Mauro takes on his former team this afternoon

By Matt Stefano

Justin Mauro spent most of his junior hockey career playing with the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Blind River Beavers.

But now for the first time ever, he will be playing against them.

When the Soo Thunderbirds take to the ice this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. for their home game against the Blind River Beavers at the John Rhodes, it will also be the first time that T-Birds forward Justin Mauro will be facing his former team.

“This afternoon’s game is definitely going to be very exciting for me,” Mauro said. “I’ve had this game circled on my calendar ever since I got traded to the T-Birds and it’ll be nice to play against the Beavers for the first time.”

Mauro, who spent three seasons with the Blind River Beavers from 2018-2021, scored 27 goals and set up 60 others in 104 games played with them.

In his rookie season with the Beavers in 2018-2019, Mauro scored 9 times and set up 27 others in 45 regular season games, before scoring twice and setting up three others in 8 games during the 2019 postseason.

In his second season with the Beavers in 2019-2020, Mauro finished third in team scoring with 15 goals and 48 points through 39 regular season games.

That season (2019-2020), Mauro also helped lead the Beavers to their best regular season in franchise history, as they set new franchise records for most wins in a regular season with 37 and most points in a regular season with 78.

Despite having their best regular season in franchise history, the Beavers were then unable to play a single playoff game due to the fact that the NOJHL had to cancel its 2020 postseason due to COVID-19.

“I have many good memories from that 2019-2020 season,” Mauro said. “We also could’ve went a long way in the playoffs if it wasn’t cut short due to COVID.”

In his third season with the Beavers in 2020-2021, which was a shortened season due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, Mauro then found the back of the net 3 times and set up 9 others in 20 games played.

During that season (2020-2021), the Beavers only played against two teams, including the Rayside Balfour Canadians and the Soo Thunderbirds.

“Playing for Kyle Brick for three seasons in Blind River, I know how much these games against the Thunderbirds mean to him,” Mauro said. “I’m expecting Brick and the Beavers to bring their A-game this afternoon, and we are also going to have to bring our A-game.”

After spending three seasons with the Beavers from 2018-2021, Mauro then ended up being traded by the Beavers to the OJHL’s Trenton Golden Hawks back on July 21, 2021.

Mauro, who then ended up being acquired by his hometown Soo Thunderbirds in a trade with the CCHL’s Navan Grads this past November, has so far put up 10 points in just 5 games played as a member of the Thunderbirds.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also recorded his first career five-point game in the Thunderbirds 10-2 victory over the Soo Eagles back on Friday night at the John Rhodes.

“Coming back to the NOJHL was an easy transition, considering that I’m already comfortable with this league as I’ve spent most of my career here,” Mauro said. “It’s a very cool experience to get the chance to play for my hometown team, which until now, is something I haven’t gotten the chance to do before.”

Mauro and the T-Birds are entering this afternoon’s game sitting in second place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings with 37 points, just four points back of the Beavers for second.

The Beavers still also hold one game in hand.

“The guys in the dressing room know how important this game means standings wise,” Mauro said. “We had a great week of practice preparing for this weekend and it clearly showed on Friday night against the Soo Eagles. We are looking to keep the pace of the play rolling into this afternoon to get the two points.”

(Photo of T-Birds forward Justin Mauro credit to Bob Davies)

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