Game preview: Thunderbirds play home opener tonight vs Beavers

By Matt Stefano

Tonight’s the night!

NOJHL action takes place tonight at the John Rhodes Community Centre as your Soo Thunderbirds will host their 2021-2022 home opener against the Blind River Beavers, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The Thunderbirds are entering tonight’s game with a 1-0 record, thanks to a 7-0 victory in their season opening game against the Blind River Beavers last Saturday in Blind River.

Tonight’s game will also be game No. 2 on the Soo Thunderbirds regular season schedule.


The Blind River Beavers are entering tonight’s game with a record of 0 wins, 2 losses and 1 overtime loss, good for only 1 point.

They have also given up the most goals against in the NOJHL with 15, and currently lead the NOJHL in penalty minutes with 51.


In last Saturday’s 7-0 win in Blind River, Thunderbirds second-year forward Tyson Doucette led the way offensively with three goals, including a power play marker.

He also became the first Thunderbird to score three goals in a season opening game since Nic Sicoly and Nick Tassone both did back on September 14, 2014.

Doucette, who enters tonight’s game with 3 goals, is currently the top scorer on the Soo Thunderbirds.


So far this season, Blind River Beavers forward Hunter Berry has been logging a lot of minutes in the penalty box.

Berry, who is in his rookie season with the Beavers, currently leads all NOJHL players in penalty minutes with 14.


Just yesterday, the Soo Thunderbirds have added another blueliner to their roster by acquiring 2002-birth-year defenceman Zane Burleigh from the Renfrew Wolves in exchange for a player development fee.

Burleigh, who is entering his first season with the Thunderbirds, already has one season of junior hockey under his belt, as he spent the 2020-2021 season with the GOJHL’s Pelham Panthers.

The 2002-birth-year defenceman is now the oldest blueliner on the Soo Thunderbirds roster.


So far this season, the Soo Thunderbirds have been having a lot of luck with the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s.

Just last Friday, the 67’s have named current Soo Thunderbirds assistant coach and general manager Jamie Henderson as the club’s Northern Ontario Scout.

Then, this past Tuesday, it was announced that Ottawa 67’s 2021 second round pick Cooper Foster will be joining the Soo Thunderbirds for the 2021-2022 season.

Foster, who signed with the Thunderbirds this past Tuesday, was drafted by the Ottawa 67’s in the 2nd round (32nd overall) in the 2021 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection back on June 4, which was on the day of his 16th birthday.

The 16-year-old also spent last season with the Great North Under-18 Hockey League’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where he was coached under current Soo Thunderbirds assistant coach and general manager Jamie Henderson.


When it comes to regular season debuts, goaltender Noah Zeppa has been unbeatable!

So far in his NOJHL career, Zeppa has recorded a shutout in his debut with the Hearst Lumberjacks and another shutout his debut with the Soo Thunderbirds.

Dating back to his first NOJHL game played with the Hearst Lumberjacks back on December 10, 2019, Zeppa picked up his first career shutout, making 26 saves in a 4-0 victory over the Cochrane Crunch at Claude Larose Arena in Hearst.

On that date (December 10, 2019), Zeppa also became the first goaltender in Lumberjacks history to record a shutout in an NOJHL debut.

Then, in his first game played as a Soo Thunderbird just last Saturday night in Blind River, Zeppa turned aside all 17 shots he faced to help lead the Thunderbirds to a 7-0 victory over the Blind River Beavers at the Blind River Community Centre.

Zeppa, who recorded a shutout in last Saturday’s season opener in Blind River, became the first Thunderbird goalie to record a shutout in a season opening game since Ryan Dube did back on September 12, 2008.

(Photo credit to Crystal Serre)

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