Well hockey fans in Sault Ste. Marie,
You’ve waited long enough and had to stay safe, but now hockey is officially back!
The Soo Thunderbirds will be on the ice tonight for their first preseason game of the year 2020 as they will take on the Blind River Beavers at 7:00 p.m. at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
The Thunderbirds finished the 2019-2020 regular season with a record of 30 wins, 19 losses, 3 overtime losses and 4 shootout losses, good for 67 points and third place in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division standings.
The Soo was then supposed to play the Blind River Beavers in the West Division Semifinal back in March, but due to the coronavirus outbreak at the end of the regular season, the 2020 postseason was then called off.
NEW FACES BEHIND THE BENCH
Back on May 20th, the Thunderbirds have hired some new faces who will take over behind the bench for the upcoming season.
Denny Lambert has been named as the club’s new bench boss and assistant general manager while Jeremy Stevenson has been named the new associate coach.
Micky Sartoretto, Aidan Wright and Gary Roach will serve as the new assistant coaches.
WELCOME BACK DENNY!
He served as the Thunderbirds director of operations back in the 2016-2017 season, but now he’s coming back to call the shots behind the bench!
On May 20th, the Soo Thunderbirds have hired former Soo Greyhounds forward and former NHLer Denny Lambert as their new head coach and assistant general manager.
Lambert, who played three seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds from 1988-1991, scored 65 goals, 148 points and 648 penalty minutes in 181 career regular-season games.
In his sophomore season with the Hounds in 1989-1990, Lambert led the Ontario Hockey League in penalty minutes with 276.
Lambert, who was born in Wawa, Ontario, also helped the Hounds capture the J. Ross Robertson Cup in 1991.
Following his three-year Ontario Hockey League career with the Hounds, Lambert then went on to play in the National Hockey League from 1994-2002, splitting time with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Ottawa Senators, Nashville Predators and Atlanta Thrashers.
As a member of the Atlanta Thrashers in their inaugural season in 1999-2000, Lambert also led the National Hockey League in penalty minutes with 219.
Following his career in the National Hockey League, the 50-year-old was then named assistant coach of the Soo Greyhounds in the 2003-2004 season, before moving up to become head coach of the club in 2008-2009.
During his eight years behind the bench with the Hounds from 2003-2011, Lambert also coached four former Soo Thunderbirds who went on to play in the National Hockey League, including Tyler Kennedy, Andrew Campbell, Jake Muzzin and Colin Miller.
Kennedy and Muzzin also went on to win Stanley Cups.
He played one season with the Thunderbirds in 2011-2012.
Wore the ‘C’ for them.
Led them in scoring.
Helped them win their second Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy, followed by their first-ever Dudley Hewitt Cup title.
Holds the team record for most assists (20) and points (29) in a single postseason.
Was named the NOJHL’s Best Overall Team Player, the NOJHL’s Playoff MVP, the RBC Cup’s Most Sportsmanlike Player and was named to the NOJHL’s First All-Star Team.
And now he’s coming back to take on a new role with the team he played for!
On May 20th, the Soo Thunderbirds have hired Micky Sartoretto as their new assistant coach.
Sartoretto, who has championship experience with his hometown Thunderbirds, also played in the Ontario Hockey League from 2008-2011, splitting time with the Kitchener Rangers and Saginaw Spirit.
THE PRICE IS WRIGHT
Twenty-seven-year-old Sooite Aidan Wright is one of the new assistant coaches behind the bench.
Wright is a former defenceman who played four seasons Lake Superior State Lakers hockey club from 2014-2018.
He also served as the team’s captain in his final year in 2017-2018.
Forty-five-year-old Sooite Gary Roach will be one of the assistant coaches behind the bench his season.
The former 1993 5th round pick of the New York Rangers played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League from 1991-1995, splitting time with the Soo Greyhounds and North Bay Centennials.
In 1992, the former defenceman helped the Hounds capture their second straight J. Ross Robertson Cup, followed by their first-ever Memorial Cup title in 1993.
His son Keegan played one season with the Thunderbirds in 2016-2017, before going on to win a J. Ross Robertson Cup with the Guelph Storm in 2019, but now its father Jeremy’s turn to join the Bird Nest!
Former Soo Greyhounds forward and former NHLer Jeremy Stevenson has been named the associate coach for this year’s Thunderbirds squad.
The 46-year-old played one season in the NOJHL with the Elliot Lake Vikings back in 1989-1990, where he scored 39 goals, 65 points and added 203 penalty minutes in 61 games.
Following his season with the Vikings, Stevenson was then selected in the 1st round (6th overall) by the Cornwall Royals in the 1990 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
Stevenson then went on to play four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League from 1990-1994, splitting time with the Cornwall Royals/New Market Royals and the Soo Greyhounds.
Following his time in the Ontario Hockey League, the Sooite then went on to play in the National Hockey League from 1995-2006, splitting time with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars.
EAGLE IN THE BIRD NEST
During the 2020 offseason, the Thunderbirds acquired 20-goal scorer and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Caleb Wood from the Soo Eagles.
Wood, who spent last season across the St. Mary’s River with the Eagles, scored 20 times and set up 15 others in 50 regular-season games.
In his rookie season with the Eagles in 2018-2019, the 2000 birth year forward also finished tied for first in team goals with 19 and set up 17 others in 55 regular-season games.
In 2018-2019, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario product also led all Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League rookies in power-play goals with 8.
Wood, who played the past two seasons (2018-2020) with the Sault, Michigan Eagles, is no stranger to the Soo Thunderbirds as he played four games as an affiliate player with them back in 2016-2017, scoring once and setting two others.
His one goal and two assists came all came in his NOJHL debut with the Thunderbirds back on November 16th, 2016 against the Elliot Lake Wildcats.
The 20-year-old forward was also selected by his hometown Soo Greyhounds in the 5th round (95th overall) in the 2017 Ontario Hockey League Under 18 Priority Selection.
TUM, TA-TUM, TUM, TOMS!
He’s a Soo Greyhounds draft pick, and now he’s suiting up for the orange and blue!
This past offseason, the Thunderbirds have signed 16-year-old defenceman Connor Toms.
Toms, who played last season with the GNML’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds, led all team defensemen in goals (9), assists (17) and points (26) in 39 regular-season games and was also named the NOHA’s Player of the Year.
He also played two games as an affiliate player with the Thunderbirds during the 2019-2020 season.
Following his season with the Jr. Hounds, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario product was then selected in the 3rd round (44th overall) by his hometown Soo Greyhounds in the 2020 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
And how’s this for a coincidence?
Current Soo Greyhounds star defenceman Rob Calisti was also selected by the Hounds in the 3rd round (44th overall) back in 2017.
The same round and pick that Toms was selected in!
Calisti then played one season with the Thunderbirds back in 2017-2018, before earning a full-time roster spot with the Hounds in 2018-2019.
And if the last name Toms sounds familiar to all you hockey followers out there, that’s because Connor is also the son of former Soo Greyhounds forward and former NHLer Jeff Toms.
After signing defenceman and Newberry, Michigan native Warner Young in the 2019 offseason, the Soo Thunderbirds are now bringing in another player who happens to have the same last name.
This past offseason, the Thunderbirds have signed goaltender and Calgary, Alberta native Scott Young.
The 20-year-old spent last season playing in Sweden with the Kumla HC Black Bulls.
The Calgary, Alberta native also brings championship experience to the Thunderbirds as he helped his hometown Calgary Royals Junior B club win the CaJHL championship in 2019.
Defenceman Warner Young, who we await the status of with the International Bridge remaining closed, was named the Thunderbirds Defenceman of the Year last season, scoring 3 times and setting up 28 others in 53 games.
Young’s 28 helpers were also the most among all NOJHL rookie blueliners last season.
GET ER DUNDAS!
He served as captain of the Korah Colts hockey club last season, and now he’s in the Bird nest!
This past offseason, the Soo Thunderbirds signed 16-year-old blueliner Kaden Dundas.
Dundas, who spent the past two seasons (2018-2020) with the Korah Colts hockey club, was also accepted into the enhanced learning courses that were offered at the school for students considering the IB program.
In 2019, the former Colts captain also helped promote and organize the 2019 Korah Cup 3 On 3 Hockey Tournament, which is Korah’s spring hockey fundraiser.
College hockey season may be cancelled this year, but that didn’t stop Sooite forward Parker Morgan from putting on another jersey!
After spending the 2019-2020 season with the Sault College Cougars men’s hockey club, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Parker Morgan has signed with his hometown Soo Thunderbirds for the upcoming season.
The 20-year-old brings championship experience to the Thunderbirds as he helped the Cougars win the ACHA Division 3 championship in his rookie season with them in 2018-2019.
After putting up 16 goals and 31 assists in 49 games one season ago, 18-year-old forward Cooper Smyl is returning to the orange and blue for a second season.
Last season, he was also the recipient of the Michael Doan Memorial Trophy for the Thunderbirds Most Improved Player.
THE DOUCETTE BROTHERS
One will be on the blueline, the other will be playing up front.
Just over a month apart, the Soo Thunderbirds have signed two players who happen to be family members.
Back on September 25th, the Thunderbirds signed 16-year-old forward Tyson Doucette out of the Soo Jr. Greyhounds hockey club.
Then, on October 30th, they signed his older brother, 19-year-old defenceman Jacob Doucette.
Last season, Tyson put up 2 goals and 13 points in 24 regular-season games with the Jr. Hounds and was the team’s least penalized player with only 6 penalty minutes.
The 16-year-old forward also has championship experience as he helped the Soo Greyhounds Under 15 AAA club capture the NOHL Under 15 championship back in 2019.
He was also named the NOHL’s Under 15 Most Sportsmanlike Player.
Jacob meanwhile, already played a full season in the NOJHL with the Espanola Express back in 2018-2019, where he had 1 goal and 7 assists in 53 regular-season contests and led the team in penalty minutes with 87.
It’s been 19 years since the last name Novello was on the back of a Thunderbirds jersey, but now it will happen again this upcoming season.
Seventeen-year-old forward Ethan Novello will be entering his first season with the Thunderbirds after spending last season with the defending City and NOSSA champion St. Mary’s Knights hockey club.
Ethan is also the cousin of former Soo Thunderbirds goaltender Frank Novello, who played in goal for the Thunderbirds from 1999-2001.
SANTA MARIA IS COMING
After putting up 7 goals and 19 points in 50 games one season ago, Thunderbirds forward Brock Santa Maria will be returning to the orange and blue for his second full season.
The 2002 birth year forward also played as an affiliate player with the Thunderbirds back in the 2018-2019 season, scoring twice and setting up three others in 9 games.
After putting up 11 goals and 3 assists in 54 games one season ago, 18-year-old forward Kurtis Rogers is returning to the Thunderbirds for his second full season.
Last season, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also shared the Ted Brooks Award with teammate and returning forward Will Josephson for Player Excellence In The Community.
WILL & WILLIAMS
Phoenix Arizona, native Will Josephson will be returning to the Soo for his second season while newly acquired forward Ryan Williams is coming back to the NOJHL.
Last season, Josephson had 28 points in 56 games and shared the Ted Brooks Award with his teammate Kurtis Rogers for the Player Excellence In The Community.
Williams, who comes from Edmonton, Alberta, played last season in the NOJHL with stops in Cochrane and Elliot Lake, before finishing up the season with the CCHL2’s Richmond Royals.
DON’T RUSS WITH ME!
He was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Spent the 2019-2020 season in the GOJHL with the St. Thomas Stars and Komoka Kings.
And now he’s back home to play for the Thunderbirds!
2001 birth year forward Russ Oldham signed with the Thunderbirds this past July.
Oldham was also selected in the 2nd round (22nd overall) by the Flint Firebirds in the 2018 Ontario Hockey League Under 18 Priority Selection.
He played 7 games as an affiliate player with the Thunderbirds in 2019-2020, scoring once and setting up two others.
And now he’s earned a full-time roster spot with them for the upcoming season.
Eighteen-year-old forward Ty Zachary is joining his hometown Thunderbirds after serving as an assistant captain last season with the GNML’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where he finished fourth in team scoring with 39 points in 38 games.
REEBOK IS BACK
His nickname is Reebok, and his last name is Rebek!
After finishing tied for third in team scoring last season with 42 points, Thunderbirds forward Avery Rebek is set to return for his third full season with the club.
Last season, the 20-year-old forward set career highs in goals (15), assists (27), points (42) and penalty minutes (23) in 56 games.
He already has 12 career games with the Thunderbirds under his belt, but now he’s earned himself a full-time roster spot for the upcoming season.
This past offseason, the Soo Thunderbirds have signed forward Michael Chaffay.
Chaffay spent last season with the GNML’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where he finished first in team goals (34) and second in team points (53) in 35 games.
PARSONS GETS DRAFTED
After finishing the 2019-2020 season with the Thunderbirds, putting up 15 points in 29 games, 19-year-old blueliner Dylan Parsons has been selected by the P.A.L. Junior Islanders in the 2020 NCDC Entry Draft.
BUGEJA IN GOAL
West Vancouver, BC native Alex Beguja signed with the Thunderbirds after spending last season with the SIJHL’s Fort Frances Lakers, where he had a 3.80 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
TRADE FOR DUTKIEWICZ
Timmins, Ontario native Cameron Dutkiewicz comes to the Thunderbirds after being acquired in a trade with the CCHL2’s Renfrew Timberwolves this past September.
The 2001 birth year blueliner had 15 points in 40 games with the Timberwolves last season.
Defenceman Mark Hill is the newest member to join the orange and blue.
The 19-year old from Conception Bay South, Newfoundland played last season in the ECEL 18U with the Ontario Hockey Academy U18 club.
ARE YOU READY?
As the Thunderbirds get set for preseason action tonight at the John Rhodes, there will only be 50 fans allowed inside the main arena area and the game will be played with absolutely no body contact.