Heading into yesterday’s game with an 0-3 record, the Soo Thunderbirds were looking to end the RBC Cup tournament with a win even though their hopes of making the semifinals were over. The Soo dropped a 5-2 decision to the BCHL’s Penticton Vees, putting the T-Birds record at 0-4.
Brett Jeffries scored both goals for the Thunderbirds while Hounds prospect Boris Katchouk and rookie defenceman Caleb Boman had assists. Patrick Newell led the way for the Vees with two goals (one powerplay) and a pair of helpers. Steen Cooper had a two point afternoon with a goal and an assist while single tallies went to Tyson Jost and Dakota Conroy both on the powerplay. Demico Hannoun set up three goals while single assists went to Gabe Bast and Connor Chartier.
T-Birds goaltender Mario Culina was replaced by Brian Kment halfway through the game after giving up three goals on twenty three shots. Kment made seventeen saves on nineteen shots the rest of the way.
The 2014-2015 season was a memorable year for the Soo Thunderbirds as they accomplished many things such as clinching first in the NOJHL for the second straight season and fifth time in franchise history, ranked thirteenth in the CJHL, winning their third Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy along with the team’s second Dudley Hewitt Cup.
Jordan Smith was named the league’s coach of the year back to back seasons during his two years with the club, becoming the first bench boss to do so since Abitibi Eskimos skip Paul Gagne, who won it three consecutive seasons from 2002-2004. The twenty nine year old also served as head coach for Team NOJHL at the 2014 Central Canada Cup Challenge in Etobicoke, along with being named to the league’s first all star team back to back seasons.
Since joining the Thunderbirds in 2011-2012, general manager Kevin Cain has built this team to two NOJHL and Central Canada titles along with making it to the league finals for four consecutive seasons. The fourty seven year old, who also served as Team NOJHL’s general manager at the Central Canada Cup Challenge was also named to the league’s first all star team for the second straight year.
Yesterday afternoon also marked the final game for five overage players on the T-Birds including forwards Anthony Miller, Nick Tassone, Eric Hillock and defencemen Connor Dea and David Radke.
Saulite Anthony Miller, who was named team captain prior to this season following the graduation of 2014 NOJHL top scorer Gavin Burbach, finished his career with 160 points through 149 games, putting him seventh on the T-Birds all time scoring list. Miller also set a new team record with twenty four career playoff goals passing Jerry Petingalo who had twenty one. He also served as Team NOJHL’s captain at the 2014 Central Canada Cup Challenge along with winning the Soo Greyhound Award as the Thunderbirds most valuable player.
Nick Tassone, who was acquired during a 2013 offseason trade with the Elliot Lake Bobcats, where he served as an assistant captain, finished his final two seasons with his hometown Thunderbirds and was named the NOJHL’s most gentlemanly player this year. The twenty one year old, who led us in scoring this season with 68 points through 51 games was also awarded the Joe Rocchetta Memorial Trophy as our top scorer along with sharing the Forty Varcoe Memorial Trophy with Jaren Bellini as the team’s most sportsmanlike player.
Sault, Michigan product Eric Hillock spent two seasons with the Thunderbirds, sharing the team’s hardest working player of the year award back to back seasons with Brett Jeffries. The twenty year old also tied the team record during 2013-2014 for most overtime goals scored in a season with two.
Whitecourt, Alberta native Connor Dea, who came over in an offseason trade with the Dauphin Kings, finished second in team penalty minutes this season with 67, just one behind assistant captain Matt Mitchell, and was awarded the teams’s players player award along with the Ted Brooks Memorial Trophy for excellence in the community. Connor got involved in many community events such as; helping out with Christmas Cheer at Sir James Dunn along with reading to students at Our Lady Of Lourdes Elementary School as part of the “Forest Of Reading Program.”
Orinda, California product David Radke, who returned back to the team this season from Janesville, committed to Colorado College in NCAA division 1 hockey, making him the second member this year to do so joining Owen Headrick (Lake Superior State University). He also won the team’s top defenceman award this season along with being named to the league’s second all star team and suited up for Team NOJHL at the 2014 Central Canada Cup Challenge.
Potential overage candidates for next season are forwards Joey Miller, Matt Mitchell, Matt Pinder, Devin Shell, Nathan Hebert, Brett Jeffries and goaltender Brian Kment.