THUNDER BAY, Ont. – The 12th season of the Superior International Junior Hockey League begins Friday on multiple fronts with a trio of games on the docket. Opening night features an original SIJHL club, the Dryden Ice Dogs, hosting the Duluth Clydesdales at Memorial Arena.
Also on tap the Thunder Bay North Stars pay a visit to the Minnesota Iron Rangers in Hoyt Lakes while the Sioux Lookout Flyers welcoming the Minnesota Wilderness. The North Stars will play their home ice opener on Tuesday at the Fort William Gardens as the Sioux Lookout Flyers hit the city. The North Stars and Flyers will play again on Wednesday night.
Each of those teams will play each other again Saturday.
Week 1 in the SIJHL concludes Sunday with the Wilderness travelling to Dryden while Duluth entertains Iron Range in their home opener at the Heritage Sports Center.
The defending champion Wilderness relocated in the off-season moving from Spooner, Wis., where they played their first two seasons in the league, to Cloquet, Minn. They will play out of the Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
THE SCHEDULE: Each of the seven SIJHL member clubs will play a 56-game regular season schedule.
The teams will take to the ice 27 times at home and an equal number on the road while the other two match-ups will be part of the SIJHL Showcase, which goes Dec. 21-23 in Duluth. All of the Showcase games will count towards the league standings.
The SIJHL champion will then represent the league at the 2013 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A championship April 30 – May 4 in North Bay, Ont. with a berth to the Royal Bank Cup on the line for the winner.
The SIJHL has reached a multi-year agreement with both FASTHockey and TST Media to provide both live webstreaming of games during the course of the 2012-13 season as well as new websites for the league and each of its seven teams.
Also being provided will be live in-game scoring of every contest throughout the regular season and playoffs. Both companies have extensive background in providing their services to leagues and organizations across North America.
DRYDEN ICE DOGS: As the SIJHL enters its 12th campaign, so do the Ice Dogs who have been members in the league since day one.
After finishing fourth in the standings last season with a 25-24-7 record Dryden welcomes a new head coach this season in Paul Maclean.
DULUTH CLYDESDALES: Entering their third year in the SIJHL, the Clydesdales are coming off a season where they set franchise marks in wins and points.
They too welcome a new bench boss as Aaron Haupert takes over as head coach.
FORT FRANCES LAKERS: Under the guidance of three-time SIJHL coach of the year Wayne Strachan, the Lakers will look to go one step further this season after falling just short of a Bill Salonen Cup crown last season being edged in a seventh and deciding game to the Wilderness in the league championship series.
Regular season play saw the club end up second in the standings with an impressive 37-12-7 record.
Fort Frances has a number of big holes to fill including the loss of Pizza Hut player of the year and SIJHL leading scorer Byron Katapaytuk, who wrapped up his junior career in fine style and moves on to play CIS hockey with Nipissing University.
MINNESOTA IRON RANGERS: Based out of Hoyt Lakes, Minn., the Iron Rangers enter the season with a new look dropping the name Iron Range Ironheads they used last season in their first year in the league.
Stepping in as their new head coach and general manager is Chris Walby.
MINNESOTA WILDERNESS: In two seasons in the league the Wilderness have been a dominant force finishing first overall in each of their first two years while also going on to capture back-to-back Bill Salonen Cup titles.
SIJHL coach of the year Rod Aldoff has led his club to an overall record of 94-12-6 in his first two years at the helm.
SIOUX LOOKOUT FLYERS: Yet another new head coach in the league sees Derek Levanen set to guide the Flyers’ fortunes in 2012-13.
Levanen does have previous SIJHL coaching experience with the then Thunder Bay Bulldogs a number of years back.
Sioux Lookout was fifth in the standings last season finishing up at 25-29-2.
THUNDER BAY NORTH STARS: Little is known on the North Stars entering the season, which changed ownership late in the off-season.
The club has yet to officially announce their new head coach with veteran local hockey man Doug Colbon helping guide the team’s tryouts and practices in a role as assistant coach.
PIZZA HUT PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Once again this season Pizza Hut is on board as the league’s premier sponsor of the player of the week award. Each week during the course of the regular season a deserving player in the league will be recognized for his efforts on the ice and will be presented with the Pizza Hut player of the week award. The SIJHL’s most valuable player will also be honoured with Pizza Hut player of the year accolades.
SPORTOP PERFORMER OF THE MONTH: Sportop Marketing of Thunder Bay also returns as a corporate partner of the SIJHL as premier sponsor of the SIJHL’s Sportop performer of the Month award. Each month during the course of the season a deserving player in the league will be recognized for his on-ice efforts and will be presented with a gift pack courtesy of Sportop. The top playoff performer will also receive the Sportop Playoff MVP award.