There is a new leader atop the board of the hotly contested Superior International Jr. Hockey League. Led by 33-year old general manager and coach Geoff Walker, the nationally ranked Red Lake Miners have drilled their way to first place in the seven team SIJHL.
Red Lake issued a serious statement by way of a recent take down of perennial powerhouse Thunder Bay North Stars with back to back 5-2 and 8-1 victories. As they head into a weekend off from game action in the seven team SIJHL, Walker and the Miners have 21 points from a 10-2-1 record.
Walker, who took over as the GM and head coach in Red Lake in 2019 and promptly led the Miners to a 32-18-5 record before COVID-19 made its presence, is a former Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League scoring star with his native Prince Edward Island Rocket. He went on to a 10-year pro playing career and had success in both North America and overseas, complete with National Hockey League contracts in his pocket.
An easy to talk to individual, Walker said he likes where the Miners are at and how they are playing, while quite aware of other contending SIJHL teams that include the second place Kam River Fighting Walleye, third ranked Thunder Bay, and the fourth seeded Dryden Ice Dogs.
“We have a lot of depth and scoring up and down our lineup with 70 goals scored in 13 games but I don’t think that is going to be sustainable,” Walker told Hockey News North. “So, we will continue to try to work on cleaning up our defense as we prepare for games in what is a tough league.”
Jordan Baranesky is Red Lake’s scoring leader with 11 goals, 11 assists, 22 points followed by fellow forwards Brady Harroun at 7-10-17, Nic Bolin at 7-8-15, Ryan Howe at 4-11-15, Lucas Piekarczyk at 10-4-14 and Noah Kramps at 5-9-14. Notably, Baranesky is a local Red Lake product.
The Miners also have an impact player in forward Ryan Hunter who has five goals, five assists, 10 points in just four games for Red Lake since being acquired in a trade with the Cochrane Crunch of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
Walker relayed that he likes the “good leadership” that the Miners have in their lineup and added that it is a bonus to play home games in cozy Cochenour Arena, which can house 500 spectators.
“It is great to see our fans back and out there supporting us,” stated Walker. “Our barn has a great atmosphere … our fans are loud and right on top of the players.”
A small market franchise that plays in a town of just over 4,000 residents, Red Lake has played nine of its 13 games at home thus far and has a record of 7-2-0 while also showing well on the road with a 3-0-1 mark.
“It is a great little hockey community,” Walker said of Red Lake, which is located about 330 miles northwest of Thunder Bay and is just over 60 miles from the Ontario-Manitoba border. “I am far from home (Prince Edward Island) and it is great when my mom and daughter come to visit. I really like it here in Red Lake. It is a great little hockey town with supportive fans and the Miners are a first class organization.”