SIJHL team season preview: Thief River Falls Norskies

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – Set to commence their fourth season in the Superior International Junior Hockey League, the Thief River Falls Norskies aim in continuing their overall improvement competing in the Canadian Jr. A ranks.

Playing out of the splendid Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls, Minn., the Norskies have posted three consecutive campaigns with 30 or more wins while having gone 102-52-7-6 overall.

As a first-year bench boss, Wilson Housley guided his charges last season and posted a record of 31-20-4-1 and a third place finish in the league standings.

The initial former player in the SIJHL to become a head coach in the league, is also the son of Hockey Hall of Fame defenceman, and current Arizona Coyotes assistant coach, Phil Housley.

Ready for his second year as head coach in Thief River Falls, Housley and the team staff have high expectations in 2019-20.

Here’s a look at what the Norskies bench boss feels his club will have to offer in this, the third of six SIJHL team season previews.

SIJHL: What expectations do you have for your club entering the 2019-20 season?

WILSON HOUSLEY: I have high expectations for our team right away this season. We’re going to be very competitive right out of the gate. Our expectations are to win the SIJHL and to advance to the 2020 Dudley-Hewitt Cup.

SIJHL: How has your preseason gone so far and what have you seen from the players that stands out?

WH: Our training camp has been great so far. We had our main camp in June, which helped us get a solid base for our core guys on the team. We had a couple new additions since our main camp and guys are clicking early in the locker room. We’ve done some team bonding activities a lot earlier this year and we’re happy to see the chemistry coming together early.

SIJHL: Who are a couple of returning players that you look for to play a pivotal role on the club?

WH: Bryce Johnson is a returning forward who had a great rookie season with 19 goals and 50 points. We’re looking for him to be major piece upfront for us this year and moving forward. Zach Ross on the back end will be looking to add some numbers to his rookie season of three goals and 21 points. He will be a great offensive-defenceman for us this year. Tyler Johnson is a 1999 veteran core player for us, who will bring leadership, grit and skill as well. He is hoping to have a breakout season this year after coming off of seven goals and 19 points in 31 games.

SIJHL: Who are some of the new players you’ve signed that you expect to perform well in the SIJHL?

WH: Joe Collins, a 1999 forward will be added to the offense this season. He has a high hockey IQ with speed and great skill. Briar Sylvester will be a rookie for us this season, but he will be a big part on our D-core. He’s a smart-defensemen that can play a skill game as well as gritty. Seth Purcilly is new for us between the pipes. Seth is a very athletic goalie, with size. He’s going to be a big piece for us this season.

SIJHL: What goals do you have for yourself and the team heading into the start of the regular season?

WH: Our goal as a team is to continue to get better throughout the season. Continue to build on everything we’ve been learning and training on throughout camp. We want to be a fast, skilled team that can play a 200-foot game with a high compete level throughout our whole lineup.

SIJHL: What would you like to see your team change or improve on as you head into your second season behind the bench with the Norskies?

WH: As I enter my second season as the head coach for the TRF Norskies, I want to be as prepared and organized as I can be for the players. From practices, to workouts, and our game preparations. I want to see our special teams step it up this season as well which will take our team to the next level.

SIJHL: Do you have any closing comments you’d like to offer to wrap things up?

WH: The Norskies are excited to start the regular season this weekend, playing in Fort Frances Friday and we’re also looking forward to Saturday night with our home opener against the Lakers. The fans are pumped!