It took just five minutes for the Wisconsin Wilderness to unravel a heroic effort to preserve the Dryden Ice Dogs chances in the 2011 SIJHL final series.Facing a two-goal deficit early into the final frame of Game 4 of the Bill Salonen Cup, the American expansion club that dominated the regular season, managed to leave the Dryden Ice Dogs stunned on their own rink. A pair of late goals by James Kline (17:04) and Bryce Anderson (18:50) vaulted the Wilderness into the SIJHL history books as the first U.S. team to win a SIJHL league championship.“We have a pretty resilient group,” said Wilderness coach Rod Aldoff. “These kids know how to win and they just kept pushing.”The Wilderness now advance to the Dudley Hewitt Cup, a showdown between Central Canada’s top junior-A clubs, later this month in Huntsville, ON.Wisconsin swept the final series with Dryden in four-games, owing a great deal to the play of goaltender John McLean.The 6’8” netminder was an imposing wall in front of the Wilderness goal, finishing the playoffs with a save percentage of 93.2 per cent.“They played us hard every game,” said McLean. “It was a blast, a war. We were just prepared and it’s great to come out on top.”For the Ice Dogs, the loss was a difficult one to bear on home ice in front of fans though captain Jon Mitchell says his club left everything on the ice.“Honestly though, the effort was there, the heart was there, just wasn’t in the tables for us,” said Mitchell. “We really battled, never gave up, not the outcome we were looking for, but the heart was there. We just didn’t get the bounces.”Goaltender Ian Perrier, the heart and soul of Dryden’s Junior ‘A’ squad, says the final two home games were efforts unlike any games all season“Every single one of my teammates; we’ve been through hell and high water this year. I couldn’t imagine doing this with a better group of guys and I love every single one of them.”Perrier thanked Coach Clint Mylymok for some 845 minutes spent between the pipes this season. “I’d like to thank everybody involved with the Ice Dogs, starting with Clint. I didn’t really have anywhere to go at the start of the year and Clint gave me the opportunity to come in here. He’s one of the few coaches who will give you an opportunity based on what you can deliver, not who you are, or where you’re from.”Mitchell says his experience in Dryden with the Ice Dogs in 2010/11 was unforgettable“Thanks to the Dryden community, so many great people I’ve met, lifelong people that I’ll never forget, to the organization for taking me in my first year, and becoming a kid to a man. It’s been the best three years of my life.”Support your Ice Dogs by heading to the year-end awards banquet on April 16, 2011. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., supper at 6:30 p.m. with awards to follow.Tickets must be purchased or at least spoken for by Wed. April 13th and are available by calling 937-8322 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.orgThe banquet is being held at the Agricultural Society (Fairgrounds).
League is evolving, says SIJHL CommissionerSuperior International Junior Hockey League commissioner Ron Whitehead says the Wisconsin Wilderness’ success in 2011 shines a light on the league’s evolving identity, a greater expression of the word ‘international’.“It was named that right from the start because we had two American teams the first couple of years and it’s taken us this long to get some more back,” said Whitehead. “I’m hoping we can expand by another couple of teams. To have a truly balanced Canadian/American league would be great.”Whitehead adds increasing league parity and the end of the Fort William (now Thunder Bay) North Stars stranglehold on the league over successive years is beneficial on many fronts.“I’ve said it before in previous years when Dryden won it, or Schreiber won it — it’s the best thing that can happen to the league,” he said. “We were getting known as a one-team league. And that doesn’t help anybody from a recruiting, or sponsorship point of view. It’s great news when it gets spread around.”Whitehead was in Dryden, April 8 to help present the Bill Salonen cup to the league champion Wisconsin Wilderness.“We continue to get better talent year after year,” said Whitehead. “That game just now (April 8) was fantastic — unfortunately the local team didn’t win on home ice, but that’s how she goes and they worked their rear ends off.”
By Chris Marchand and Ally Dunham