Game preview: Thunderbirds take on Red Wings at the Rhodes

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Wednesday night hockey takes place tonight at the John Rhodes as your Soo Thunderbirds will face off against the Elliot Lake Red Wings, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

The Thunderbirds are entering tonight’s game with a record of 7 wins, 2 losses and 1 shootout loss, and are also currently tied with the Soo Eagles for first place in the NOJHL’s West Division with 15 points.

The Red Wings, formerly the Elliot Lake Wildcats, are coming into tonight’s game with a record of 3 wins and 9 losses, and are currently in last place in the NOJHL’s West Division with only 6 points.

This will also be the Red Wings first ever visit to Sault Ste. Marie.

THE CATS NEVER CAME BACK

After being known as the Elliot Lake Wildcats from 2014-2021, the Wildcats decided to change their name to the Elliot Lake Red Wings for the 2021-2022 season.

Last season (2020-2021), the Wildcats (Now the Red Wings) also chose not to participate in the NOJHL because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Thunderbirds and Red Wings have already met each other just once so far in the 2021-2022 season.

In their first meeting of the season back on October 9, the Thunderbirds came back from a two-goal deficit and went on to defeat the Red Wings by a score of 7-4 at Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake.

That night, Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Andrew Gibson led the way offensively with four points, including two power play goals and two assists while Thunderbirds goaltender Noah Zeppa made 36 saves for his 5th victory of the season.

NOAD HIT THE ROAD

After being named as the first ever head coach of the Elliot Lake Red Wings back in April, Brian Noad then ended up resigning from the club in early September, without even coaching one game this season.

Following Noad’s departure, the Red Wings then ended up hiring Jon Campbell as the club’s second coach in franchise history.

THE COACHING CHANGES CONTINUED

Following the departure of Jon Campbell, who never coached one game with the Red Wings either, the Wings then ended up hiring 26-year-old Tanner Bowditch as the club’s third coach in franchise history.

Bowditch, who is currently in his first season behind the bench with the Red Wings, is no stranger to the NOJHL, as he played two seasons in the NOJHL from 2014-2016, splitting time with the Elliot Lake Wildcats, Mattawa Blackhawks and the Iroquois Falls Eskimos.

THEY HAVE THE POWER

When it comes to being on the power play, the Elliot Lake Red Wings have had the most luck scoring goals.

Despite being in last place in the NOJHL’s West Division, the Red Wings are still leading the NOJHL in power play goals with 15.

They also sit just one ahead of the Soo Thunderbirds, who have 14.

FROM THE RIVER TO THE LAKE

After starting his rookie season this year in Blind River, defenceman Kaden Laverdiere has now found himself a new home in Elliot Lake.

On October 16, the Elliot Lake Red Wings have acquired 2003-birth-year defenceman Kaden Laverdiere from the Blind River Beavers in exchange for a player development fee.

The 18-year-old has 0 points in just 1 game played with the Red Wings so far.

Prior to joining the Red Wings, Laverdiere recorded 1 assist in his first 11 games played this season with the Blind River Beavers.

THE BIRDS ARE KILLING IT

When it comes to being a man down, the Soo Thunderbirds have had no troubles killing off penalties.

The Thunderbirds are entering tonight’s game with the best penalty kill in the entire NOJHL, operating at 89.6%.

They also went a perfect 3 for 3 on the penalty kill in Sunday afternoon’s 3-0 loss to the Soo Eagles at the John Rhodes.

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Looking between the pipes now, Thunderbirds rookie netminder Noah Metivier currently has the best numbers among all NOJHL goalies.

Metivier enters tonight’s game with the league’s best save percentage (.957%) along with the league’s lowest goals against (1.34).

HONOURABLE MENTION

After being ranked No. 19 in the nation one week ago, the Soo Thunderbirds received honourable mention in this week’s CJHL Top 20 Weekly Rankings.

This is also the third straight week that the Thunderbirds have been recognized across Canada.