SIJHL Week 12 Preview

By Gary Moskalyk

First place is up for grabs in the SIJHL, with four teams trading spots on game nights. Red Lake is making noise in the 5th slot. Wisconsin is losing some tight ones but is on a six-game winless streak, Fort Frances is winless in their last three, and Kenora is looking for win number two.

The end of week 12 comes within one game, 97 games played of 196 scheduled, of being half completed.

There are just seven games this week.

Dryden 17-8-1 35 pts .673 2nd GF 108 GA 79 +29 PIMs 565 PP% 25.2 PK% 78.1 at Kam River 17-4-0 34 pts .810 2nd GF 106 GA 59 +47 PIMs 441 PP% 31.0 PK% 81.0 Fri/Sat

Head to head: KRW 7 DRY 0, KRW 3 DRY 2 (SO) at Kam River.

With five teams battling for first place, many games are of the marquee variety. Here’s another two that fit the bill.

Dryden’s three wins in Wisconsin last week have the Ice Dogs in 2nd place, a point ahead of Kam River.

Max Roby joined the 30-point club (33). Roby’s 18 goals are one behind Owen Riffel of Sioux Lookout for the league lead. McLaren Paulsen also has 18 goals, with 29 points. Sean Smith has 21 and Bryce Benfield has 20. Benfield has played only 14 games. Carson Devine has 19 points–he’s played all 26 games. A pair of defencemen, Sebastiano Biagi and Tag Bryson, have 17 and 15 points respectively. 

Ryland Maier, d-man Geoff Bjarnason and Kaden Bandura round out the depth chart with 13, 13 and 11 points respectively.

Goaltender Ewan Soutar’s back. Soutar is 8-2-0 with a 1.99 goals against and .936 save percentage. Liam Vanderkooi is the back-up goaltender. He’s played in four games with a 2-1-0 record. 

Dryden is on a five-game winning streak. The Ice Dogs lead the league in penalty minutes but they’ve also played 26 games. Their average is 21.7 minutes per game. Their powerplay is clipping along at 25.2%. The penalty kill is below 80% at 78.1. The ‘Dogs have six shorties, tied with Red Lake for tops in the league.

Kam River has a winning percentage of .810, which has got to be the highest winning percentage of any third place team in any league you can imagine. They’ve played only 21 games, so they’ve got games in hand on every team in the top tier of the SIJHL–five on Dryden for example. They moved up a notch in the CJHL rankings released Dec. 4th, from 16th to 15th. 

Jeremy Dunmore cracks the top-10 at number 10 with 14 goals, 12 assists, good for 26 points. Ryan Doucette has 23 points. Carter Poddubny, Jett Mintenko and Nickolas Fagnilli all have 21. Poddubny and Fagnilli are rookies, and Poddubny has 10 on the powerplay. All three have a dozen or more goals. 

Riley Borody has 20 points for 19th spot in league scoring race.

Brydon Bell and Liam Bell have 18 and 16 points each. Edwin Liang, 14, Kaden Goodwin, 13, Braeden Duchesne, 12, Matteo Salvatore, 12, and Daxton Lang, currently injured, is at 11 points in 13 games. 

The Walleye lead the SIJHL in goals per game, still over five at 5.05 GPG.

Kam River has the best powerplay at 31.0% and the penalty kill is 81.0%.

Ashton Sadauskas leads the league in goaltender wins with 12 against one loss. Rookie Travis VanderZwaag is 5-3-0 in the back-up role.

Kenora 1-18-1 2 pts .075 8th GF 37 GA 140 -103 PIMs 560 PP% 6.9 PK% 66.9 at Wisconsin 5-12-4 14 pts .333 6th GF 62 GA 101 -39 PIMs 407 PP% 11.7 PK% 77.6 Fri/Sat

Head to head: KEN 4 WIS 3 (SO), WIS 7 KEN 4 in Kenora.

Kenora defeated Wisconsin in their inaugural game way back on September 22. It’s been a tough stretch then since for the SIJHL’s latest expansion team.

Aaron Bertschinger has been a bright spot. Bertschinger has 10 goals and four assists to lead the team in scoring. The 5-11, 175-lb Winnipeg, MB native is an  SIJHL veteran. Bertschinger and teammate Brayden Mackay are the last two players active in the league to have played for the Thief River Norskies. That was back in 2021-22. In 2022-23 the ’04 forward played 16 games with Red Lake scoring two, assisting on one with three minors. 

Bertschinger’s last three years have featured stints with the Winnipeg Blues of the MJHL, Atlanta Mad Hatters of the USPHL Premier and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners of the NOJHL. 

He seems to have found a home in Kenora, a 225 km jaunt from his hometown.

Mackay has 12 points as does Jeremiah Jacques and John Paul Scaringi.

In net, Connor Dunham-Fox is the new kid in town. Joining him are Kaden King and Matthew Stephens. 

The Islanders are averaging 28.0 penalty minutes per game, highest in the SIJHL.

Wisconsin is winless in their last six. They had a couple close ones against Dryden but garnered just a single point in three home games. The homestand continues with a pair against the Islanders.

Defenceman Ryan Kayser leads the team in scoring with three goals and 13 assists for 16 points. Zach Johnson and Dillon Phillips are next with 14 points each. Kaden Postal, Nolan Fowler and Connor Corcoran have 11 points each.

Rylan Freshwater, William Forrester and Jakob Barcelona share netminding duties. Forrester has a 3-6-1 log with a 4.19 GAA and 573 minutes to lead the pack.

Wisconsin is 11.7% on the powerplay and 77.6% on the penalty kill.

The Lumberjacks dipped below 20 penalty minutes per game with a 19.4 PMG.

Red Lake 13-7-2 28 pts .636 5th GF 103 GA 60 +43 PIMs 415 PP% 20.5 PK% 86.2 at Fort Frances 5-14-2 12 pts .286 7th GF 52 GA 91 -39 PIMs 506 PP% 13.4 PK% 84.2 Fri/Sat

Head to head: RLM 6 FFL 3, RLM 8 FFL 2 in Red Lake.

The streaking Miners, 4-0-1 in their five, take on the improving Lakers 0-2-1 in their last three. 

Aiden Corbett is on fire, with 21 points in his last four games. The recent production propelled him to 6th in league scoring with 32 points (14G 18A). Noah Tenney is at 19 points. Nathan Dann has 13 goals (five assists) in 14 games. Luke DeCorby has 18 points as well. Defenceman Blake Hiltermann has 17 points and six goals. Carter Deschamps, 15, Gabe Tanton, 14, Brody Lindal, 11, Landon van Engelen, 11 and Bryson Carlyle, also at 11 points, round out the top point producers.

Ethan Neitsch reached the .500 plateau. He has a 5-5-2 record with 2 shutouts. Neitsch has a 2.19 GAA and .938 SV% in his 740 minutes. Noah Davis has a 4-1-0 record as back-up.

The Miners powerplay spiked to 20.5% and the penalty kill improved to 86.2%.

Red Lake is averaging 18.9 penalty minutes per game.

With 22 games played the Miners have two games in hand on Sioux Lookout, four on Dryden, three on the North Stars. Kam River has one game in hand on the Miners.

Fort Frances is two points out of 6th. 

Brady Krentz leads the team in goals with eight and points with 13. Ryker Watt also has 13 points on seven goals and six assists. Jack Wood has 12, and Clark Scaddan has 11.

Jack Orchard has a 3-9-1 record with a 3.81 GAA and .911 SV% as the Lakers number one goalie. Lukas Toth is 1-3-1/4.31/.897 as the primary back-up with Gunner Paradis in reserve.

The Lakers powerplay is 13.4%. The penalty kill is above league average at 84.2%.

Fort Frances is the second most penalized team in the league at 24.1 minutes per game.

Thunder Bay 15-7-3 33 pts .660 4th GF 99 GA 78 +21 PIMs 429 PP% 16.3 PK% 84.1 at Sioux Lookout 17-5-2 36 pts .750 1st GF 99 GA 58 +41 PIMs 414 PP% 26.0 PK% 86.9 Saturday 

SLB 3 TBN 1, SLB 5 TBN 4 in Sioux Lookout. TBN 3 SLB 2, TBN 5 SLB 4, TBN 4 SLB 2, TBN 5 SLB 4 in Thunder Bay.

This upcoming seventh game completes the seven game regular season head to head schedule. The home team has won all six previous meetings in regulation time.

Thunder Bay was briefly in first place for a time. A string of four games without a win slid them into fourth, three points off the pace. 

The Big Three: EJ Paddington, Easton Mikus and Edison Weeks continue to lead the SIJHL in points. Paddington has cracked 40 points (17G 24A 41 PTS), Mikus has 17 goals (20 assists) and Weeks’ 25 assists (12 goals) makes him the top passer in the league.

Tyler Jordan has 13 goals and eight helpers in 20 games. Dimitri Trahiotis has 19 points (15 assists), defenceman Connor O’Brien has 15, Cohen Tangedahl and defender Drew Caddo have 14 points each. 

Keenan Marks has 960 net minutes to lead all goaltenders. His 11 wins are second in the league. He has a 2.94 GAA and .916 SV%. Ethan Barron has a 2.98 GAA and .898 SV%.

Thunder Bay’s powerplay stands at 16.3% and penalty kill at 84.1%.

Thunder Bay draws 17.2 minutes worth of penalties per game, fewest in the league.

Sioux Lookout is on a seven-game winning streak. Their last losses were a pair to Kam River at Norwest on November 10 and 11. They cracked the CJHL rankings at 20th spot.

Owen Riffel leads the SIJHL in goals with 19 and his 35 points are 4th in league scoring. Blake Burke has 29 points (10G 19A) and Connor Burke has 13 goals and 13 assists. Defenceman Dayvan Bull leads all rearguards in goals with seven and points, 20. Jonah Smith and defenceman Nolan Palmer have 18 points each. Cobe Delaney and Cedrik Robidoux have 15 points, Tait Howell and Owen Cotter are at 13 points and Trever Sanderson has 11.

Matthew Spencer-Dahl has a 6-1-1 record with league-leading marks in GAA at 1.70 and SV% at .952. Jack Osmond has an 8-4-1 record with 2.75/.900 splits and Matthew Ofukany has three wins in his three starts.

 The Bombers are second in PP proficiency at 26.0% and lead the league in PK with a 86.9% kill rate.

Sioux Lookout matches Thunder Bay in gentlemanly play at 17.3 penalty minutes per game.