Superior shores and roars

February 25, 2022

Kam River Fighting Walleye and Red Lake Miners have a thirst for first as the Superior International Jr. Hockey League has a slate of games on a plate that will click the gate on the final state of the 2021-2022 regular season standings. Meanwhile, the Dryden Ice Dogs are lurking and the Thunder Bay North Stars, Wisconsin Lumberjacks and Fort Frances Lakers are working at perking before the regular season finishes up at the end of March.

• At stake in the SIJHL this season is a second team that will represent the league at this year’s Dudley Hewitt Cup, Central Canada tournament. Red Lake will be the host team for the annual event that, in this case, will be held from May 10 to 14 at Cochenour Arena.

Joining host Red Lake at the four-team DHC will be the champions of the SIJHL, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and the Ontario Jr. Hockey League. Should Red Lake win the SIJHL playoff championship for the 2021-2022 season, the league’s runner-up team will be the fourth entry into the DHC tournament.

• Plausibly and conceivably, it is a toss up between Kam River and Dryden as to which SIJHL team will join Red Lake as the two league reps at this year’s DHC. Both the Fighting Walleye and Ice Dogs added impact players at this year’s trade deadline and are in good position to be DHC participants alongside Red Lake and whoever the champions will be from the NOJHL and OJHL.

As to what generally comes down to the game-determining position, both Kam River and Dryden are set in net with goalies that Fighting Walleye general manager Kevin McCallum and head coach Matt Valley and Ice Dogs commander in chief Kurt Walsten have checked the boxes on.

All in all, on the forward lines and at the back end, Kam River and Dryden are about as equal as can be. To be sure, in a recent five day period, the Fighting Walleye and Ice Dogs faced off three times and all three games were decided by one goal.

• Beyond the ‘Big Three’ are, in current order of standing, Thunder Bay, Wisconsin and Fort Frances.

The North Stars are well ahead of the Lumberjacks and Lakers in the second rung of the standings. But Thunder Bay has regressed in the 2022 segment from its standing of 2021 and the North Stars have slipped from contender to middle of the road status into fourth place.

Wisconsin defenseman Zach Carson breaks out of his own end with Kam River forward Carson Gorst in pursuit.

Wisconsin? The fifth place Lumberjacks have shown they can beat Thunder Bay, having defeated the North Stars twice already this season. And Wisconsin was within a mere 69 seconds of taking top seed Kam River to overtime in a recent game only to lose 3-2 on a late goal by the Fighting Walleye.

A notable about Wisconsin is that Lumberjacks general manager and coach Doug Lein preaches a positive outlook and has staunchly defended his program and players in the face of adversity such as recent, back to back, 13-1 and 17-4 blowout road losses to Red Lake.

All six teams make the playoffs in the SIJHL and Lein has said that a task is to try to make sure that the Lumberjacks are prepared for the post season.

As for Fort Frances, the Lakers are unlikely to vacate the basement of the standings. But there have been recent weekend splits with both Wisconsin and Thunder Bay that gave the Lakers two wins that doubled their victory total for the season.

Top photo: Dryden and Kam River in one of the three recent one-goal games between the two teams.

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