Four points are all that separate the top four teams of the Superior International Jr. Hockey League. And it is the league’s newest team, the Kam River Fighting Walleye, that leads the way.
Sporting a perfect 10-0-0 record on the home ice of NorWest Arena, Kam River has 29 points from an overall mark of 14-3-1 for first place in the seven-team SIJHL.
But others are not far behind.
Red Lake Miners (12-3-2) have 26 points, Dryden Ice Dogs (12-8-1) have 25 as do the Thunder Bay North Stars (11-7-3.) Red Lake has played 17 games, Kam River has skated in 18, while both Dryden and Thunder Bay have suited up for 21 matches.
As for Kam River, Fighting Walleye head coach Matt Valley, while no doubt happy with his team’s record, told Hockey News North that there is still much to be learned.
“Our staff is proud of our group’s recent success and how we’ve moved up the standings over the past few weeks. The guys in that room have been resilient and very hard working, which to me shows a lot of character,” Valley began.
“But personally, I still think there’s a tonne of untapped potential on our roster. A few of our players have yet to realize what they’re capable of on a nightly basis. It’s a learning curve and some guys are just a bit behind right now.
“Also, the execution has been inconsistent week to week and even night to night. It’s almost a Jekyll and Hyde scenario. Sometimes we’re a tight checking, pay close attention to detail team. Other nights we play a more wide open game that ends up in a high scoring affair,” Valley noted.
Valley also pointed out how other teams in the SIJHL are stepping up their game.
“So, to be winning games, even though I don’t think we’re playing all that great or really sticking to what the staff believes to be our identity or systems, it is exceptionally exciting for me and the rest of the management group. As other teams in our league continue to improve, we need to as well. Just look at the standings, it’s shaping up to be a tight race up top. And all those teams have proved capable of beating each other.
“The parity in the league sure makes it exciting for the fans I’m sure because each and every game you need to show up and play well if you want to win,” Valley summed up.
Meanwhile, Kam River general manager Kevin McCallum had words of praise for his Fighting Walleye and the competitiveness of the SIJHL.
“I believe the league is in a competitive place with four teams at the top. We know we have to compete every night no matter who we are playing. With us being at the top currently is a huge compliment for our club. We are young and still learning what it takes to be a championship team,” McCallum told Hockey News North.
“Our leadership group in the room has done a great job with their guidance and we have created a great atmosphere and culture. The staff have a hard time not going in on an off day as we all love being there so much,” relayed McCallum.
Kyler Belluz of the Thunder Bay North Stars is pursued by the Kam River Fighting Walleye trio of Alex Enegren, Ethan Lang and Trenton Morriseau in recent SIJHL action. (photo by Leith Dunick)