Kurt Walsten is looking forward to the showdown of playing three games in as many nights against two of the top teams in the Superior International Jr. Hockey League.
Walsten, the no nonsense, 53-year old head coach of the Dryden Ice Dogs, is back with the SIJHL team after missing several games due to health issues.
Fourth place Dryden takes a record of 5-6-1 into a home game with the second seed, 8-3-0 Thunder Bay North Stars tonight. Then, the Ice Dogs hit the road for games against the third place, 6-2-1 Kam River Fighting Walleye on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Ready to play Thunder Bay and Kam River after what Walsten termed several “getting back to basics” practice sessions, Dryden has scored 47 goals in 12 games to date but has given up 42.
“We have been giving up too many soft goals,” a candid Walsten told Hockey News North. “Our save percentage is well below .900 (.883) and we need to have better play from our goalies.”
But it’s not just that, said Walsten.
“Some of our guys have been cheating all over the place … they haven’t been in good position on the ice,” Walsten noted.
Having said that, Walsten said he is encouraged by the Ice Dogs practice sessions of late.
“We have been working at chipping pucks, blocking shots, things like that,” Walsten relayed to Hockey News North. “If we don’t change certain things we can’t have different results. The kids have been buying in and we have had good practices.
“We will be ready for Thunder Bay and Kam River,” Walsten said evenly. “We need to play with intensity and going out there banging and crashing. If we play like we have been practicing we will be fine. We can’t worry about Thunder Bay or Kam River … they are not going to help us. We need to worry about ourselves.”
Walsten, who has been coaching in Dryden since 2014 and led the Ice Dogs to two SIJHL championships and two league final appearances, noted that “when we play our style of hockey we are tough to beat.”
The fiery bench boss is planning some lineup changes for this week’s games, beginning with tonight’s home match against Thunder Bay.
Walsten plans on moving hulking skater Cameron Ware (who has three goals in just five games) and Ondrej Bardos (who has two points in only two appearances) up to the first line with league scoring leader Maxime Collette, who has 12 goals, seven assists, 19 points in 12 outings. And high scoring forward Tristan Takats, who has five goals, six assists, 11 points in just six games, will see some duty on the blue line, said Walsten.
Also, puck-moving defenseman Chase Muswagon is expected back in the lineup. The Pas, Manitoba product has played in seven games to date and has one goal, three assists, four points.
“We are getting some guys back … hopefully the message is getting through … we are ready to try to make a move up in the standings,” Walsten concluded. “We need to start playing Ice Dogs hockey.”