Photos: Kerri-Ann Kanceruk

By Gary Moskalyk

31 Games 17-12-2 Points 36 Pct .581 Streak 0-4-1 Last 10 5-4-1

4th place 

Goals for 114. Goals against 102. Goal differential +12.

Goals for per game 3.68. Goals against per game 3.29.

Penalty minutes per game 20.9.

Powerplay 23.4%. Penalty kill 77.0%. Shorthanded GF 6. Shorthanded GA 3. Shutouts 3.


Max Roby (26 GP, 18G-15A-33 PTS), McLaren Paulsen (26 GP, 19G-12A-31 PTS), Eli Antoine (31 GP, 12G-17A-29 PTS), Sean Smith (31 GP, 8G-14A-22 PTS), Bryce Benfield (17 GP, 10G-11A-21 PTS), Carson Devine (31 GP, 9G-12A-21 PTS), Sebastiano Biagi D (23 GP, 5G-13A-18 PTS), Tag Bryson D (24 GP, 2G-15A-17 PTS), Ryland Maier (25 GP, 7G-8A-15 PTS), Geoff Bjarnason D (17 GP, 4G-9A-13 PTS).               

GOALIES  GP W-L-OT  GAA  SV% Shutouts Minutes) 

*Ewan Soutar (16 GP, 8-5-1, 2.41, .923, SO 2, 871)

New goalie to be announced early next week.

Hot Stove with Dryden head coach Kurt Walsten

Watch out for Ice Dogs. Dryden has battled injuries to forwards, defencemen and goalie Ewan Soutar. Not a man to usually embrace the Christmas break, head coach Kurt Walsten welcomed the 19 days off with open arms this year.

Forward Bryce Benfield is back, d-man Geoff Bjarnason is almost ready, sniper Max Roby has just a game left in his suspension, forward James Hooton returns in January and a new goalie will be joining the ranks very shortly. The Ice Dogs held their first skate Thursday in preparation for a home series against Red Lake. 

Walsten took a break from working the phones looking for players Thursday night to chat with the SIJHL on the eve of the 2024 portion of the schedule.

“Talked to 20-plus teams here. Trying to upgrade for the playoff push,” said Walsten. “I don’t just want to have one option and it falls through. I like to have 20 options and if I can’t get the one, I’ll go to two, then three, and if I end up with fifth guy it’s still an upgrade.”

The Ice Dogs have been hit hard by injuries.

“We’ve had more injuries here this year than in eight years. We’ve lost some games here for the wrong reason. Guys like (Bryce) Benfield were playing but he was playing at 50 per cent. We started off the year, we were 10-0 in first spot. We got all these injuries.

“If our guys are healthy now, which is a bonus, and I add a couple of guys to our roster like I’m trying to do we have just a good a chance as these other teams,” he continued.

Teams are allowed to sign eight 20-year-olds. Dryden has room for three more.

’03 forward James Hooton is one of them. 

“Hooton scored 15 powerplay goals for us last year, and he killed all my penalties,” said Walsten. “He’ll be here in January for us. That’s like me getting a top-six forward. Bjarnason’s back, Benfield’s back, and Biagi’s back. I’ve got a good core to work with. Just have to try to upgrade a little bit.” 

Dryden hasn’t won in five games, with one point out of a possible 10.

“Where we are in the standings right now obviously I’m not happy with. Considering the injuries and the nasty flu bug we had here for a couple weeks and you add in the suspensions and we’re playing with a reduced roster.” 

Eli Antoine is one player who has not been injured–he’s played all 31 games. Without using the exact word “prototypical” Antoine pretty much embodies all the qualities Walsten admires in a hockey player.

“Eli, when he plays on the same line as Benfield, both guys are 6-foot-5. They both can skate, they’re both skilled. He hasn’t been injured all year, works hard, great guy in the room . The way he plays is what the Ice Dogs are type of thing. Eli kills all our penalties, plays on the powerplay, plays a regular shift.”

Soutar’s healthy and Santa came through with a new set of pads, a glove and a blocker–in Dryden colours–for Christmas. 

“Up until Sout’s got injured there he had the best numbers in the league,” said Walsten. Back-up goalie Liam Vanderkooi was sent to the Chilliwack Jets. Walsten’s new acquisition goalie acquisition is 19-years-old. 

“He’ll push Soutar here. We’ll have a one-two punch in net.”

The Ice Dogs are averaging 20.9 penalty minutes per game, middle of the pack in the SIJHL. 

“What we told our guys here in the second half here is ‘put the work in. And every day you’re trying to get better.’ If we do that and they stay healthy we’ll do some damage in the playoffs. If a team is going to beat us they’re going to have to play well,” said Walsten.

Bottom line: the Ice Dogs are built for the playoff grind.

“The one thing I like about the league, it’s competitive. If you don’t show up to play . . . From first spot to fifth place all the teams are right there.”

Dryden has six games left against the top four teams, 12 against the bottom three. They host Red Lake this weekend to kick off their final 18 games of the regular season. They’re 1-3-0 versus the Miners this year.