2018-19 season. Stepan also served as head coach of the NA3HL’s New Ulm Steel for two seasons from 2019-2021.

David Boitz, who is overseeing operations to launch the new Wilderness squad (while also serving as President of Operations of the NAHL’s Wilderness franchise) said the organization is excited about bringing on Stepan for the inaugural season.

“With all of Zach’s experience over the past years, first in the NA3, NA and the USHL, we feel awfully fortunate to land on a coach with his experience. Combined with his playing career and his passion and energy for the game, there is no doubt that our players are going to really benefit from his mentoring.”

Stepan played high school hockey at Shattuck St. Mary’s, where he scored 129 points in 104 games and won back-to-back National Championships his junior and senior years. He played one season in the USHL for Waterloo, posting 78 points in 56 games during the 2012-13 season. For his college hockey, Stepan skated four seasons at Minnesota State-Mankato before playing one season of pro hockey, with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.

In international play, Stepan was the leading scorer for the gold-medal winning USA U17 team at the 2010 Five Nations Tournament in Switzerland. Stepan was also a member of the USA U19 team that won gold in the World Junior A Championship in 2012, and a member of the U20 USA World Junior team in 2013. He was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 4th round, 112th overall, in the 2012 draft.

Stepan is expected to help in the hiring of an assistant coach for the upcoming season.

The NA3HL Wilderness was established after the NAHL Wilderness’ owner, Barry Bohman, acquired the Minnesota Loons, a NA3HL franchise that spent the last three seasons based in Breezy Point, MN. Bohman is moving the team to northeastern Minnesota and will be announcing where it will play its home games sometime within the upcoming weeks.

WILDERNESS APPROVED TO BRING NA3HL TO NE MINNESOTA

WILDERNESS APPROVED TO BRING NA3HL TO NE MINNESOTA

Since it originated in 2012, the Minnesota Wilderness has built a tradition of high performance junior hockey in the greater Twin Ports area. Later this year, a new era in the history of the Wilderness organization will begin as it was officially granted the rights to bring a new junior hockey team to northeast Minnesota.

The board of governors for the North American Hockey League (NAHL) today approved Wilderness owner Barry Bohman’s request to purchase the Minnesota Loons – a franchise in the North American Tier III Hockey League (NA3HL). Bohman plans to move the Loons from its current home in Breezy Point, MN, to northeast Minnesota and rebrand the team as the Minnesota Wilderness of the NA3HL.

The Wilderness NA3HL franchise will bear the same colors, logo and uniform as the Wilderness team that currently competes in the NAHL. The Wilderness NAHL squad will keep its home in Cloquet, MN.

The specific location of the NA3HL squad has not yet been determined, although talks are underway with a potential suitor.

The Wilderness NA3HL team will be part of the West Division, which includes four other teams based in Minnesota, plus one in Mason City, IA.

The NA3HL is in its 13 th season of operation. It is the only USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier III junior league. It comprises 34 teams across 16 states in the United States.

The new Wilderness franchise will begin building its roster immediately, with the help of the NA3HL draft scheduled for April 24.

The NA3HL Wilderness embarks on its first season in September and will play a 47-game regular season schedule. If the squad finishes the season among the top 4 teams in its division, it will qualify for the NA3HL’s Fraser Cup playoffs which begin in March.

The Wilderness Tier 2 team has been part of the NAHL since 2013 after spending its first season in Cloquet in the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL). The organization also sponsors 16U and 18U AAA teams that compete in the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL).