Exciting SIJHL Season Set to Go
THUNDER BAY – SPORTS – Season No. 14 for the Superior International Junior Hockey League got underway this weekend on two fronts as a pair of contests were on the opening night slate.
Action got underway at the Ear Falls Arena as the English River Miners hosted the Dryden GM Ice Dogs.
Meanwhile the defending SIJHL champion Fort Frances Lakers entertained the Thunder Bay North Stars at Ice for Kids Arena.
BANNER RAISING: Prior to the start of the Fort Frances – Thunder Bay contest the Lakers unfurled their championship banner from last season signifying the club’s first-ever Bill Salonen Cup title they captured after rallying from 3-1 series deficit to upend the Minnesota Iron Rangers in seven exciting games.
PLAYOFFS: All five SIJHL clubs will qualify for the postseason.
The fourth and fifth place teams will play a best-of-five Survivor Series with the winner advancing to take on the No. 1 seed in semifinal action.
That semifinal, along with the other league semi, pitting the second and third place sides, will both be best-of-seven affairs.
From there the two remaining clubs will move on to the best-of-seven Bill Salonen Cup final.
Should Fort Frances be one of the league finalists, the other competing team will also represent the SIJHL in the 2015 Dudley-Hewitt Cup, which will be hosted by the Lakers April 28 – May 2, 2015.
DUDLEY-HEWITT CUP: Joining the host Lakers and either the SIJHL champion or finalist at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A championship will be the winners of both the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and Ontario Junior Hockey League.
RBC CUP: The Dudley-Hewitt Cup champion will then head to Portage la Prairie, Man., May 9-17, 2015 to compete in the 2015 RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A event.
Serving as host of the RBC will be the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
They will be joined by the Dudley-Hewitt winner as well as the recipient of the Fred Page Cup eastern Canadian tournament as well as the winner and finalist of the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup.
DRYDEN GM ICE DOGS
Last season’s record: 21-30-5 (5th overall)
Head Coach: Kurt Walsten
Sporting a new major sponsor and a new head coach the Dryden GM Ice Dogs are back for another season in the SIJHL.
An original member of the league, Dryden will look to improve on last season’s fifth place finish in the league standings.
The club had one preseason game in which they edged Fort Frances 3-2 in a lengthy shootout that required 14 attempts before it was decided.
The Ice Dogs welcome five players back from last season’s squad, including Derek McPhail and Chris Sitco, who registered 44 and 43 points respectively in 2013-14.
Among the newcomers are forwards Blake Berg and Hank Bouchard, who both scored in the exhibition game vs. Fort Frances.
ENGLISH RIVER MINERS
Head Coach: Kevin Kahoot
Last season’s record: 21-30-5 (4th overall – Finished 4th via tiebreaker)
After a successful first year in the SIJHL, the Miners are back for their second season in the league.
Led by head coach and general manager Kevin Kahoot, English River, looks to best the 21 victories they had last season.
The Miners welcome back both of their goaltenders from 2013-14 in P.D. Melgoza and Greg Harney.
Also returning is a pair of 33-point men in Dominic Blouin and Taylor Bargar.
Kahoot successfully recruited a number of players from the Thunder Bay Kings AAA program to bolster his line-up.
They include forwards Kirk Coppock, Alex Maticic and Matthew Ray.
FORT FRANCES LAKERS
Head Coach: Wayne Strachan
Last season’s record: 46-6-4 (1st overall)
After claiming their first Bill Salonen Cup crown the Lakers are poised on looking to repeat as SIJHL champs.
Led by bench boss and general manager Wayne Strachan, Fort Frances enters the campaign as the defending title holders as well as an automatic berth in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup as host team.
Strachan was named SIJHL coach of the year and a first team CCM all-star at both the coach and GM positions.
Goaltender Devin Tappenden is expected to lead the way in net for the Lakers.
Joining the squad midway through last season the soon to be 20-year-old stopper posted a solid 11-3 win-loss record along with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
Fort Frances will expect another big year offensively from veteran forward Mason Meyer who racked up 90 points in 55 outings in 2013-14.
For his efforts Meyer was named a fist team CCM all-star.
Playoff MVP Miles Nolan will also be counted on heavily if the Lakers wish to repeat.
Alex Rezansoff, who spent last season with the Wisconsin Wilderness, lit it up in the preseason helping lead his new club a 4-0-0-1 exhibition mark.
MINNESOTA IRON RANGERS
Head Coach: Chris Walby
Last season’s record: 36-14-6 (3rd overall)
Looking to go one step further, the ever-improving Iron Rangers, look to claim their first SIJHL championship after falling one-game short vs. Fort Frances last season.
Head coach and GM Chris Walby welcomes back a dozen players from last year’s team that won a franchise record 36 times in 2013-14.
Minnesota brings back the offensive firepower of forwards Jason Reynolds and Matt O’Dea.
Reynolds had 55 points last season while O’Dea had 54, including 35 goals.
The Iron Rangers were a well-balanced side that led the SIJHL in shorthanded tallies a year ago.
THUNDER BAY NORTH STARS
Head Coach: Jeremy Adduono
Last season’s record: 40-10-5 (2nd overall)
Boasting an all-Thunder Bay line-up the North Stars will go in search of their first SIJHL title since 2010.
Under the guidance of head coach Jeremy Adduono, the Stars finished second in the league standings last season amassing 40 wins overall.
Thunder Bay boasts a solid one-two punch between the pipes with last year’s goaltender of the year Eric Mann and teammate Nathaniel Dupuis both back for the club.
Mann was also a CCM first team all-star award recipient.
Second team CCM all-stars in defenceman Tim Cavar and forward Matthias Gardiman are also back to bolster the North Stars attack.
Among the new faces to watch for are rookies Bradley Belisle and Avery Siau, who both played minor midget in Thunder Bay.
Lakehead products Nicholas Nigro along with Chris Varrin, who comes over from Dryden, will also be looked upon to supply offensive numbers for the Stars.
ON TAP: Upcoming SIJHL games
Sept. 21: Fort Frances @ Minnesota 3 p.m. (Hoyt Lakes)
Sept. 24: Fort Frances @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial)
Sept. 26: Minnesota @ English River 7 p.m. (Ear Falls)
Thunder Bay @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial)
Sept. 27th: Minnesota @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial)
Thunder Bay @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids)
Sept. 30: Fort Frances @ English River 7 p.m. (Red Lake)