By Matt Stefano
The Soo Thunderbirds will kick off the new year tonight on January 2nd against the Mattawa Blackhawks at 7:30 from the John Rhodes Community Centre. Heading into tonight’s contest, the Soo sits tied for first spot in the NOJHL with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners for forty nine points but still hold one game in hand on them.
It was back on Friday, December 19th when the T-Birds and Blackhawks last met with the Soo defeating them 7-1 at the Rhodes. Overage forward Nick Tassone became the first Thunderbird that night to record a natural hat trick since Grant Syrette back on October 2nd, 2013. Another Nick who also stood out that same night was T-Birds rookie forward Nick Sicoly, who led the way offensively with a goal and three helpers. Sicoly, who is currently recalled to the Guelph Storm until after the World Juniors are complete, currently leads all NOJHL 98 birth year players in scoring with thirty one points in twenty nine games played this season. Tassone, who is in his third and final NOJHL season is having a career high year for goals (20), assists, (26) and points (46) after putting up forty two points a season ago including eighteen goals and twenty four assists. The twenty year old is currently fifth in NOJHL scoring.
With goaltender Brian Kment recalled by the Soo Greyhounds until Brandon Halverson returns from Team USA, T-Birds rookie net minder Mario Culina currently leads the NOJHL in wins (14), save percentage (.930) and goals against average (1.95). Mattawa currently sits second last in the NOJHL with just twenty seven points and is coming off a 3-2 double overtime setback to the Sudbury Nickel Barons on December 21st at the Mike Rodden Arena.
Blackhawks overage forward Tyler Broderson, leads the Blackhawks in scoring with twenty five points in thirty games. In other recent news, the Thunderbirds have also added Jamie Disano as the club’s goaltender consultant. Jamie, who worked with former T-Birds net minder Michael Doan this past season and operates Post to Post goalie academy, says he is really looking forward to joining the T-Birds organization with a team that’s had a lot of great goaltenders in the past and he hopes to share his experiences with the club.
Tonight (January 2nd) will be the fourth meeting between these two clubs with the T-Birds leading the series 3-0 and out scoring them 22-11. Nick Sicoly (currently with Guelph) has been the best player offensively against the Blackhawks with five goals and five assists in three meetings while Mario Culina was in goal for all three victories including one assist.