THUNDER BAY, Ont. – With back-to-back Bill Salonen Cup Superior International Junior Hockey League titles to their credit, the Dryden GM Ice Dogs are busily gearing up for an attempt at a threepeat.
Along with consecutive SIJHL championships, the GM Ice Dogs also boasts four straight Bill Salonen Cup appearances and six in the past nine seasons.
Dryden also has a combined 118 wins the past three years in league regular season play and will once again look to be a force to be reckoned with under head coach and general manager Kurt Walsten.
With some thoughts from team president Mike Sveinson, here’s a look at the first of six SIJHL team preseason previews, which today features the Dryden GM Ice Dogs.
SIJHL: As two-time defending SIJHL champs, what are your expectations for the club heading into the 2018-19 season?
MIKE SVEINSON: We’ve set the bar high at this point. We expect to repeat as Bill Salonen Cup champions. Anything less than that is considered a failure. Our team motto this season can be captured by the hashtags we’re using in all of our promotional materials; #3peat, #DIDdynasty, and #keepBillhome.
SIJHL: From your perspective, what you’ve seen from your team in training camp so far.
M.S.: We have a very deep offensive core this season and a level of commitment in the room that we typically don’t see until after Christmas. The team is ahead of pace on chemistry and commitment, with the singular focus on winning.
SIJHL: Who are a couple of returning players you expect big things from?
M.S.: Local three-year returning player, Trey Palermo, will be a focal point in everything we do. We also expect big things from Evan Walls, last year’s rookie of the year nominee – who played most of the season injured. Playing injury-free this year, we are excited to see what he has in store.
SIJHL: Who are some newcomers you’ve signed that you’ve been impressed with early on?
M.S.: Cameron Coutre (1998-04-11) from Victoria, B.C. has all the skill in the world and will be a candidate to lead the league in scoring. On the back-end, Carter Brown (1998-10-17) out of Edmonton, Alta., is as mobile as we’ve ever had for a player of his size. We are pleased with how both of our goaltenders in Carson Murison (1998-10-01) who is joining us from Half Moon Bay, Calif., and Jordan Wilde (2000-02-05) a Kamloops, B.C. native, are performing.
SIJHL: What are your thoughts on the organization renewing head coach and general manager Kurt Walsten’s contract for another five years?
M.S.: Every single year since Kurt arrived the team has been better than the year before. It is because of Kurt that the team excels on and off the ice. He is worthy of every penny that the team can afford to pay him and has earned every single dollar.
SIJHL: What goals do you have heading into the start of the regular season and beyond?
M.S.: Operate so that we can turn a profit; to be pillars of the community; for our players to be model citizens and to win a lot of hockey games. I’ve found that none of these can work in isolation. They need to work together. All of this comes on the backs of immense volunteerism; therefore, the main goal is to create an environment in Dryden that people want to work in and carry these goals from dream to reality.
The GM Ice Dogs will commence their 2018-19 campaign Friday, Sept. 21 as they host the Fort Frances Lakers in a 7:30 p.m. CT start at Memorial Arena.