SIJHL Playoff Preview

SIJHL Hockey

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – The first of two Superior International Junior Hockey League semifinals begins tonight at Ice for Kids Arena in Fort Frances as the hometown Lakers take on the English River Miners at 7:30 p.m. CT.

The SIJHL’s other semifinal between the Dryden GM Ice Dogs and Thunder Bay North Stars starts starts Saturday at Memorial Arena in Dryden at 8:30 p.m. CT.

Here’s a preview on each series:


SIJHL semifinal schedule (Series B)
All starts Central time
No. 1 Fort Frances Lakers vs. No. 5 English River Miners
Best-of-seven series
Game 1: Friday, April 1 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
Game 2: Sunday, April 3 @ Fort Frances 6:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
Game 3: Wednesday, April 6 @ English River 7 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Game 4: Thursday, April 7 @ English River 7 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Game 5*: Saturday, April 9 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
Game 6*: Monday, April 11 @ English River 7 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 13 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
*-if necessary

This will be the second-ever postseason match-up between the two sides.

Fort Frances took the only other meeting back in 2014 sweeping a best-of-seven semifinal 4-0 enroute to the Lakers going on to capture the Bill Salonen Cup.

The Lakers earned home ice advantage in the series and throughout the SIJHL playoffs by finishing first overall in the league standings. The recorded a franchise-best 46 victories againt only eight defeats in regulation and two more in a shootout.

English River meanwhile are in the semifinals after rallying from a two games to none deficit to defeat the Minnesota Iron Rangers 3-2 in a best-of-five quarter-final, play-in set.

They had a 12-37-3-4 record in the regular season.

During the course of the 2015-16 campaign, the Lakers and Miners met a total of 14 times.

Fort Frances dominated the season set posting a 14-0-0 record along the way.

The lone point English River picked up vs. the Lakers was in their last meeting in which they fell in overtime.

The Lakers enter the postseason riding an eight-game winning streak while the Miners head into the series having won three in succession.

Fort Frances boasts a stacked line-up that features multiple award winners from top to bottom.

Leading the way is SIJHL Amyotte’s Awards & Promotions most valuable player and CCM Hockey first team all-star Dylan Roberton.

Robertson, who also earned league top defensive forward honours, paced all skaters in scoring with 88 points in 53 games on 31 goals and a league-best 57 assists.

Right after him was Lakers D-man Nick Minverva as the Gongshow Gear top defenceman award recipient piled up 73 points in 52 outings on 21 tallies and 52 helpers.

Three other Fort Frances skaters, in Andrew Willner (CCM 2nd team), Christian Ripley and Cole Tymkin (CCM rookie of the year) also finished in the top 10 in SIJHL scoring with 58, 49 and 48 points respectively.

Miners defenceman Brandon Schaber led his side in scoring in the series win over Minnesota picking up seven points in the five games on two goals and five assists.

CCM Hockey second team all-star Konnar Dechaine, along with teammate Alex Maticic were next with six points apiece.

Ryker Moreau (46), Maticic (44) and Dechaine (43) finished 1-2-3 in team scoring during the regular season with all finishing with over 40 points.

Brandon Bodnar and Pierce Dushenko (CCM 2nd team all-star) were first and second in both average and save percentage in the SIJHL with the Lakers’netminders picking 46 wins and six shutouts between them.

Goaltender Korlan Vader backstopped English River to the come from behind triumph over the Iron Rangers as the won each of the last three games to send his side to the semifinals.


SIJHL semifinal schedule (Series C)
All starts Central time

No. 2 Dryden GM Ice Dogs vs. No. 3 Thunder Bay North Stars
Best-of-seven series
Game 1: Saturday, April 2 @ Dryden 8:30 p.m. (Memorial)
Game 2: Sunday, April 3 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial)
Game 3: Thursday, April 7 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. (Gardens)
Game 4: Friday, April 8 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. (Gardens)
Game 5*: Sunday, April 10 @ Dryden 3 p.m. (Memorial)
Game 6*: Tuesday, April 12 @ Thunder Bay 7:30 p.m. (Gardens)
Game 7*: Friday, April 15 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial)
*- if necessary

The longtime rivals will square off once again in SIJHL playoff action, but for the first time since 2010.

This will mark the sixth time in the 15-year history of the league that the two clubs will have met in a playoff series.

Four of the previous five get togethers were in the Bill Salonen Cup finals, with the North Stars coming away victorious in three of them. They also won a best-of-seven semifinal series vs. the Ice Dogs back in 2007.

Of the combined 24 games they have played in postseason series over the years the North Stars have gone 20-4 overall.

Dryden holds home ice in the series after ending up second in the standings with a 33-15-4-4 record.

Thunder Bay meanwhile was third overall with a 28-24-1-3 mark.

In the 14 meetings the two clubs had in 2015-16, Dryden dominated the season set going 11-2-1 overall.

Two of the contests were decided in overtime, including their last meeting back on March 6 in which  the GM Ice Dogs won 3-2 in OT.

Dryden had three players finish in the top 10 in SIJHL scoring.

Derek McPhail, CCM Hockey first team all-star Braden Allkins and CCM second team all-star Matt Houston were fifth, sixth and seven in league offensive numbers with 56, 54 and 52 points apiece.

CCM first team all-star Nicholas Nigro led all SIJHL skaters in goals with 32 and power play markers with 14.

Nigro’s 60 points were the third most in the league this season.

Kris Hamlin was second in North Stars offensive numbers picking up 44 in 40 outings, including 18 tallies.

CCM first teamall-star Kyle Pouncy topped GM Ice Dogs defencemen in points with 42, which was the third highest total in the league. Teammate Troy Williams was second on the squad and sixth overall with 33 points.

Joe Newhouse led all Thunder Bat blueliners in scoring with 43 points, which was second most in the SIJHL.

CCM second team all-star Aaron Wesley-Chisel followed Newhouse with 34 points, ending up fifth in the league.

Between the pipes, Taylor Unruh went 17-10-0-2 for the GM Ice Dogs seeing the bulk of the work for the club. He also posted two shutouts.

SIJHL top goaltender award winner and CCM Hockey first team all-star Riley Corbin registered 23 triumphs for Thunder Bay. His four shutouts tied him for the most in the league.

All SIJHL playoff games are available online at

Previous articleSummer Camp at Northern Ontario School of Medicine
Next articleFirst Nations Leaders commend Health Ministers or NNL offers news, information, opinions and positive ideas for Thunder Bay, Ontario, Northwestern Ontario and the world. NNL covers a large region of Ontario, but are also widely read around the country and the world. To reach us by email: Reach the Newsroom: (807) 355-1862.