It's been a goal of his since he was a kid and now Minot Minotauros goaltender Brandon Wildung will live his dream of playing Division I hockey after committing to Mercyhurst University (Pa.) on Monday.
It's an early birthday gift for the 6-foot goaltender from Minneota, Minn., who turns 20 on Wednesday. Wildung will finish the season with the Tauros before joining the Lakers for the 2014-15 season.
"They've shown some interest in me fairly early in the season," Wildung said. "I built a really good relationship with them, especially with (assistant) coach (Peter) Aubry. He used to be a goalie as well and we've had some really good conversations and I really like his outlook on being a goalie. It's a great fit all around."
Minot Minotauros goaltender Brandon Wildung makes a save earlier this season. Wildung committed to play at Division I Mercyhurst University beginning next year. Photo courtesy of Colin Thompson.
In 18 appearances this season, Wildung is 8-8-2 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.52 goals against average. He's been strong between the pipes as of late, winning six straight starts, including two shutouts. In his last appearance Friday against Aberdeen, Wildung finished with a season-high 40 saves in a 2-1 overtime victory.
"Brandon has been very, very good for us this season, and it's great to see the hard work and commitment he has put into his game pay off," Tauros coach Marty Murray said in a press release. "Not only is Mercyhurst getting a great goalie, they are also getting an outstanding young man."
Mercyhurst, located in Erie, Pa., is 9-7-1 this season and receiving votes in the lastest USCHO poll. The Lakers sit atop the Atlantic Hockey Conference at 7-1. Wildung will play for coach Rick Gotkin, who's 462-330-66 in 26 seasons behind the bench.
"That's always exciting to have an opportunity to come to a team that's doing well," Wildung said. "I know they've got a really good school. They have programs I'm really interested in, so that's exciting for myself. There's more of a wide variety of things I can choose that I'd like to go on and do after my hockey career."
Wildung expressed an interest in sports science and business.
Wildung becomes the third Tauro to commit to a Division I program. Tyler Parks - who committed last year - is a freshman at St. Lawrence University (N.Y.) and is 2-0 in four appearances. Mason Morelli - currently with the Fargo Force of the United State Hockey League - inked with the University of Nebraska-Omaha beginning in the 2015-16 season.
With his college hockey future decided, Wildung can focus on helping the Tauros continue their current hot streak.
"I'm just going to keep playing my game," Wildung daid. "It's definitely a big relief to know what's I'm doing for next year and the next four years.
"As a team, we're really rolling right now. I have a lot of confidence in us. I think we're going to keep climbing up the standings. Who knows, hopefully at the end of it all we can win a cup here."
Beavers halt skid, Regier wins
Thanksgiving break couldn't come quick enough for the Minot State University men's club hockey team, who limped into the two-week layoff having lost five of its last six games.
During that stretch, the Beavers scored two goals or fewer in four contests and dropped from the top spot in the American Collegiate Hockey Association poll to No. 5.
"You hope that your team can handle some adversity," MSU coach Wade Regier said. "When one guy or a handful of guys go on a slump, we still have other guys that can step up and get the job done. It happened so that we were collectively on slumps. We couldn't generate offense."
MSU returned to its winning ways over the weekend in Colorado. The Beavers opened the three-game road trip in Boulder with a 5-1 victory against the University of Colorado and MSU completed the sweep in Fort Collins with 5-1 and 5-0 wins against No. 25 Colorado State.
Eight players registered goals for the Beavers during the road trip. Freshman forward Jeremy Johnson and junior defenseman Mitch Peeke each recorded three goals. Sophomore forward Brett Nespor tallied four assists against Colorado and netted a goal Saturday against the Rams.
"Our energy level was way up and we handled adversity well," Regier said. "More importantly, the guys started to have fun again."
MSU's shutout of Colorado State on Saturday was its first since Oct. 26, when the Beavers blanked the Rams 4-0 at Maysa Arena.
The defense was strong and so was the special teams. MSU (17-4-1) scored more than a third of its goal on the power play.
"We changed up our power play, which was really affective for us," Regier said. "We were clicking there and it's certainly a catalyst for us going forward."
MSU's win against the Buffalos was Regier's 100th as coach. With three victories over the weekend, Regier is 102-16-7 in just his fourth year at the helm. Among his achievements are winning the program's first national championship and being named ACHA coach of the year.
"It's pretty cool," Regier said. "It's certainly something that goes toward what our team's done. I've surrounded myself with some talented hockey players and a really good coaching staff the last couple years. It's certainly something that gets shared."
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.