By Matt Stefano
Six years ago today, the Soo Thunderbirds were crowned 2015 Dudley Hewitt Cup champions.
In a championship game that took place at the Ice For Kids Arena in Fort Frances, Ontario, the Thunderbirds defeated the host team Fort Frances Lakers by a score 3-2 in front of 1,357 fans.
In a game that started scoreless through the twenty minutes period of play, it would then be the Soo striking first at the 10:45 mark of the second period, courtesy of Nick Tassone’s first goal of the tournament from Eric Hillock and Joey Miller.
Tassone, who got the game’s first goal that night, was also the Thunderbirds top scorer during the 2014-2015 regular season.
The Dudley Hewitt Cup host team Lakers would then even up the score at the 14:51 mark of the second, courtesy of Wyatt Cota’s fourth goal of the tournament from Dylan Robertson and Nolan Ross.
The Soo would then take a 2-1 lead at the 18:14 mark of the second, courtesy of Nick Tassone’s second goal of the game from David Radke and Joey Miller.
Miller’s assist on Tassone’s goal, also gave him his second point of the night.
Then, just 43 seconds after Tassone’s second goal of the game, it would be the Lakers tying up the game at two, courtesy of Nick Minerva’s first goal of the tournament from Wyatt Cota.
The teams would then exit the middle frame tied at two goals apiece.
Then, just 4:05 into the third period, it would be Thunderbirds forward Matt Pinder getting his team-leading fourth goal of the tournament from Boris Katchouk and Brett Jeffries, putting the Soo up by a score of 3-2.
Pinder’s goal would then turn out to be the biggest goal of his career as the Thunderbirds would then hang on to beat the Lakers by a score of 3-2 in front of the Fort Frances faithful.
That night, the Thunderbirds also went on to hoist their second Dudley Hewitt Cup title in franchise history.
The Soo Thunderbirds 2015 Dudley Hewitt Cup team had a total of five players who went on to have Ontario Hockey League careers.
Those players were Mario Culina, Boris Katchouk, Owen Headrick, Nic Sicoly and Nolan Makkonen.
SUPER MARIO IN GOAL
In the 2015 Dudley Hewitt Cup championship game, Thunderbirds goaltender Mario Culina made 29 saves for the victory.
Culina, who was part of the Thunderbirds 2015 Dudley Hewitt Cup team, then ended up having a three-year career Ontario Hockey League from 2015-2018, where he split time with the Windsor Spitfires, Sudbury Wolves and Kitchener Rangers.
In 2017, Culina and the Windsor Spitfires were also crowned Memorial Cup champions.
BOY OH BORIS
Forward Boris Katchouk led the Thunderbirds in scoring at the 2015 Dudley Hewitt Cup tournament with 6 points in 4 games.
Following a banner season with the Soo Thunderbirds, the Waterloo, Ontario native then went on to play three full seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds from 2015-2018.
In 199 career games with the Hounds from 2014-2018, Katchouk found the back of the net 101 times and set up 101 others, good for 202 points.
Katchouk, who also scored 13 career shorthanded goals with the Hounds, is currently tied with Steve Gatzos (1978-1981) for the team record for most career shorthanded goals by a Greyhound player.
Before earning a full-time roster spot with the Hounds in 2015-2016, Katchouk also played 12 games as an affiliate player with the Hounds during the 2014-2015 season, where he recorded 2 assists.
Following his first full season with the Hounds in 2015-2016, the former Soo Thunderbird then went on to be drafted in the 2nd round (44th overall) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
In his second season with the Hounds in 2016-2017, Katchouk then helped the Hounds to a 100-point season, which turned out to be their third best season in franchise history.
Then, in his third and final season with the Hounds in 2017-2018, the Waterloo, Ontario native then helped the Hounds to a franchise best 116-point season as they also went on to capture the Hamilton Spectator Trophy (OHL Regular Season Champions).
Following his successful Ontario Hockey League career with the Soo Greyhounds, the former Soo Thunderbird then earned a full-time roster spot with the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch in the 2018-2019 season.
Katchouk, who is now in his third season with the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch, is currently leading the Crunch in goals (11), assists (18) and points (29) while also wearing the “A” on his chest.
OWEN WIN SITUATION
Defenceman Owen Headrick led all blueliners in points and assists at the 2015 Dudley Hewitt Cup tournament with 5.
At the conclusion of the tournament, the Garden River, Ontario product was also named the Dudley Hewitt Cup tournament’s Most Sportsmanlike Player.
Headrick, who helped lead the Thunderbirds to a Dudley Hewitt Cup title in 2015, then ended up playing with the Lake Superior State University Lakers hockey club from 2015-2017.
During his time with the Lakers, the Garden River, Ontario product scored 7 times and set up 20 others in 63 games played.
Headrick, who then chose to sign with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters in January of 2017, then ended up finishing the 2016-2017 season with the Otters, where he helped the club capture its second J. Ross Robertson Cup title (OHL playoff champions) in franchise history.
FROM THE BIRDS TO THE STORM
During the 2015 Dudley Hewitt Cup tournament, Sooite forward Nic Sicoly recorded 4 penalty minutes in 4 games played.
After helping his hometown Thunderbirds win the 2015 Dudley Hewitt Cup title, Sicoly then earned a full-time roster spot with the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm in 2015-2016.
Before earning a full-time roster spot with the Storm, Sicoly also suited up for four games as an affiliate player with the Guelph Storm during the 2014-2015 season.
In his first full season with the Storm in 2015-2016, the Sooite forward led all Storm rookies in scoring with 8 goals and 13 points in 64 games played.
That season, the Storm also had their second worst season in franchise history with 13 wins, 49 losses, 4 overtime losses and 2 shootout losses, good for only 32 points.
Following the Storm’s second worst season in franchise history, Sicoly then played one more season with the Storm in 2016-2017, where he found the back of the net twice and set up 9 others in 66 games played.
In the 2014-2015 season, defenceman Nolan Makkonen was a member of the GNML’s Soo Thunderbirds Midget AAA club, where he finished off the season with 5 assists in 36 games.
Makkonen, who also helped the GNML Thunderbirds win the playoff championship that season, was then added as an affiliate player to the NOJHL’s Soo Thunderbirds roster as they prepared for the Dudley Hewitt Cup.
Despite not seeing action at the Dudley Hewitt Cup tournament, Makkonen still had a chance to hoist the cup with the team he joined for a short period of time.
After earning a full-time roster spot with the Soo Eagles in the 2016-2017 season, Makkonen then went on to play in the Ontario Hockey League from 2016-2018, where he split time with the Guelph Storm and Sudbury Wolves.
Makkonen, who joined the of the Guelph Storm during the 2016-2017 season, also ended up playing on the same team as former Soo Thunderbirds forward Nic Sicoly.