SIJHL Bill Salonen Cup final preview




Release Date: Thursday, April 14, 2016

SIJHL Bill Salonen Cup final preview

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – The Superior International Junior Hockey League’s Bill Salonen Cup championship final, between the Fort Frances Lakers and Dryden GM Ice Dogs, begins Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. CT at Ice for Kids Arena.

The following is a preview of the best-of-seven final:

THE SCHEDULE: SIJHL Bill Salonen Cup (Series D)

No. 1 Fort Frances Lakers vs. No. 2 Dryden GM Ice Dogs
Best-of-seven series
Game 1: Thursday, April 14 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
Game 2: Sunday, April 17 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids)
Game 3: Tuesday, April 19 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
Game 4: Wednesday, April 20 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial)
Game 5*: Friday, April 22 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids)
Game 6*: Saturday, April 23 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial)
Game 7*: Tuesday, April 26 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids)
*-if necessary

REMATCH: These two teams are meeting in the league final for a second straight year.

Fort Frances won their second straight Bill Salonen Cup in 2015 after defeating Dryden in six games in a tightly contested series.

This marks the third time in the 15-year history of the league that the Ice Dogs will be taking on a Fort Frances-based franchise in the SIJHL final.

Back in the SIJHL’s first year Dryden swept the then Borderland Thunder in 2002 to capture the first-ever Bill Salonen Cup.

The Lakers are competing in their fifth consecutive league championship series, having won the previous two.

The Borderland Thunder skated in three SIJHL finals winning in 2003 while falling in 2002 and 2005.

As for the GM Ice Dogs, this is the eighth time they are competing for the league championship having won the title in 2002 and 2008. That is a league record for most appearances surpassing the seven made by the Fort William (Thunder Bay) North Stars.

HOW THEY ADVANCED: The Lakers enter the Bill Salonen Cup riding a 12-game winning streak.

They won their final eight regular season contests then went on to sweep the English River Miners in four games in semifinal action.

As for Dryden they advanced to their second straight league final after knocking off the Thunder Bay North Stars in six games.

PLAYOFF NUMBERS: Offensively, SIJHL MVP Dylan Robertson led the Lakers in scoring in the series triumph over English River.

He amassed nine points in the four games with six goals and three assists.

A trio of skaters, including Gongshow Gear SIJHL defenceman of the year Nick Minerva was next on the squad with six points.

Christian Ripley and Andrew Willner joined Minerva with six points apiece.

As for the GM Ice Dogs, Nathan Avery was an offensive force in the semifinal victory over Thunder Bay.

He scored a SIJHL-best seven times and set-up three others for 10 points.

Kent Walchuk had seven points vs. the North Stars, including three tallies.

The trio of Braeden Allkins, Nic Noseworthy and D-man Troy Williams were right behind with six points each.

In net, Pierce Dushenko was 3-0 against the Miners while Brandon Bodnar won the other contest.

Dushenko leads all SIJHL goalkeepers in playoff average and save percentage at 2.33 and .932 respectively.

Taylor Unruh went 3-2 in the games against Thunder Bay while Troy Pierce was the winning goaltender in the series finale over the North Stars.

REGULAR SEASON: The Lakers won their third straight league regular season crown finishing first overall with a 46-8-0-2 record while the GM Ice Dogs were second posting a 33-15-4-4 mark.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Fort Frances and Dryden met a total of 14 times during the course of the regular with the Lakers holding a decided edge as they went 12-1-0-1 in the match-ups with the GM Ice Dogs.

However 10 of those games games were decided by just two goals or less including two in overtime and three more in a shootout.

WHO TO WATCH: Fort Frances boasts a strong line-up that features multiple award winners from top to bottom.

Leading the way is SIJHL Amyotte’s Awards & Promotions most valuable player and CCM Hockey first team all-star Dylan Robertson.

Robertson, who also earned league top defensive forward honours, paced all skaters in scoring with 88 points in 53 games on 31 goals and a league-best 57 assists.

Right after him was Lakers D-man Nick Minverva as the Gongshow Gear top defenceman award recipient piled up 73 points in 52 outings on 21 tallies and 52 helpers.

Three other Fort Frances skaters, in Andrew Willner (CCM 2nd team), Christian Ripley and Cole Tymkin (CCM rookie of the year) also finished in the top 10 in SIJHL scoring with 58, 49 and 48 points respectively.

Five-time SIJHL coach of the year Wayne Strachan leads the Lakers behind the bench while Kurt Walsten guides the GM Ice Dogs.

Dryden meanwhile had three players finish in the top 10 in SIJHL scoring.

Derek McPhail, CCM Hockey first team all-star Braeden Allkins and CCM second team all-star Matt Houston were fifth, sixth and seven in league offensive numbers with 56, 54 and 52 points apiece.

CCM first team all-star Kyle Pouncy topped all GM Ice Dogs defencemen in points with 42, which was the third highest total in the league. Teammate Troy Williams was second on the squad and sixth overall with 33 points.

Between the pipes, Taylor Unruh went 17-10-0-2 for the GM Ice Dogs seeing the bulk of the work for the club. He also posted two shutouts.

THE TROPHY: The SIJHL championship trophy is named after Mr. Bill Salonen.

This long-time hockey man is a life member of Hockey Northwestern Ontario and is also an honoured member of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

He hails from Dryden and also served as the town’s mayor previously.

Salonen is a widely respected individual who has volunteered countless years in sport and otherwise in the region for the benefit of those in Northwestern Ontario.

BILL SALONEN CUP APPEARANCES: The Fort Frances Lakers enter the postseason as the two-time defending SIJHL champions.

They are one of three organizations (Lakers, Wilderness, North Stars) to have captured the trophy the past seven seasons.

The Fort William (Thunder Bay) North Stars have won a record five Bill Salonen Cup titles.

Dryden is making their record eighth SIJHL championship series appearance.

Fort Frances has appeared in the past five league finals, winning the last two.

The following are the all-time SIJHL Bill Salonen Cup playoff champions:

2002: Dryden Ice Dogs
2003: Borderland Thunder
2004: Fort William North Stars
2005: Fort William North Stars
2006: Fort William North Stars
2007: Schreiber Diesels
2008: Dryden Ice Dogs
2009: Fort William North Stars
2010: Fort William North Stars
2011: Wisconsin Wilderness
2012: Wisconsin Wilderness
2013: Minnesota Wilderness
2014: Fort Frances Lakers
2015: Fort Frances Lakers
2016: T.B.A.

WHAT’S NEXT: The SIJHL champion will move on to represent the league at the 2016 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A championship May 3-7 in Kirkland Lake, Ont.

There the SIJHL winner will be joined by the host Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and the defending Dudley-Hewitt Cup champion Soo Thunderbirds, who will play for the NOJHL crown starting Friday in Sault Ste. Marie.

Also heading to the DHC will be the winner of the OJHL final between the Trenton Golden Hawks and the Georgetown Raiders. That best-of-seven also start Friday in Trenton.

All SIJHL games as well as the Dudley-Hewitt Cup will be available online at