September 23, 2022
By: Gary Moskalyk
The Dryden Ice Dogs are looking to improve on a respectable 2021-22 season. Head coach Kurt Walsten feels he has assembled a deep roster to do just that.
Walsten’s crew went 26-15-4 for 56 points and a .622 percentage, good enough for third place in the SIJHL last year. They dispatched Fort Frances in three straight in the first round of the playoffs and then lost in six games to Red Lake in the semi-finals. They outscored their opponents 213-127 in the regular season, and led the league in penalty minutes with1,188.
There aren’t too many easy Dryden games when you’re the opponent.
League MVP Max Collette, 45 goals in 43 games with 36 helpers to lead the league in points, is gone. Tristan Takats and Cameron Ware, 54 and 45 points respectively, both blessed with trademark Ice Dog toughness, have aged out.
Not to worry, says Walsten, a tough hombre himself in his playing days.
“We’re going to have a way better team this year than last year,” said Walsten. “I’ve recruited hard this summer.
“All my guys wanted to come back from last year,” he continued. “I’m not keeping them all. Obviously we didn’t win last year. We were a lazy team. The key guys I wanted they’re all coming back this year.”
Forward Brady Frattinger, 23 goals 20 assists in 45 regular season games, five goals five helpers in eight playoff games, is one of them. The 5-10, 165-lb forward added 121 PIMs in those 53 games. The very definition of a power forward if there ever was one.
“I’d describe myself as a power forward, I’d say. Get in the dingy areas, lay on the body,” said the Elkhorn, MB native. “I feel I have a flair for the score sheet, too. Put up some points and stuff. I kind of see myself as an all-around player who can contribute defensively as well.”
Frattinger noted Dryden had 29 players on hand against Red Lake on Friday night, with eight healthy scratches.
“Obviously we lost a couple guys there. Kurt did a lot of work this summer. We’ve got a lot of depth. Honestly, we’ll have a bit of a hole with Collette gone. The guys he brought in, I think we can fill that hole,” said Frattinger. “We might not have anybody put up the 50 goals or whatever he had last year but we can have three or four guys put 30 in the back of the net. Kind of fill that hole.”
Depth was one area Walsten addressed in the off-season.
“We were competitive last year. We didn’t have the depth. I’ve got depth here this year. Right now I’m five lines deep,” said Walsten. “I’ve technically got too many forwards who can play in this league. I’m not saying they’re all 100-point guys, but they all can do something in this league.”
Dryden used all of its players in the Red Lake two-game exhibition, rotating in various pieces for final assessment. They won both games 4-2.
Dryden opens the season against Kam River at home. That’s four games against last year’s best to launch the season.
“If you’re going to jump in the water you might as well get right in the deep end,” said Walsten.
The Ice Dogs added to their winning ways with a key summer signing. Former player Jake Gushue was added to the coaching staff. Gushue was part of the championship 2016-17 run.
“First year we won the championship here he played for us,” said Walsten of his new protégé. “When he played here he worked hard. He’s a great team guy. Cares about the community. Had nothing but good things to say about Dryden. If you’re going to reward someone those are the kind of guys you want to reward. He was proud to wear the Ice Dog jersey when he was here. He stayed in touch over the years.”
Walsten is a veteran coach. Gushue’s 26.
“Because he’s a young guy he can relate to players that way. He’s a personal trainer off the ice. Our guys are getting first class workouts everyday in the gym. . . We’re going to be a well conditioned team this year. We’re doing things back to the way we used to do it when we won all the time. . . Jake is what the Ice Dog organization is. He cares about the guys. Puts the work in. He’s the perfect fit.”
Frattinger was named team captain on September 20. Max Rath, Jackson Jacques and Ben Hackl are alternates.
“We’ve got a good core coming back,” said Frattinger. “I’m excited for what we have here.”