CANADIAN JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release date: Friday, March 17, 2017
CJHL SPOTLIGHT: The SIJHL
CALGARY, Alta. – Heading into the final weekend of the Superior International Junior Hockey League’s 2016-17 regular season, there is still a number of postseason possibilities looming.
While the surging Dryden GM Ice Dogs have long secured first place overall and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Bill Salonen Cup playoffs and the Thunder Bay North Stars are locked in at No. 2, the race for third remains in question.
With two games remaining for both the English River Miners and the Thief River Falls Norskies, the teams are neck-and-neck in the quest for third place in the league standings.
Entering action Friday evening; the Miners hold a slim one-point cushion on the Norskies as they continue to vie for position. The club that finishes third overall will take on Thunder Bay in a best-of-seven semifinal match-up.
Meanwhile the fourth place finisher will meet the No. 5 Fort Frances Lakers in a best-of-five quarter-final play-in set. The winner of that series will then face off against Dryden in the other league best-of-seven semifinal affair.
RECORD NUMBERS: February saw the SIJHL set a couple of record-setting attendance marks.
The first-year Thief River Falls Norskies twice broke the league single-game attendance record when 3,011 fans flocked to Ralph Engelstad Arena on Feb. 11. They then drew 3,045 to another home contest two weeks later.
Meanwhile the English River Miners and Fort Frances Lakers drew a sold out gathering of 2,050 to the Kenora Recreation Centre in a neutral affair that was part of the Hockey Day in Canada celebrations back on Feb. 18.
RECORD SETTER: Dryden GM Ice Dogs’ standout Braeden Allkins is the runaway leader in SIJHL scoring.
The 20-year-old Golden, B.C., product has amassed a league-best 95 points to date on 52 goals and 43 assists.
Earlier this month he became the first Dryden player in their 16-year history to score 50 or more times in a single season.
Allkins also is just the third skater in the SIJHL to ever reach the 50-mark in a year.
He joins Kory McEwen and Chris Bryson as the only other players in the league to accomplish this feat.
McEwen set the SIJHL record back during the 2005-06 campaign when he scored 69 times for the Bill Salonen Cup and Dudley-Hewitt Cup champion Fort William North Stars.
Bryson meanwhile supplied 56 for the Schreiber Diesels in 2006-07 helping lead his club to the league title.
SCORING LEADERS: While Allkins is a certainty to capture the SIJHL scoring title, a couple of his Dryden teammates are also having strong years offensively.
Jacen Bracko of the GM Ice Dogs sits second in points with 81, including 41 tallies.
SIJHL most improved player award recipient Braedyn Aubin is next with 79 points on 29 markers and 50 helpers.
Jared Virtanen of the Fort Lakers paces the league in assists with 52 and is fourth overall in scoring with 74 points in just 44 games.
TOP NETMINDERS: The Dryden duo of Patrick Zubick and Ben Dennis sit one-two in SIJHL goaltending numbers. Zubick leads in goals-against average (2.31) and save percentage (.931) and is tied for second in wins. (20) Dennis has yet to lose in regulation having gone 22-0-1 so far and is second in GAA. (2.64). Michael Lenko of English River shares second in wins (20) and is second with a .920 save mark.
2018 DHC: The Dryden GM Ice Dogs were earlier selected to serve as the host team for the 2018 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A Championship next May.
They’ll join the title holders of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and Ontario Junior Hockey League as well as a second SIJHL side at the four-team event.
DID YOU KNOW: St. Louis Blues goaltender Carter Hutton holds the SIJHL record for shutouts in a single season with 10.
The Thunder Bay native set that mark back in 2005-06 with his hometown North Stars side.
Along with the shutout title, Hutton also posted an impressive 33-1-0 record during that season finishing with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.
Another member of that North Stars squad that won both the SIJHL and Dudley-Hewitt Cup crowns is Hutton’s current NHL teammate in St. Louis, defenceman Robert Bortuzzo.
ABOUT THE SIJHL
Commissioner: Bryan Graham
Senior Advisor, Hockey Operations: Dave Siciliano
Defending champion: Fort Frances Lakers