The 16th edition of the Superior International Junior Hockey League’s Bill Salonen Cup begins April 14th at Dryden’s Memorial Arena as the hometown GM Ice Dogs host the English River Miners in Game 1 of the best-of-seven SIJHL Finals at 7:30 p.m.
Dryden will be in search of the first SIJHL championship since 2008 while English River is making their first-ever appearance in the league final.
How They Got Here: The GM Ice Dogs advanced to their third straight SIJHL final after sweeping the three-time defending Bill Salonen Cup champion Fort Frances Lakers in semifinal action.
Dryden took the first two games of the series by scores of 6-4 and 7-1 on home ice before winning Game 3 by a 5-1 count in Fort Frances and then winning the finale 2-1, in overtime, at Ice for Kids Arena.
English River meanwhile earned their way to the final after disposing of the Thunder Bay North Stars in a best-of-seven that went five games.
The Miners took the opener 5-3 in Thunder Bay before the North Stars responded with a 9-2 triumph at the Fort William Gardens. Heading to Cochenour Arena, English River won Game 3 by a 5-2 score and then earned a 5-4 overtime victory in Game 4. They then took the series with another 5-4 OT decision in Game 5 that was played in Thunder Bay.
Season Set: The two clubs met 14 times during the course of the regular season with the GM Ice Dogs coming out on top with 10 victories, against three losses in regulation and one overtime setback.
Dryden also held the edge in goals scored among the two teams by a 67-45 margin.
2nd Meeting: This series will mark the second time these two teams will meet in SIJHL postseason history.
Back in the Miners’ first year in the league they took a best-of-seven quarter-final set 4-2 vs. the GM Ice Dogs in 2014.
About the Cup: 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: Dryden is making their record ninth SIJHL championship series appearance.
They are 2-6 all-time when advancing to the league final having captured the inaugural Bill Salonen Cup back in 2002. They were also victorious in 2008. English River has earned their first-ever appearance in the SIJHL championship series.
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: Fort Frances Lakers
What’s Next: The league winner will advance to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. ‘A’ Championship, May 2nd – 6th, in Trenton, Ontario.
There the Bill Salonen Cup champion will meet the titleist from the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League as well as both the Trenton Golden Hawks and Georgetown Raiders from the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
The NOJHL’s Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy Final pits the Powassan Voodoos taking on the Blind River Beavers in a best-of-seven affair that gets underway Friday.
Meanwhile Trenton and Georgetown will commence the OJHL’s Buckland Trophy best-of-seven final tonight with the Raiders having home ice advantage to begin the series. As the Golden Hawks are also hosting the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Georgetown will be the second OJHL representative at the DHC, regardless of the outcome of that league championship series.
The Dudley-Hewitt winner will then advance to represent the region at the RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A Championship, May 13-21, in Cobourg, Ont.
Dryden Ice Dogs
Point Men: Braeden Allkins and Kris Hamlin share the club lead in playoff points heading into the final with seven points apiece through four games.
Derek McPhail is next with six followed by Braedyn Aubin’s five.
Nic Noseowrthy paces GM Ice Dogs’ defencemen in points with four.
The Dryden trio of Allkins, Jacen Bracko and Aubin were one-two-three respectively in league regular season offensive production during the 2016-17 campaign.
Allkins led all SIJHL skaters in both goals, with 53, and points 97.
Bracko was next with 81 points, including 41 tallies, while Aubin reached the 80-point plateau that featured 51 assists.
The Tenders: Patrick Zubick started all four games against Fort Frances in the semifinals and went 4-0 while registering a 1.62 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage, which both lead the league.
Special Teams: Dryden is second overall in playoff power play proficiency at 26.7% and are tops on the penalty kill at 92.6%.
Behind The Bench: Guiding the GM Ice Dogs’ fortunes behind the bench is SIJHL Coach of the Year recipient Kurt Walsten.
Award Winners: The GM Ice Dogs boasted a plethora of award winners this season, including capturing the league’s regular season crown, which included a franchise-record 45 wins and 94 points.
Leading the individual honours on the club was SIJHL leading scorer and most valuable player, Braeden Allkins.
The 20-year-old Allkins paced the league on both goals and points with 53 and 97 respectively, with his tally total also being the second-highest in the 132-team Canadian Junior Hockey League.
He was also named a SIJHL CCM Hockey first team-star at forward. Other members of the GM Ice Dogs garnering CCM first team all-star accolades were Jacen Bracko at forward and Patrick Zubick in goal while Kurt Walsten was recognized as coach and Neal Bruetsch at equipment manager/trainer.
Picking up second team all-star nods were defenceman Tristan Knott and forward Braedyn Aubin.
Zubick was also named Top Goaltender, Eric Stout the CCM Hockey Rookie of the Year and Aubin the Most Improved Player.
English River Miners
Point Men: Entering the start of the Bill Salonen Cup Final, Sidney Gladue leads both English River and the SIJHL in postseason scoring.
The Wabasca, Alberta product, who is in his final year of Jr. hockey, has nine points in five games having scored three times and assisting on six others.
Tied for third on both the club and the league in playoff points are the Miners’ tandem of Michael Di Lullo and Jamie Driedger.
They have both registered eight points with Di Lullo supplying six goals and Driedger four.
Leading English River in playoff production among their defensive corps is Dwayne Auger.
He’s picked up one marker and doled out five helpers for six points.
Gladue paced the club is points during the regular season as well with 69 in 55 outings, which was the fifth-highest total in the league. In all, he notched 27 goals and helped set-up 42 others along the way.
Next on the squad was Driedger, who finished 10th in SIJHL offensive numbers with 61 points on 25 tallies and 36 helpers.
Trevor Pereverzoff led all league defencemen in goals with 19 while his 51 points placed him second among SIJHL D-men, just one off the overall lead in that category.
The Tenders: Michael Lenko has started the first five games in the postseason while recording a 4-1 record in that span.
Special Teams: The Miners enter the final third overall in power play success at 16.7% having scored three times in 18 opportunities.
They are fifth however while shorthanded at just 58.3% after allowing 10 man advantage markers in 24 chances in the series vs. Thunder Bay.
Behind the Bench: Leading the Miners behind the bench is their head coach and general manager Derek Sweet-Coulter. He led his team to a franchise-best 31 wins in 2016-17.
Award Winners: English River received a number of league awards this season.
Trevor Pereverzoff was named the CCM Hockey Top Defenceman Award recipient and also picked CCM first team all-star laurels on defence as well. Michael Lenko picked up a second team all-star nod in net as did Sidney Gladue at forward while Derek Sweet-Coulter did likewise for the general manager position.
SIJHL Bill Salonen Cup Final
(1) Dryden GM Ice Dogs vs. (3) English River Miners
Game 1: Friday, April 14 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
Game 2: Saturday, April 15 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
Game 3: Tuesday, April 18 @ English River 7:30 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Game 4: Thursday, April 20 @ English River 7:30 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Game 5*: Saturday, April 22 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
Game 6*: Monday, April 24 @ English River 7:30 p.m. (Cochenour Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 26 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)