The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) season is almost here! The excitement is building as everyone is 0-0 and anyone has a chance to make some noise. In the North, the Sherwood Division is always a war, and 2022/2023 is sure to be no different. The Melfort Mustangs are the defending division winners, the Flin Flon Bombers just made the SJHL final and a National Quarter-Final, the La Ronge Ice Wolves just pushed the heavily favoured Humboldt Broncos to six games in the first round of the playoffs, and the Nipawin Hawks are young, hungry, and are going to have a full year under the tutelage of the young Tad Kozun.
Let’s start with Melfort, Trevor Blevins squad is bringing back a strong core of 2002-born players including the likes of Captain Ben Tkachuk, Joel Favreau, Hayden Tuba, and Dawson Leroux as well as a solid group of young talent including 2022 first-round-pick Riley Ashe. The Mustangs are certainly poised to be near the top of the division again and are one of the favourites to be in the SJHL Final come April.
Speaking of the Bombers, the Flin Flon Bombers core group of forwards is going to be able to score with the best of them, led by NCAA-Commit Jerami Tremblay, along with Cole Dupperault, Jaxon Martens, Jaeden Mercier and long-time WHLer Kaden Kohle. The biggest question might be, who is going to play net for the Bombers after the departure of Cal Schell. That answer might be Harmon Laser-Hume who the Bombers recently acquired from the Nipawin Hawks. Laser-Hume only has one SJHL season under his belt, but Mike Reagan usually finds a way to turn players into stars so we’ll see how it goes.
Kevin Kaminski has really turned the La Ronge Ice Wolves from a basement dweller into a team that nobody wants to meet on any given night. Expect that to be the same this season, a team that forechecks hard, and makes life difficult on it’s opponents. Tye Evans returns up front and should improve on his 22 points in 32 games last season, while a 2002-born group of Walker Jerome, Ryley Morgan, and Ethan Strik will be relied upon to put the puck in the net. On defence, 2003-born Liam McInnis is going to play a ton of minutes, while Taylor Webb, and Connor Abric will provide solid leadership in front of incumbent netminder Dawson Smith.
In Nipawin, Tad Kozun will be behind the bench for a full season after replacing Doug Johnson midway through the 21/22 season. His Hawks group is expected to be very young once again, but the returning cast taking strides should keep the Hawks in the playoff hunt all season. Bryden Kiesman, Carson Dobson, and Rylan Lefebvre are the key cogs up front, while Eric Robbie, and Zander Stewart will be mainstays on the blueline. In net, the Hawks seem to be moving forward with two new netminders this season after trading the aforementioned Laser-Hume. Reid Lalonde and Nolan McDowell had strong camps in Nipawin, and gave Kozun the confidence to move forward with those two.
For opening weekend which kicks off on Friday, September 16, it will be a couple all division matchups in the Sherwood Division. Melfort visits Flin Flon on Friday, while Nipawin visits La Ronge. The Ice Wolves head to Melfort on Saturday while the Bombers visit the Hawks.
The Sherwood is once again expected to be one of the most competitive divisions in the SJHL this season, and the puck drops soon. Buckle up, and enjoy the ride.