By Matt Stefano
Sunday, April 19th marked a 5-3 game five finals victory for the Soo Thunderbirds, clinching their third Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in the clubs’s sixteen year history and second time in four seasons. The T-Birds defeated the Cochrane Crunch four games to one in the best of seven finals series and T-Birds rookie forward Matt Caruso led the NOJHL postseason with fourteen goals passing his regular season totals at thirteen. Caruso, who turns eighteen on Sunday, also set the new team record for most goals in a playoff season passing the trio of Jeff Rainville (2003), Matt Caria (2005) and Nick Minardi (2009) who all had twelve. T-Birds rookie net minder Mario Culina, who got the start in the final four games of the finals and coming out victorious in all of them, led the NOJHL postseason with a 1.23 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. His 1.23 goals against had also passed former T-Birds net minder Michael Doan (2011) who had the previous best postseason goals against average of 1.65. Second year netminder Brian Kment who led the NOJHL with four postseason shutouts with four, tied the record with Adam Hanna (2002) and Ryan Dube (2009) along with breaking the record for career playoff shutouts with five. T-Birds defenceman and Lake Superior State Lakers recruit Owen Headrick was named the league’s playoff MVP scoring twenty points through fourteen playoff outings had also set new team records for most single playoff season goals and points along with career playoff points and goals passing Jeff Cochrane (1999-2001) who held the previous records.
Through five games during the finals, the T-Birds have out scored the Crunch by a 21-11 margin. As the club prepares for the 2015 Dudley Hewitt Cup Tournament beginning on Tuesday, April 28th in Fort Frances, Ontario, there are three members on this year’s Soo Thunderbirds roster who have experience from the 2013 Dudley Hewitt Cup Tournament which was held in North Bay, Ontario, including the Miller cousins both Anthony and Joey along with Colorado College recruit and T-Birds defenceman David Radke. Captain Anthony Miller also set the new Thunderbirds record with twenty four career playoff goals passing Jerry Petingalo (2007-2011) who held the previous record at twenty one.
The three other teams joining the T-Birds at the Dud will be the host team Fort Frances Lakers (SIJHL), Dryden Ice Dogs (SIJHL) and Toronto Patriots (OJHL).
The host team Fort Frances Lakers who have clinched their second consecutive Bill Salonen Cup defeating the Dryden Ice Dogs in six games in the SIJHL finals had also finished ninth in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings. Lakers goaltender Nathan Park led the SIJHL regular season with a 1.92 goals against average, a .931 save percentage and three shutouts.
The Dryden Ice Dogs who automatically get a birth into the Dudley Hewitt Cup Tournament were led by Cole Golka who finished first in SIJHL scoring with eighty nine points along with leading the league in goals with forty seven. He also tied Lakers forward Colton Spicier for the most game winning goals scored with seven. Jonathan Philley finished second in league scoring behind teammate Cole Golka with seventy three points along with finishing with the second most goals at thirty one. Ice Dogs goaltender Tate Sproxton led the league with twenty three wins and most minutes played at 2319:02.
The defending Dudley Hewitt Cup champions Toronto Patriots have also clinched their second consecutive Buckland Cup after defeating the Kingston Voyageurs in seven games in the OJHL finals.
DUDLEY HEWITT CUP SCHEDULE:
Tues, April 28th – T-Birds vs Dryden 2:00
Wed, April 29th – Fort Frances vs T-Birds 7:30
Thurs, April 30th – T-Birds vs Toronto 7:30
Fri, May 1st – Semifinal: 2nd Round Robin vs 3rd Round Robin 7:30
Sat, May 2nd – Final: 1st Round a Robin vs Semifinal Winner 7:30
All games are held at the Ice For Kids Arens in Fort Frances, Ontario and are all central start times.
The winner of the Dudley Hewitt Cup Tournament will advance to the RBC Cup in Portage la Prairie, Man, held from May 11th-19th.