Milestone game for Chaffay

By Matt Stefano

When Soo Thunderbirds assistant captain Michael Chaffay skates on Blind River Community Centre ice tomorrow night in Blind River, tomorrow night’s game will also mark a milestone game for the 20-year-old Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native.

Tomorrow night in Blind River, Chaffay will suit up for his 100th career Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season game.

In 99 career NOJHL regular season games played (All with his hometown Soo Thunderbirds), the local forward has recorded 34 goals, 44 assists and 78 points.

“It’s hard to believe that I will be playing in my 100th career regular season game tomorrow night, but at the same time it excites me,” Chaffay said. “The time has really flown by from my rookie year until now.”

Chaffay, who is in his graduating season with the Thunderbirds, is currently sitting third in team scoring this season with 24 points, including 7 goals and 17 assists.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also has a championship ring in his junior hockey career, as he helped the Thunderbirds win the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy last season.

“Winning the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy last season was great and it’s something that stays with you forever,” Chaffay said.

Last season with the Thunderbirds, Chaffay finished second in team goals with 20 and finished fifth in team scoring with 33 points.

After finishing fifth in team scoring during the 2021-2022 regular season, Chaffay then led the Thunderbirds in scoring during the 2022 postseason with 12 goals and 23 points in 15 postseason games.

Chaffay, who scored 12 times during the 2022 postseason, also sits in a five-way tie with Owen Headrick (2015), Nick Minardi (2009), Matt Caria (2005) and Jeff Rainville (2003) for the third most goals by a Thunderbird player in a single postseason.

Matt Caruso (2015) sits first with 14 and Lucas Theriault (2019) sits second with 13.

“It feels great to be in same category as guys like Headrick, Minardi, Caria and Rainville,” Chaffay said. “All those guys were a very integral part of the Thunderbirds when they played here.”

In his rookie season with the Thunderbirds back in 2020-2021, which was a shortened NOJHL season due to on going COVID-19 restrictions, Chaffay recorded 16 points and finished tied for fifth in team scoring with Brock Santa Maria, who now serves as the Soo Thunderbirds captain.

“My rookie season in the COVID year was still one of my most fun years of hockey, believe it or not,” Chaffay said. “That season, I also got to play on a line with Cooper Smyl and Ty Zachary who are two buddies of mine, but what made that season great was all the memories that our team had. Yes, our season was cut short and we only played games against Espanola and Blind River, but all the guys on our team always made sure everything was fun.”

Prior to joining the Thunderbirds in the 2020-2021 season, Chaffay was a member of the Great North Under-18 Hockey League’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds back in 2019-2020, where he finished first in team goals with 34 and second in team points with 53.

During that season with the Jr. Greyhounds, Chaffay was also coached under Jamie Henderson (Thunderbirds assistant coach and general manager) and Cole Jarrett (Thunderbirds head coach).

“I remember in my final season of AAA hockey, we had such a good team and a good coaching staff,” Chaffay said. “That season, Jamie and Cole helped me turn into the player that I am today.”

Chaffay, who played three seasons in the Great North Under-18 Hockey League from 2017-2020, also suited up as an affiliate player with the Soo Thunderbirds during the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons.

In four games played as an affiliate player with the Thunderbirds in 2018-2019, Chaffay had 0 goals and 1 assist.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native then had 1 goal and 3 assists in 8 games played as an affiliate player with the Thunderbirds during 2019-2020.

As Chaffay gets set to suit up for his 100th career regular season game tomorrow night in Blind River, Chaffay and the Thunderbirds will also be looking to extend their winning streak to seven games.

“Tomorrow we just need to continue playing our game,” Chaffay said. “We’ve been playing very fast and have been making the other teams play to our pace.”

Chaffay, who is entering tomorrow night’s game sitting third in team scoring, has recorded 1 goal and 5 assists in his last 10 games played.

Tomorrow night’s game will also be the Thunderbirds final game before the Christmas break and the new year.

“I’ve been on quite a slump lately, so hopefully I can turn that around tomorrow night in my 100th career regular season game,” Chaffay said.

(Photo of Soo Thunderbirds forward Michael Chaffay credit to Bob Davies)

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