Five of the eight teams in the Superior International Jr. Hockey League will take records well above the .500 level into the 2024 segment of this season.
Flying high on a 10 game winning streak, the Sioux Lookout Bombers are atop the SIJHL points parade with 42 clicks from a record of 20-5-2. Reigning champion Kam River Fighting Walleye are next with 41 points via 20-4-1 record. Notably, Kam River has the league’s best winning percentage at .820 and holds two games in hand on Sioux Lookout. Next up are the Red Lake Miners with a record of 18-7-2, followed closely behind by the Dryden Ice Dogs with a 17-12-2 mark and the Thunder Bay North Stars at 16-9-3.
Then come the three teams with losing records — Wisconsin Lumberjacks at 9-12-4, Fort Frances Lakers with a 5-17-3 mark and the expansion Kenora Islanders at the bottom with a 1-22-1 log. It has been a tough sled for Kenora , which has been out-scored by a whopping 169 to 47 margin and has the most penalty minutes in the league with 658.
Kam River has no less than six players who have scored 10 goals or more and one of the best goalies in the league as it gets ready to lace up the skates in the new year.
Jeremy Dunmore leads the Fighting Walleye goal pole with 17 followed by Jeff Mintenko with 15, Carter Poddubny with 14, Braeden Duchesne with 12, Nick Fagnilli with 11 and Ryan Doucette with 10.
Between the pipes, Ashton Sadauskas has been a net gain for Kam River with a 15-1-0 record to go with a 2.34 goals against average and .910 save percentage.
Winning, though, is nothing new for folks who operate the Kam River franchise.
The Fighting Walleye finished in first place in its first full season in the SIJHL before losing in the playoff championship series. Kam River again placed first in its second season and then capped it off by winning the SIJHL championship. And now, in just its third full season as members of the SIJHL, the Fighting Walleye has continued its winning ways.
Architects of the Fighting Walleye winner’s circle have been general manager Kevin McCallum and assistant GM Bryan Smeltzer, both of who have been with Kam River since Day One.
And it is worth noting that the Fighting Walleye has had its success to date with three head coaches in as many seasons. First it was Matt Valley, then it was Geoff Walker and now it is Jesse Messier as the Kam River bench boss.
BEWARE THE DOGS
The Ice Dogs of Dryden limped into the Christmas break with just a single point to show from their previous five outings. But prior history has shown that the Ice Dogs under head coach and general manager Kurt Walsten have been more of a force to reckon with over the second half of a given season.
At any rate, despite its 0-4-1 stumble to end the 2023 segment of the season, Dryden will take an overall mark of 17-12-2 into the 2024 schedule of games. Which is nothing to look down on.
Top performers for the Ice Dogs this season have been McLaren Paulsen and Max Roby who are both closing in on the 20 goal mark. Paulsen has netted 19 goals and Roby has 18.
This is the 10th season for the aforementioned Kurt Walsten as the head coach and general manager of the Ice Dogs. Not only has the hard boiled, hard driven Walsten led the Ice Dogs to a pair of league championships — Dryden won back to back SIJHL titles in 2017 and 2018 — he positions them as an annual contender via good recruiting and well timed trades.
The Ice Dogs had a regular season record of 37-15-1 in 2022-2023 which followed a 2021-2022 mark of 26-15-14, which included playoff runs in both years.