Setting the scene for SIJHL season

Dryden Ice Dogs
•39-9-5 in 2009-10 (second place)
•Significant losses: F Kevin Burton, F Mike Lennon, F BJ McClellan, F Kyle Heck, F Chad Liley, D Mark McDonald, F Spencer Gyori, G Josh Baker, and D Kevin Raine
•Breakdown: The Ice Dogs lacked a bit of bite in the pre-season, but that’s not all that surprising considering five of their top six scorers from last season (Burton, Lennon, McClellan, Heck, and Liley) won’t be returning.
Ben McClellan already has started to take the torch, with his 13 points in 15 playoff games leading the ’Dogs to their appearance in the SIJHL final.
However, Dryden can light it up from the back end as rearguards Jon Mitchell (56 points) and Tanner Harms (39 points) will be back this season.
With seven points and an SIJHL player of the week nod to his name, Mitchell answered the call, while McClellan has six points early.
In goal, newcomers Ian Perrier and Brett Timmermann have taken turns carrying the mail in stead of last year’s starter Josh Baker (14-5-3, 2.55 GAA, and .924 save percentage).
Fort Frances Lakers
•14-33-5 in 2009-10 (fifth place)
•Significant gains: F Jon Sinclair, F Jace Baldwin, D Phil Jennrich, F Ryan Wildman, F Zach McCool, F Davis Smith, D Marty McFadden, G Tyler Ampe, and G Derrick Peitsh
•Significant losses: F Jordan Carne, F Justin Erhart, F Cody Edwards, F Tim Hennessey, F Irv Lockman, D Mario Boivin, D Brett Williams, and D Ryan Presthus
•Breakdown: After hitting on a winning formula come playoff time, winning a seven-game, first-round series against the now-defunct K&A Wolverines before giving Dryden all it could handle in a 4-2 second-round loss, the Lakers look to carry that over into the 2010-11 season.
Unfortunately, they won’t have playoff heroes Jordan Carne (12 points in 13 games) or Irv Lockman (hat trick versus K&A) along for the ride.
However, Jon Sinclair (eight points in exhibition play) and Baldwin (three points) have looked like savvy pick-ups so far while captain Tyler Stevenson appears like a man on a mission with four goals in two games.
In the crease, SIJHL goalie-of-the-year Jameson Shortreed (10-26-4, 4.55 GAA, and .895 GAA) should take the next step with another year of experience under his belt and, likely, an improved defensive corps in front of him.
Shortreed’s numbers improved dramatically in the post-season to a 2.66 GAA and .923 save percentage.
Fort William North Stars
•45-5-2 in 2009-10 (first place)
•Significant losses: F Ryan Magill, F Travis Savard, F Ryan Pearson, F Dustin Fummerton, D Randall Hanlan, F Trevor Gamache, F Eli Halcrow, D Ryan Axsom, F Jordan Davis, and F Adam Restoule
•Breakdown: The SIJHL’s perennial favourites should remain in that position until proven otherwise, despite losing six of their top seven scorers (Magill, Savard, Davis, Pearson, Gamache, and Hanlan) from last season.
However, Mitch Forbes (62 points) should press for the league scoring title again this year while Sam Dubinsky (24 points last year) already has four in exhibition play.
Despite winning the league crown, several North Stars experienced a sophomore slump last season, including Cody Fraser (24 points to 17) and Riley Marsh (42 points to 17), so Fort William undoubtedly will look for bounceback campaigns from those players to fill the void.
Marsh has taken the reins with five points in four games early on.
In goal, the tandem of Guillaume Piche (34-4-1, 1.90 GAA, and .919 save percentage) and Jayme Brattengeier (11-1-1, 2.10 GAA, and .905 save percentage) will return to handle the netminding duties.
The North Stars have made the Bill Salonen Cup final every year since 2004, winning five of those seven trips, including the past two.
Sioux Lookout Flyers
•20-28-5 in 2009-10 (third place)
•Significant losses: F Nathan Brown, D AJ Wensley, D Brett Ferguson, F Darren Turner, D Clayton Lewis, F Logan McDonell, F Troy Dumais, F Alex Beaulne, G Peter Emery, and F Adam Wensley
•Breakdown: The Flyers have several losses they need to account for given leading scorers AJ Wensley and Nathan Brown (41 points apiece) and Adam Wensley (38 points and a team-leading 19 goals) are all gone.
It will be up to Chase Dobranski (29 points) and Galen Matyjanka (28 points) to help pace Sioux Lookout in 2010-11.
Both have started, with Matyjanka notching four points already and Dobranski has three.
Colten Brule (four goals) and Nelson Rosiak (three goals) look like snipers in the making.
However, the Flyers should be all right in net as Jordan Giguere went 12-10-4 with a 3.62 GAA and .904 save percentage last season.
Duluth Clydesdales (expansion)
•Familiar faces: F Dillon Mershon, D Mark Williams, and G Jeff Dunaisky all played with the Wisconsin Mustangs last year.
•Breakdown: There’s a bit of a mystery around this new entry from Duluth, which only played one exhibition game and was pummeled 9-1 by the expansion Wisconsin Wilderness.
In regular season play, the Clydesdales have already used four different goaltenders, with Cody Stocker pitching a shutout of Sioux Lookout in his only start of the season.
Captain Tom Paine (four goals) has paced Duluth offensively, while Luke Burgstahler is the only other Clydesdale with multiple goals early on.
Dunaisky went 0-7 with a 5.26 GAA and 0.867 save percentage as the Mustangs played a 20-game partial SIJHL schedule last season, but was 8-7 with a 2.55 GAA and .909 save percentage in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
Mershon, meanwhile, was limited to a goal and an assist and Williams was held scoreless in the SIJHL games.
Wisconsin Wilderness (expansion)
•Familiar faces: G John McLean, D Devon Maki, F Steve Hughes, D Dalton Betzben, D Kevin Lander, and F Donnie Roberts all played with the Wisconsin Mustangs last season while D Christian Belobaba attended the Lakers’ camp.
•Breakdown: The Wilderness put up a good fight during their two exhibition games, thrashing Duluth 9-1 and sticking with the Lakers in a 5-2 loss here this past Sunday afternoon.
None of the players returning from the Mustangs put up huge numbers in the SIJHL cross-over, with Betzben recording just four assists to lead that contingent.
However, the top-tier forwards for the Wilderness have a knack for the net.
James Kline has recorded seven points already, while Dawson Kuhlman and Keith Tessin have three goals apiece.
Those three, along with Bram Erickson, all tallied multiple goals in exhibition play.
In net, the 6’9” McLean is an imposing presence, and helped the Mustangs steal wins over the Ice Dogs and North Stars last season, recording 73 saves in those two games.
He went 16-13-0 with a 3.08 GAA and .916 save percentage in Minnesota Junior Hockey League play.
Fellow goalie Jake Hebda went 6-13-1 with a 4.37 GAA and .898 save percentage with the Bozeman Ice Dogs of the Northern Pacific Hockey League last season.