This is as good of a goalie tandem as there is in the Superior International Jr. Hockey League. To be sure, Austin Madge and Eric Vanska are two big reasons why the Kam River Fighting Walleye is in first place in the tightrope standings of the seven-team SIJHL.
Madge has a record of 8-1-0 to go with a 2.11 goals against average and .941 save percentage. Vanska, meanwhile, has a 4-2-1 record, 2.12 goals against average and .936 percentage for the league-leading Fighting Walleye, which has 25 points from a 12-3-1 mark atop the standings of the SIJHL.
Madge has a 2001 birth date and Vanska was born in 2002.
Kam River general manager Kevin McCallum, who helped build the Thief River Falls Norskies from scratch as a first-year SIJHL team back in 2016, certainly sees the net value of having Madge and Vanska tending the twine for the Fighting Walleye.
“Being the second SIJHL expansion team that I have had the privilege of being the GM for, my goal was to be strong in net as I assumed we would be in for some long nights and having a strong presence in net would give us a chance to stay in games,” McCallum told Hockey News North. “Bringing in Austin Madge and Eric Vanska has been a real pleasure to watch. We believe we have a 1A and 1B tandem between the pipes and no matter who gets the call we have a chance to be successful.”
McCallum also noted the positive presence of both of the Fighting Walleye goalies.
“The best thing about both of them is the character and laughs they bring to our room. They challenge each other to be better and under the guidance of Kari Rikkonen, who is an amazing goalie coach, I believe we are in great hands,” McCallum added.
And Fighting Walleye head coach Matt Valley is also a big fan of his puck-stopping pair.
“As a coaching staff, we are very blessed to have the tandem of Madge and Vanska. We often call them a 1-1 punch because we think they are both good enough to be starters in this league and their play thus far has shown that,” Valley relayed to Hockey News North. “Sometimes deciding who to go with is difficult but it is a good problem to have, for sure.”
Valley also noted what both Madge and Vanska bring to the Kam River net in ability, composure and more.
“They are both great people and very talented goaltenders with diverse skill sets. They each have good hands and move really well. Austin is a true competitor. You won’t find a more dedicated and hard working guy. He has got a tonne of spirit and can steal any game in any league. He is quick and technically sound. Eric moves very smoothly and has strong puck tracking ability … truly elite eyes. He has got great posture and you won’t find him out of position very often.
“Austin and Eric have been a very big part of our success thus far, no doubt,” Valley concluded.