Red Lake Miners 2023-24 Season Preview

By Gary Moskalyk

Record: 22-25-5 PTS 51 .472% GF 168 GA 188 -20 PP 12.6% PK 79.1% Playoff Result: 1st Round Exit

Key Players Lost 2002: F Jonah DesRosiers 4-12-16 

Returning Players: G Trent Boryszczuk 4-5-1 3.93 .913, D Austin Derzaph, D Gavin McIntosh, F Aiden Corbett, F Matthew MacPherson, F Kyle Schechtel, F Luke Decorby.

Notable Departures: F Jacob Lamoureux 35 goals, F Colton Crysler 20-25-45, D Dayvan Bull 6-26-32.

Goalies: Boryszczuk, Devin Degenstein 2-12-1 6.84 .854 Notre Dame Hounds CSSHL U18

The 2023-24 edition of the Red Lake Miners is looking to hit the refresh button. After winning the 2021-22 Bill Salonen Cup under head coach Geoff Walker the Miners had an off year under head coach Kevin Walker. 

New head coach/GM Lee Stone has been hired to right the ship. Stone brings an impressive resume to the task at hand. An offensive-style defenseman in his playing years, the 34-year-old Surrey, BC native served as a scout/GM/head coach in various years with Arizona State University, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and the Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. 

A 10-year career with the Storm saw Stone forge a .766 winning percentage, winning three league championships along the way.

The Miners represent an opportunity to advance his career.

“Derek Sweet-Coulter, Sweets is a guy I coached against the last couple of years. He obviously started English River (Miners 2015-16). When they moved to Red Lake he was there. He put me touch with Pimmer (assistant coach Chris Pimblott) and the rest is history. For me the goal is to come out here, have success, no different than players. Hopefully move on as well. 

“In the meantime, we’re looking forward to building a real good program here. Something that’s sustainable year after year.” 

The Miners were Bill Salonen Cup champions two years ago. They were 4-0 in exhibition play.

“I won’t lie. Seeing the fact that they won before made me feel better, knowing that I was coming to a program that understood what it takes to win. Winning a championship at any level, in any league, takes a lot of commitment not just from players and coaches but volunteers, the board. Everybody has to be all in to do something like that.

“For me the group here is excellent both on and off the ice. We’re excited to provide some of that stability as well.”

There will be 10 new forwards, six new defencemen and a new goaltender (Degenstein) among the 24 players on the roster just released on the SIJHL website. 

“Development and promotion, right? We want our guys to get better every day. We want to move them on. When you do that It makes it easier to recruit. I’m a big believer in culture in the dressing room and the boys being a family. We had a bonding weekend before we even touched the ice. That’s something we’ll focus on big time throughout the year.”

The Miners took on the expansion Kenora Islanders on Saturday, and battled founding franchise Dryden on Sunday, before taking two more against the Bombers mid-September.

“We’re excited to play someone other than ourselves. Main camp, you’re going toe-to-toe with your brothers. We had some high compete for sure. It’s an opportunity to come down here (Dryden) and see how we match up against other teams. That’s the most exciting part for sure.” 

Red Lake hopes to put last year’s middling campaign in the learning pile.

“We have lofty goals here for sure, and that’s no discredit any team in our league. We know it’s going to be a real challenge to win the championship at the end of the year. That’s where we want to be. We want to be at the Centennial Cup in Oakville. Not just be there, win a couple games. . .”

Stone ran into one of the NHL’s brightest stars when he was in Arizona.  

“He was real young when I was playing down there. You knew he was going to be good,” said Stone of Toronto’s Auston Matthews. “He played for the Bobcats program originally (2012-13). There’s a couple of other players who came a little bit later.” Josh Doan and Matthew Knies were mentioned. 

“Arizona’s becoming a bit of a hockey hotbed. No different than California when Gretzky went to LA.”

Stone met Matthews when Auston was 13. “He was a heck of a hockey player even then. That shot you see now, you knew it was coming.”

Stone’s looking forward to the new year with the Bombers.

“I hope everyone has a great season. The stronger our league, the stronger every individual team is. I’m looking forward to being part of it for sure.”