Bright lights of Superior

December 26, 2021

A writer’s pick of eye-catching and under-the-radar performers and performances from the first segment of the 2021-2022 Superior International Jr. Hockey League season:

Maxime Collette

• The only 20-goal scorer in the SIJHL — he has 24 of them — 20-year old Maxime Collette of the fourth-seed Dryden Ice Dogs also leads the league in scoring. Hailing from the small, French speaking, Manitoba town of St. Malo, the razzle dazzle, diminutive forward has netted 24 goals, 16 assists, 40 points in 23 games for the 16-9-1 Ice Dogs.

• Dryden’s 16-9-1 record is even more impressive when taking note of the fact that no less than six goalies have at least one win for the Ice Dogs thus far this season. Jordan Belley leads the brigade of Dryden backstops with eight of the 16 victories. Heading into the new year, the 20-year old Belley is one of three goalies who are still on the Ice Dogs roster. Meanwhile, below the .500 mark after 15 games of the season, Dryden won 10 of 11 matches to close out the 2021 portion of the SIJHL schedule.

• Austin Madge probably ranks as the best trade that Kam River general manager Kevin McCallum never made. McCallum had the 20-year old Madge on the Canadian Jr. Hockey League trade wire during the off season before deciding to hold on to the big goalie. Now, Madge has the best numbers of any goalie in the SIJHL — 14-1-0 record, 1.90 goals against average, .945 save percentage and three shutouts. Notably, in 915 minutes of work in the Fighting Walleye net, Madge has made 494 saves while allowing only 29 goals.

• Speaking of McCallum and the trade market, the astute Kam River GM has brought in three high level defensemen from three different junior leagues since the start of the season. The trio of defenders who have made the Fighting Walleye even more effective and efficient on the back end are 20-year old Kersey Reich via the Saskatchewan Jr. Hockey League, 19-year old Kyle Lamoureux from the Central Canada Hockey League and 18-year old Johnny McCollum via the North American Hockey League.

Zach Fortin

• And as Kam River has the league’s top ranked goalie in the aforementioned Austin Madge, the Fighting Walleye also boasts the puck-stopper with the third best statistics in the SIJHL in 19-year old Eric Vanska. A local product, Vanska has an 8-2-1 record with a 2.26 goals against average, .928 save percentage and two shutouts.

• 20-year old defenseman Zach Fortin has been everything Kam River thought he would be when the Fighting Walleye acquired the homegrown hombre in an off season trade with the Timmins Rock of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. Now only has Fortin been a leader as Kam River’s captain, he has been an offensive force from his defence post with three goals, 22 assists, 25 points in 25 games. Fortin has also brought his experience of 68 career games with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League to Kam River, which will head into the new year in first place in the SIJHL with 45 points from a record of 22-3-1.

Trenton Morriseau

• He lacks flash and flair but hustling 19-year old forward Trenton Morriseau has quietly become a go-to player for Kam River. A product of Fort William First Nation, Morriseau is among the top scorers on the Fighting Walleye — and in the SIJHL — with 13 goals, 19 assists, 32 points in 26 games.

• Like the aforementioned Zach Fortin of Kam River, Red Lake Miners forward Ryan Hunter is another refugee from the NOJHL, having been acquired from the Cochrane Crunch earlier in the season. The 20-year old forward has been dynamite for the second-place Miners with 13 goals, 10 assists, 23 points in only 11 games since arriving in Red Lake in late October of 2021.

• It has been a tough season for the Minnesota-based Thief River Falls Norskies. The team got off to a late start in the player recruitment department and the Norskies have played a number of games this season with a short bench. Then came a coaching change just before Christmas with Brenden Gust elevated to interim bench boss following the resignation of Elliot Bates. Having played just 17 games — the fewest of any of the seven teams of the SIJHL — the Norskies have a record of 3-14-0 for six points and have scored just 31 goals. But a bright spot in Thief River Falls has been the play of 19-year forward Scott Bugarin, who has figured in on almost 40 percent of the Norskies 31 goals despite missing two games. In total, Bugarin has eight goals, four assists, 12 points.

Kaleb Bruyere

• Picking up the pieces from a disgraced former coach whose name does not merit mention in this column, the Fort Frances Lakers are in a franchise retool with 62-year old hometown legend Dave Allison in his first season as coach and general manager. And while Fort Frances will head into the new year of play in last place in the SIJHL with a record of 2-19-0, there are positives that can be found if one looks closely. On a Lakers team that has scored only 38 goals in 21 games, 19-year old forward Kaleb Bruyere, who is a local Fort Frances product, has found the back of the net five times. And 19-year old goalie Mason Meyer has a 2-9-0 record, one shutout, a 4.12 goals against average and a respectable .897 save percentage. When Meyer has not played, the Lakers have a record of 0-10-0. And in its last game before the Christmas break, Fort Frances gave the third place Thunder Bay North Stars all they could handle before dropping a tough 4-3 road decision.

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