Jason La Rose
May 15, 2022
When the Red Lake Miners arrive in Estevan for the 2022 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons, they can be fairly confident any challenges they face on the ice will pale in comparison to what the team has already been through this season.
Like most leagues east of Manitoba, the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL) endured a COVID-related stoppage midseason; the Miners didn’t play a game between Dec. 15 and Feb. 11.
Just before the season was halted, though, Red Lake faced another major issue – a “catastrophic failure” of the ice plant chiller at Cochenour Arena resulted in ammonia leaking into the system and caused a seven-week shutdown of the facility, the only rink in Red Lake.
“We were driving in our own cars, 45 minutes down the highway to get some ice in Ear Falls,” Miners head coach and general manager Geoff Walker says. “And we were practicing outside for a couple weeks; that was a really trying time for me to try and keep these guys with it, [keep them] engaged.”
In all, the Miners went 84 days between home games, playing eight straight on the road on either side of the pandemic pause.
But through it all, Red Lake continued to be one of the most consistent teams in the SIJHL; it won its last six games before the break and came back with another six afterwards.
They ended up second in the SIJHL standings, which were decided by points percentage (teams played between 37 and 45 games due to the shutdown), and dispatched the Dryden Ice Dogs in six games in the semifinals.
That set up a showdown with the top-ranked Kam River Fighting Walleye, who had taken four of the last six regular-season meetings between the teams.
The Miners came out with the momentum, earning a one-goal victory in Game 1 before romping to 6-2 and 7-1 victories to take a 3-0 stranglehold on the series. But they stumbled from there, dropping Game 4 at home and giving back a two-goal lead in Game 5.
Now all the pressure was on Red Lake, back on home ice for Game 6 without momentum.
Another challenge, in a season filled with them? Why not.
“Those kind of challenges [through the season] really pushed us and it helped us be ready,” Walker says. “It was just kind of one of those things. What else is it going to be? We’ll do it the hard way. And we ended up getting it done.”
Jordan Baranesky’s eighth goal of the playoffs – tied with Red Lake captain Ryan Howe – stood up as the game-winner as the Miners earned a 3-2 win to clinch their first-ever SIJHL title.
And now? They’ll try and become the first SIJHL team to win Canada’s National Junior A Championship.
Red Lake opens its Centennial Cup schedule against the Ontario Hockey League champions, either the Pickering Panthers or Toronto Jr. Canadiens, on May 19.
HOW THEY GOT TO ESTEVAN
Superior International Junior Hockey League
Semifinal: defeated Dryden 4-2 (4-7, 3-2, 4-1, 5-4 OT, 2-4, 5-1)
SIJHL championship: defeated Kam River 4-2 (3-2, 6-2, 7-1, 2-3, 5-7, 3-2)
Record (W-L-OTL): 28-6-3 (2nd in SIJHL)
Goals for: 210
Goals against: 111
Power play: 53 for 193 (27.5%)
Penalty killing: 140 of 169 (82.8%)
Longest winning streak: 12 (Nov. 26-Feb. 20)
Top 3 scorers:
• Jordan Baranesky – 36G 30A 66P (2nd in SIJHL)
• Ryan Hunter – 25G 36A 61P (4th in SIJHL)
• Brady Harroun – 25G 26A 51P (8th in SIJHL)
Goals for: 49
Goals against: 36
Power play: n/a
Penalty killing: n/a
Top 3 scorers:
• Ryan Howe – 8G 12A 20P
• Jordan Baranesky – 8G 6A 14P
• Ryan Hunter – 4G 8A 12P
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
CJHL TOP 20 RANKINGS
Oct. 4 – not ranked
Oct. 11 – not ranked
Oct. 18 – Honourable Mention
Oct. 25 – not ranked
Nov. 1 – 18th
Nov. 8 – 7th
Nov. 15 – 7th
Nov. 22 – 18th
Nov. 29 – 15th
Dec. 6 – 11th
Dec. 13 – 11th
Dec. 20 – 7th
Feb. 7 – 9th
Feb. 14 – 7th
Feb. 21 – 6th
Feb. 28 – 7th
March 7 – 8th
March 14 – 8th
March 21 – 8th