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SIJHL semifinal preview: Dryden GM Ice Dogs vs. Fort Frances Lakers

SUPERIOR INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE

SIJHL MEDIA UPDATE

Release Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2017

SIJHL semifinal preview: Dryden GM Ice Dogs vs. Fort Frances Lakers

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – The following is a preview of the Superior International Junior Hockey League’s semifinal playoff series between the No. 1 seeded Dryden GM Ice Dogs and No. 5 Fort Frances Lakers that gets underway tonight at 7:30 p.m. CT at Memorial Arena.

SIJHL semifinal (Series B)
No. 1 Dryden GM Ice Dogs vs. No. 5 Fort Frances Lakers
Best-of-seven series
Game 1: Wednesday, March 29 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
Game 2: Thursday, March 30 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
Game 3: Saturday, April 1 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
Game 4: Tuesday, April 4 @ Fort Frances  7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
Game 5*: Friday, April 7 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
Game 6*: Monday, April 10 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 12 @ Dryden 7:30 p.m. (Memorial Arena)
*-if necessary

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Dryden earned their place in the series with a first round bye after dominating in regular season play and finishing first in the standings with an impressive 45-7-4-0 record while securing the No. 1 seed in the SIJHL playoffs. They were also 12th in the final Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 rankings for the season out of 132 teams.

Fort Frances meanwhile punched their ticket for yet another postseason get together with the GM Ice Dogs after topping the Thief River Falls Norskies three games to one too take that best-of-five quarter-final match-up in four outings.

SEASON SET: Dryden controlled the regular season series between the two sides in 2016-17 going 8-2-1 in 11 meetings.

The GM Ice Dogs also outscored the Lakers by a combined total of 44-25 in those contests.

WE MEET AGAIN: Dryden and Fort Frances are no strangers when it comes to meeting in the postseason.

This will mark the third consecutive year the two clubs will meet in playoff action.

The last two campaigns saw the long-time rivals square off in the Bill Salonen Cup final with the Lakers coming away victorious on both occasions.

Fort Frances also came on top in seven exciting games in 2013 semifinal play.

Back in 2012, the Lakers swept the Ice Dogs in the semifinals with Dryden winning in six games in both the 2010 and 2011 league semifinals.

Meanwhile in the early years of the SIJHL, the Ice Dogs and then Fort Frances-based Borderland Thunder squared off four years in a row from 2002 through 2005.

Dryden won the first-ever Bill Salonen Cup back in 2002 with a four-game sweep, before the Thunder did likewise in 2003.

2004 saw the Ice Dogs beat Borderland in a semifinal that went the distance while the Thunder won in four straight in 2005 semifinal play.

An original member of the SIJHL, Dryden has won two league titles in their first 15 years while Fort Frances has claimed the last three Bill Salonen Cup crowns with Borderland winning it all back in 2003.

POINT MEN: Boasting a league-best 297 goals, the GM Ice Dogs finished 1-2-3 in SIJHL scoring.

Led by league Most Valuable Player Braeden Allkins, the Dryden standout paced all SIJHL skaters in goals at 53 and points with 97 setting new team franchise records in both categories.

The CCM Hockey first team all-star also topped the league in power play markers (16) and game-winning tallies (8).

Another first CCM all-star, in Jacen Bracko, was second on the squad and the SIJHL in points with 81, including 41 goals.

Most Improved Player award recipient Braedyn Aubin ended up third in offensive production by amassing 80 points with his 51 assists being the second-most among all players. He was also second in game-winners with seven.

Leading the Lakers was another CCM Hockey first team all-star in Jared Virtanen who was second best in point-per-game average at 1.68 as well as fourth overall with 74 points that featured a SIJHL-best 52 assists.

CCM second team all-star Dylan Kooner was sixth in scoring as the Fort Frances captain set personal single-season highs in goals and points with 37 and 68 respectively.

Kooner also led the Lakers in points vs. the Norskies in the first round with four.

Tristan Knott led Dryden in points among defencemen with 37, which was fourth best in the league.

The GM Ice Dogs’ Cory Dennis and the Lakers’ Maverick Lynes were next in D-men  scoring with 34 points apiece.

THE TENDERS: Allowing a league-low 148 goals against, much of that can be credited to their goaltending tandem of Patrick Zubick and Ben Dennis.

The duo combined to win 43 games overall against only seven regulation losses and four more setbacks in overtime.

Zubick, the SIJHL’s Top Goaltender Award recipient led the SIJHL in both goals-against average and save percentage at 2.30 and .931 respectively.

Dennis meanwhile was second in GAA at 2.64 and third in save percentage at .919.

Brandon Bodnar saw the majority of playing time in net for the Lakers ending up tied for fourth in both average at 3.08 as well as a .912 save mark.

Bodnar started all four games in the quarter-final series with Thief River Falls and went 3-1 while posting a GAA of 2.77 along with a save percentage of .944.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The GM Ice Dogs led the SIJHL in power play proficiency as they clicked at a 27.5% success rate.

Fort Frances was second in that department at 20.3%

Dryden also led the way on the penalty kill at 82.8% while pacing the league in shorthanded goals with 22.

The Lakers were fourth on the P.K. at 80%.

BEHIND THE BENCH: Leading the teams behind their respective benches is Dryden’s Kurt Walsten and Wayne Strachan for Fort Frances.

Walsten was named the SIJHL coach of the year this season while Strachan has won a league-record five top coaches honours.

Strachan is also the winningest coach on SIJHL history having guided the Lakers to the past three Bill Salonen Cup titles.

WHAT’S NEXT: The winner of this series will take on the team that prevails in the other league playoff semifinal between the Thunder Bay North Stars and English River Miners for the SIJHL’s Bill Salonen Cup championship.

The league winner will then advance to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. ‘A’ Championship, May 2-6, in Trenton, Ont.

All SIJHL playoff games are streamed live online at HockeyTV.com.