A goalie, three defensemen and five forwards comprise a checklist of seasoned performers who are in position to lead the way for the Dryden Ice Dogs of the Superior International Jr. Hockey League come the 2022-2023 campaign.
Nine retreating players who have the potential to make an impact for Dryden this ’22-23 season are as follows.
Eric Clark. A 2002 birth year goalie, Clark was acquired by Dryden from the Blind River Beavers of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League in December of 2021. He became part of a three goalie system with the Ice Dogs and put up some good numbers. In all, the 6-foot-5, 205 pound Clark had a 4-3-0 record with a 2.97 goals against average and .919 save percentage during the regular season for Dryden. He then played in 84 minutes during the playoffs and had a 0-1-0 record with a 2.84 goals against average and .917 save percentage as the primary backup to since graduated starter Cole Johnston. Clark was one of no less than seven goalies who won at least one game for Dryden in 2021-2022. And this time around, the big back stop will be out to lay claim to the Ice Dogs no. 1 net job and try to prevent the revolving goalie door of ’21-22 from reopening.
Jackson Jacques. A team leader for Dryden as a 2002 birth year defenseman, Jacques had three goals, 19 assists, 22 points in 43 regular season games in ’21-22. The 5-foot-11, 195 pound defender then had one goal, seven assists, eight points in nine games as a top notch offensive defenseman for the Ice Dogs.
Branden Hill. Another 2002 birth year defenseman, the 6-foot-5, 200 pound Hill had three goals, three assists, six points in 31 regular season games for the Ice Dogs in ’21-22. He then followed that up with one goal, one assist, two points in nine playoff matches.
Max Rath. Yet another 2002 birth year defender, the hulking, 6-foot-7, 220 pound Rath had two goals, five assists, seven points while appearing in only 26 games during the ’21-22 regular season. He then took a regular turn on blue line for all nine of Dryden’s playoff games and had an assist. With his size and reach, Rath could be on the path to being a difference maker for Dryden this season.
Brady Frattinger. A heart and soul player who competes much bigger than his 5-foot-10, 165 pound frame, the 2002 birth year forward was a standout for Dryden in ’21-22. He posted 23 goals, 20 assists, 43 points in 45 regular season games for the Ice Dogs and then came through with five goals, five assists, 10 points in eight playoff contests. His 10 playoff points were the second most for Dryden. Frattinger also racked up 121 minutes in penalties along the way as an absolutely fearless warrior. Not only should Frattinger once again be a top forward for Dryden in ’22-23 but one of the very best at his position in the entire SIJHL.
Tyler Earl. Back for another term as a 2002 birth year forward, the 6-foot-2, 200 pound Earl capped a ’21-22 regular season in which he had 12 goals, 17 assists, 29 points in 45 outings as a point per game performer in the playoffs. Earl eked out three goals, six assists, nine points in nine playoff games. His nine playoff points were third most on the Ice Dogs.
Ondrej Bardos. An electrifying forward with a 2003 birth date, the 6 foot, 175 pound Bardos played in just 30 regular season games for the Ice Dogs in ’21-22 but managed 13 goals, 15 assists, 28 points. He then came through with another four goals, four assists, eight points in nine playoff games.
Derek Koivisto. A 2002 birth year forward, the 5-foot-10, 175 pound Koivisto had 17 goals, five assists, 22 points while skating in 42 regular season games for the Ice Dogs in ’21-22. He then had one goal, two assists, three points in eight playoff games.
Bryce Benfield. A 2003 birth year forward, the 6-foot-5, 215 pound Benfield had six goals, six assists, 12 points in 36 regular season games for Dryden in ’21-22. Benfield then came through with two goals, two assists, four points while suiting up in nine playoff games.
One can reckon that Dryden will again be in a position to contend in ’22-23 with Kurt Walsten at the steering wheel as coach and general manager. In six full seasons as the Ice Dogs hockey boss, the 54-year Walsten has led Dryden to two SIJHL championships and four trips to the league finals.
The Ice Dogs are coming off of a ’21-22 season in which they finished in third place with a record of 26-15-4. Dryden then swept the Fort Frances Lakers in three straight games in the opening round of the playoffs before losing to the eventual champion Red Lake Miners four games to two in a semi-final series that could have easily gone the other way.
To be sure, Walsten has lofty expectations for the ’22-23 season, having told Hockey News North that the intentions are to return the SIJHL’s Bill Salonen championship trophy to Dryden. And with a wise-to-ways grade of players such as the aforementioned Eric Clark, Jackson Jacques, Branden Hill, Max Rath, Brady Frattinger, Tyler Earl, Ondrej Bardos, Derek Koivisto and Bryce Benfield, the Ice Dogs have the makings of finishing at or near the top of the class this season.
Dryden is slated to begin the 2022-2023 regular season with a Friday, September 23 home game against the Kam River Fighting Walleye. Based on their respective number of high end returning players, the Ice Dogs, Fighting Walleye and Thunder Bay Stars are projected as being among the better teams in the seven member SIJHL in ’22-23.
The SIJHL is entering its 21st season as a league. The ’22-23 regular season schedule will see each team play 54 games with the seven member clubs slated to face off against each other nine times.