By Gary Moskalyk
The big story of week one was expansion Kenora hitting the ice in their inaugural game on September 22. The Hollywood script pretty much played itself out. Hometown boy scores game winner in a 10-man shoot-out before a large crowd.
Reid Zurkan was the sniper, the Islanders won 4-3, and a crowd of 787 was there to see it.
“The way it played out, it was just like our exhibition game, we came from behind. We went to an overtime shootout. To have a local boy, Reid Zurkan, put it away, it couldn’t have happened any better,” said head coach Cody Genaille.
The Islander buzz is in full force in Kenora.
“There was a lot of optimism about the team, of course. Not just in the community but throughout the league,” said Genaille. “Seeing the kids at the tunnel, talking to the players after the game, getting autographs, that’s what it’s all about.”
The Islanders lost game two 7-4. They enter week two with a two-game set against Thunder Bay. Jeremiah Jacques is tied for the league lead with four points (2G-2A) and Aaron Bertschinger had a three-point weekend. Matt Stephens and Jero Rossi both have a start in goal.
Dryden enters week two tied atop SIJHL standings with a 2-0 record. Ewan Soutar shut out Fort Frances in game one and Braxton Castagno allowed one goal in a 4-1 win. Defenceman Sebastiano Biagi has three goals and three players have two points each. Balanced scoring has eight players with a point each. Dryden hits the road against Red Lake on Friday and both teams bus back to Dryden for the home-and-home series. Look for this two-game set to be the SI’s marquee match-up for the week.
Sioux Lookout took down the North Stars for a pair at home. Next up: a road trip to Wisconsin for two on the road. The two teams battled in last year’s quarterfinals with Wisconsin winning in seven. Expect a little extra edge in this battle. Owen Riffel lit it up for a hat trick against Thunder Bay in game two’s 5-4 win. Blake Burke currently has bragging rights over his twin brother Connor, three points to two. Jonah Smith has a pair of goals, Alex Lucas has a goal and assist, and Dayvan Bull joins Connor with a pair of assists.
Goalies Matthew Ofukany and Matthew Spencer-Dahl both have a win under their suspenders.
Wisconsin had a number of players last year in the top-10 in scoring. Koen Burkholder has four points to share the league lead to start the 2023-24 season. Holdovers Simon Davidson and Zach Johnson have two goals each to lead a pack of seven Lumberjacks with two points each.
William Forrester has logged all 125 minutes in the net so far.
The Lumberjacks host 2-0 Sioux Lookout for a Friday/Saturday set-to.
Red Lake, dominant in pre-season play (4-0) the Miners took game one against Kam River before losing game two. Bring on tough opponent number two–Dryden– this weekend. Trent Boryszczuk has been hauling the freight (or at least a water bottle) to the crease so far, posting a 1-1 record.
Noah Tenney has four points for a share of the league lead in scoring. Luke DeCorby, Brody Lindal and Gavin McIntosh are three-point guys–all at one goal, two assists. Aiden Corbett has a goal and a helper.
Kam River lost its home opener but rebounded for a game two win.
Dayton Clarke’s number 10 was retired on opening night. Clarke’s life was cut short in May. His family was on hand for a moving tribute. “Dayton will be a permanent part of Norwest Arena and will always be looking over us,” said the organization. Clarke’s #10 banner was unveiled during an emotional pre-game ceremony. On night two, Kam River raised their SIJHL championship banner.
The Walleye used Ashton Sadauskas and Travis VanderZwaag in net. VanderZwaag, one of two 2007-born players in the league, won his start allowing three goals on 38 shots. Defenceman Brydon Bell has three points in the early going (1G-2A). Jett Mintenko has two assists.
The Walleye will venture to Fort Frances for a solo game Friday night.
Fort Frances lost a pair to Dryden in Dryden and will entertain the Fighting Walleye for a one-game tilt on Friday. Things aren’t getting any easier opponent- wise but at least the Lakers are at home. Fort will entertain the Walleye twice the following weekend.
Trever Sanderson has the team’s lone goal and Emerson Evans and Ian Snooks assisted on it. Jack Orchard has tended the net in both games so far.
Thunder Bay ventures to Kenora for a Saturday/Sunday pair looking to put points on the board after a weekend sweep at the hands of Sioux Lookout.
Ethan Barron and Keenan Marks have a start each. Marks is already among the league leaders in save percentage at .938 despite 0-1-0 start. He allowed two goals in Thunder Bay’s season opening 3-1 loss (The Bombers scored an empty-netter).
EJ Paddington, who had a hat trick in exhibition play against the Fighting Walleye, has four points (2G-2A). Edison Weeks (1G-3A) joins him as two of the five four-point men in the league. Easton Mikus is the other player in the SIJHL born in 2007 (joining VanderZwaag). He’s line-mate with Paddington and Weeks, and has three points. Max Buffone and Garren Voisey are the only other North Stars with a point.
Thunder Bay plays at home on October 6/7 against Dryden.
Catch all of this weekend’s action on SIJHL.TV