This is the feel good story of the 2021-2022 Superior International Jr. Hockey League season. That is, the newest competing member of the seven team league is in first place at the Christmas holiday break.
Winners of 12 straight games, Kam River is riding the crest of a very impressive record of 22-3-1, good for 45 points in 26 games. The Fighting Walleye has out-scored its opponents by a 113 to 55 margin and is unbeaten on the home ice of Norwest Arena with a perfect record of 14-0-0.
The chief architect behind the Kam River hockey project is general manager Kevin McCallum. But the unassuming McCallum is quick to pass around the credit for the unexpected success of the new SIJHL franchise.
“Coming into the year a lot of people had no expectations of us even being in the mix this year,” McCallum relayed to Hockey News North. “But with the hard work of our hockey operations and scouting staff, we had confidence that we would at least compete every night. Our head coach Matt Valley and his staff have the team working hard and competing every night.”
McCallum likes the approach of the Fighting Walleye.
“We have such an amazing work ethic and a never give up attitude that is fun to watch. When you have 25 guys all going in the right direction and everyone contributing, it makes for a great environment,” McCallum pointed out.
Still, there are 22 regular season games left on the schedule for Kam River and McCallum is mindful of what it will take for the Fighting Walleye to continue its surge.
“We know we have a tonne of work ahead of us,” McCallum relayed. “I also believe we haven’t even come close to the caliber of hockey we can still reach. I look forward to seeing what the new year brings us.”
A balanced lineup, the Fighting Walleye has six players who have more than 20 points apiece thus far this season.
Alex Enegren leads the way with 15 goals, 18 assists, 33 points. He is followed closely by Trenton Morriseau with 13-19-32 totals, Ethan Lang with 12-19-31 numbers, Carson Gorst with 8-17-25 statistics, Zach Fortin with 3-22-25 points and Jeremy Dunmore at 11-23-24. The 20-year old Fortin is a crackerjack defenseman and team captain who was acquired by Kam River in an off season trade with the Timmins Rock of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
Meanwhile, between the pipes, the Fighting Walleye has a fish net combo of Austin Madge and Eric Vanska. Madge has a record of 14-1-0 with a 1.90 goals against average, 945 save percentage and three shutouts. Vanska has an 8-2-1 record with a 2.26 goals against average, .928 save percentage and three shutouts.
The 45 points that Kam River has is 11 more than the second place Red Lake Miners, who have a record of 16-3-2. But it is worth noting that Red Lake holds five games in hand on Kam River.
Rounding out the ‘big four’ of the Superior loop are the Thunder Bay North Stars (15-7-3) and the Dryden Ice Dogs (16-9-1) with 33 points apiece. Thunder Bay has a game in hand on Dryden.
In the distance behind the leaders are the Wisconsin Lumberjacks with 13 points from a record of 6-17-1, the Thief River Falls Norskies with six points from a record of 3-14-0 and the Fort Frances Lakers with four points from a record of 2-19-0.