By Matt Stefano
Two Jr. Greyhounds are leaving the dog house to join the bird nest!
The Soo Thunderbirds have announced today that they have signed two players out of the Soo Jr. Greyhounds program, including defenceman Michael Beltrano and forward Samuel Lake.
Beltrano, who is a 2004-birth-year defenceman, played two seasons with the Soo Jr. Greyhounds from 2019-2021.
“Michael’s game has really grown over the past two seasons with the under-18 program,” said Soo Thunderbirds general manager Jamie Henderson. “He really stepped out of his comfort zone this season and you can see his confidence grow by the week. You always know what you’re going to get with Michael and he will be a popular teammate and a team first guy.”
Lake, who is a 2004-birth-year forward, spent one season with the Soo Jr. Greyhounds in 2020-2021, in what was a different season due to COVID-19.
“Samuel is one of those guys you hate to play against but love to have on your side,” said Henderson. “He will make life tough on opponents and brings a competitive spirit to the team.”
Lake, who is from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, stands 5’10 and weighs 178 pounds.
“Being able to go to the next level and being able to play for my home team Thunderbirds is an unreal feeling,” said Lake. “Last year with the Jr. Hounds was an impact on my skill being able to reach very high potential. We also had an amazing group of guys that were very talented and the coaching staff was awesome too.”
Beltrano, who stands 5’6 and weighs 170 pounds, scored 3 times and set up 11 others in 39 regular season games with the Jr. Greyhounds during the 2019-2020 season.
“Signing with the Thunderbirds is very exciting for me because it gives me the opportunity to play at a higher level of hockey which was one of my goals. It will be a challenge that I am looking forward to,” said Beltrano. “Overall, I was very happy with my year with the Jr. Greyhounds as it provided me with many challenges playing with and against older players. That experience will hopefully help me transition to the Thunderbirds.”
In 2019-2020, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also helped the Jr. Greyhounds win the Great North Under-18 Hockey League regular season title.
“It was a great feeling winning the league. We had a strong team that worked very well together. Unfortunately the playoffs were cut short, but overall it was a great year,” said Beltrano.
During his first season with the Jr. Hounds in 2019-2020, Beltrano also played on the same team as current Soo Thunderbirds Michael Chaffay, Ty Zachary, Tyson Doucette and Connor Toms, who had just signed with the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds this week.
”They are all great players. All of them challenged me and made me a better player and teammate. I am looking forward to playing with them and having success with them as my teammates,” said Beltrano.
(Photos of Beltrano and Lake credit to Bob Davies)