By Matt Stefano
Another Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season has officially wrapped up and was another banner year for the Soo Thunderbirds as they clinched first overall in the league standings for the second straight year and fifth time in franchise history. With a record of 38 wins, 7 losses, 1 tie, 6 overtime losses and 83 points, the T-Birds will meet the Blind River Beavers in the first round for the second straight season. The Beavers are coming off a new NOJHL worst season with 0 wins, 51 losses, 1 overtime loss and 1 point which broke the Elliot Lake Vikings league’s worst record from 1991/92, when they had 1 win and 47 losses.
During all twelve meetings this season, the T-Birds have won all twelve times out scoring them by a margin of 96-17.
Sept 14th W 12-1 @ home (Sicoly/Tassone 3g 2a each)
Sept 30th W 6-1 @ home (Sicoly 1g 2a)
Oct 8th W 4-3 OT2 @ home (Bellini 2g 0a)
Oct 15th W 6-1 (AWAY) (Tassone 2g 0a)
Oct 25th W 7-2 (AWAY) (Ogden 1g 2a)
Nov 1st W 7-2 (AWAY) (Hebert 2g 1a)
Nov 29th W 10-1 (AWAY) (J. Miller 0g 5a) TIED TEAM RECORD FOR MOST ASSISTS IN SINGLE GAME
Dec 12th W 6-1 @ home (Ogden 2g 1a)
Dec 16th W 10-2 @ home (Bellini 2g 2a)
Feb 10th W 7-3 @ home (Jeffries 4g 0a)
Feb 25th W 10-0 (AWAY) (Bellini 3g 3a/Culina 16 saves)
Mar 7th W 11-0 (AWAY) (J. Miller 2g 1a/Kment 22 saves)
The T-Birds this season were led by overage forward and Saulite Nick Tassone, who finished off the season with 32 goals and 68 points along with just 6 penalty minutes. He also finished off with 4 shorthanded tallies, good for 2nd in the NOJHL amongst shorthanded goal leaders along with becoming the first T-Bird to win the Onaping Falls Huskies Trophy since Kurtis Barberie back in 2011-2012 for the league’s most gentlemanly player.
The Beavers were led this season by 19 year old Amonte, Ontario native Nathan Hans, who led them in scoring with 12 goals and 25 points along with 54 penalty minutes through 50 games played.
Other T-Birds taking home league hardware were head coach Jordan Smith, who became the first coach to win back to back Mirl “Red McCarthy” Memorial Awards for NOJHL coach of the year since Abitibi Eskimos coach Paul Gagne did back in 2004 and went on to his third straight.
Brett Jeffries was crowned the Mitch Tetreault Memorial Trophy for the league’s top defensive forward. The Cochenour, Ontario native scored 20 goals and 43 points during his second season along with 23 penalty minutes and recorded his first career natural hat trick and four goal game back on February 10th in a 7-3 win over Blind River at the Essar Centre.
Rookie netminder Mario Culina became the first T-Bird to win the Wayne Chase Memorial Team Award for the league’s best goals against of 2.24 since Joel Horodziejczyk did in 2013-2014, after breaking the league record for lowest goals against of 1.72.
Our goaltending tandem of Mario Culina and Brian Kment had also shared the NOJHL team goaltending award letting in a combined 130 goals for the league’s fewest this season. It was also Kment’s second straight year sharing his award as he did last season with Sudbury, Ontario native Joel Horodziejczyk.
Round One Schedule:
G1 Mar 12th vs Beavers @ 7pm (Rhodes)
G2 Mar 14th vs Beavers @ 7:30 (BRCC)
G3 Mar 15th vs Beavers @ 7:30 (Rhodes)
G4 Mar 17th vs Beavers @ 7:30 (BRCC)
G5 Mar 19th vs Beavers @ 7pm (Rhodes)
G6 Mar 21st vs Beavers @ 7:30 (BRCC)
G7 Mar 23rd vs Beavers @ 7pm (Rhodes)