THUNDER BAY, Ont. – In the past five seasons, no team has won more games in the Superior International Junior Hockey League than the Dryden GM Ice Dogs.
Since taking over as coach, and eventually general manager as well, Kurt Walsten had seen his side average just over 35 wins per campaign in his tenure with the club.
Under his watch, the GM Ice Dogs have also won two Bill Salonen Cup SIJHL championships and boasted a trio of Dudley-Hewitt Cup appearances.
They also boast an overall regular season mark of 177-71-19-13 over the past half decade while sporting a solid winning percentage of .689 since the start of the 2015-16 season.
With the start of the upcoming campaign just days away, here’s a look at the first of six SIJHL team season previews, which today features the Dryden GM Ice Dogs and input from their head coach and GM.
SIJHL: What expectations do you have for your club entering the 2019-20 season?
KURT WALSTEN: We will be looking at winning another league championship and from there earn a place in the 2020 Dudley-Hewitt Cup in Fort Frances.
SIJHL: How has training camp and preseason gone so far and what have you seen from the players that stands out?
KW: Our main camp was very good. We had over 50 players taking part and the battle for spots were highly competitive. We had a hard-working bunch of guys and went won both of our exhibition games.
SIJHL: Who are a couple of returning players that you look for to play a pivotal role on the club?
KW: Returning goaltender Jacob Anthony had a 13-6-1 record in the regular season and was great in the playoffs. He led all goalies in save percentage at .935 and also had one shutout. His strong efforts gave us a chance to win every night. Up front Curtis Magas is a big, strong player who played both forward and defence and had 35 points, including 11 goals. Rookies Evan Pakkala and Dylan Winsor had 34 points apiece last season while Malcolm Huemmert was over a point-per-game producer.
SIJHL: Who are some of the new players you’ve signed that you expect to perform well in the SIJHL?
KW: Nolan Marshall played in the CCHL2 last year and had 42 points in 44 games while 19-year-old Justin Pitari was in the USPHL and scored 30 goals, added 22 assists in 55 games. We also picked up Jaxon Krupa, from the Notre Dame Hounds midget program. Brad Fortier was an affiliate player for us last season and played Jr. B in Thunder Bay for the Walleye. Another guy to watch is defenceman Amraj Gill. He’s from B.C. and played in the PIJHL.
SIJHL: What goals do you have for yourself and the team heading into the start of the regular season?
KW: We always want to be the hardest working team in the league. There should be no excuses for any team to out work us this year. We want to play hard from start to finish.
SIJHL: What have been one or two highlights for you in your time with team?
KW: We’ve had a good record in my time here. We won a couple of SIJHL championships and competed well in three Dudley-Hewitt Cups. So far in training camp, I’ve seen good team chemistry and a good work ethic that helped us go 2-0 in preseason.
SIJHL: Do you have any closing comments that you’d like to offer?
KW: We want to thank all of our loyal fans and sponsors for their support. Go Dogs Go!