SIJHL Playoff Preview #4 Dryden vs #5 Red Lake

By Gary Moskalyk

Red Lake 29-18-2 60 pts .612 5th GF 213 GA 137 +76 PIMs 958 PP% 23.3 PK% 85.5 at Dryden 31-16-2 64 pts .653 4th GF 186 GA 147 +39 PIMs 1,024 PP% 23.6 PK% 81.7 

Head to head: RLM 4-3-0 DRY 3-4-0

This series is statistically the most evenly matched of the four quarterfinal series. Dryden finished above Red Lake in the standings. Red Lake won the season series by a slim margin. Both teams have superior goaltending. The Ice Dogs scored more goals, Red Lake has the better goal differential. Powerplay efficiency favoured the Ice Dogs 23.6% to 23.2%. Red Lake’s penalty kill was 85.5%–best in the league. Dryden checked in at 81.7%.   

Red Lake is 5-5-0 in their last 10.

Aiden Corbett led the team in goals with 31 and point with 60. Four players scored 30 or more goals, seven players reached 60 points. Corbett finished 7th in league scoring. 

Luke Decorby had 15 goals and 32 helpers for 47 points. Defenceman Blake Hiltermann had 42 points with 14 goals, finishing 24th in league scoring. His 14 goals led all rearguards and his 42 points tied him with Brydon Bell of Kam River. Rookie Noah Tenney was a point behind with 41 (13G). Gabe Tanton had 34 points in 38 games.

Ryker Watt split time between Fort Frances and the Miners. He had 17 points and 11 goals in 20 games with the Miners, including a recent five-goals-in-two-games  stretch. Overall, Watt had 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points. Nathan Dann scored in his first game back. Dann had 19 goals in just 23 games. Carter Deschamps had 26 points.

Ethan Neitsch was 10-11-2 in the regular season, with a 2.44 GAA and .930 SV% in 1,400 minutes. Noah Davis was 13-5-0 with a 2.53/.911 split in 1,045 minutes. Jackson Pundyk was 2-1-0 in four games.

The Miners averaged 19.6 penalty minutes per game.

Head coach Lee Stone offered his insights heading into the series. The Miners are suspension-free but do have some players on the shelf.

“No suspensions right now A couple of injuries, obviously a couple of guys getting healthy. A week ago we lost a couple of guys, probably season-ending injuries, said Stone. “It’s tough but all things considered we’re pretty healthy.” 

Landon van Engelen is likely done for the year, the only injured player cited by Stone in our chat.

Keys to the series?

“Obviously Dryden is a pretty physical team, right? We know what to expect there. I think we have to beat their fore-check,” offered Stone. “If we try to be cute in our own zone or try to make those sexy plays, I think that’s where we’re going to run into issues. They’re hard, they fore-check well, They’re a team that will lean on you. We’ll try to get out of our zone as quickly as we can. Truth is, we’ll try to do the same thing to them as well. Get pucks deep, go to work, kind of what playoff hockey is. Win the neutral zone, spend more time in their zone than you do in your own zone.”

Dressing room feel?

“Excitement. We have a lot of first year guys who have never played in a seven-game series. That’s why you play the game,” said Stone. “Those seven-game series are kind of a fun, unique experience. I think we’ll have a few guys who’ll be a little nervous. It’s what we talked about all year. Obviously you want to do really well in the regular season, too. We’ve got big goals here. Starts game one and builds up from there.”

The Miners line-up against their number one nemesis over the years in this series.

“We looking to get on a big playoff run, hopefully. I’m sure Dryden feels the exact same way. It’s nice that we only have to go two hours down the road. Kind of unique we get to play against our biggest rival as it is,” said Stone. “Historically, over the years, Dryden and Red Lake have had some run-ins for sure. Not off the ice. I think the two programs get along quite well. There’s a lot of respect. On the ice, I wouldn’t says it’s a hatred, but we don’t like them, they don’t like us. I expect there’ll be some pretty intense hockey.”

Dryden found their second goaltender fairly late in the season. Head coach Kurt Walsten brought in Christian Lynch from the Ayr Centennials of the GOJHL. Lynch played his first game on January 12th and has an 8-0-0 record since joining the team, with a 1.94 GAA and .933 SV% in 464 minutes. 

Ewan Soutar battled through a fall injury. The ’04 rookie posted a 14-9-1 record, with a 2.61 GAA and .918 SV% in 1,472 minutes. His five shutouts led the circuit.

Up front, Max Roby led the Ice Dogs in points with 51, and goals with 29, in 43 games. Dryden was the only team in the top five to not crack 200 goals for the season, ending with 186. 

McLaren Paulsen and Eli Antoine both had 42 points. Paulsen had 25 goals, Antoine 16. Carson Devine had 16 goals and 22 helpers. Sean Smith scored 11 with 25 assists. Four more players had 26 points or more. Ryland Maier (15G 16A), Bryce Benfield (13G 16A in 22 games), Tag Bryson (2G 25A) and Sebastiano Biagi (6G 20A) round out that crew.

Dryden drew 1,024 penalty minutes, one of four teams to crest a thousand, averaging 20.9 penalty minutes per game.