By Matt Stefano
They haven’t played against each other in 798 days, but now they finally face each other again tonight!
Tonight the Soo Thunderbirds will take on the Powassan Voodoos at the John Rhodes Community Centre, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
This will also be Powassan’s first and only visit to the Soo this season.
LOOKING AT THE STANDINGS
The Thunderbirds are entering tonight’s game with a record of 20 wins, 4 losses, 2 overtime losses and 3 shootout losses, good for 45 points and first place in the West Division standings.
The Soo, who picked up a 6-2 win against Greater Sudbury last night at the John Rhodes, also became the first team in the NOJHL’s West Division to hit the 20-win plateau this season.
The Voodoos are entering tonight’s game with a record of 21 wins, 7 losses, 4 overtime losses and 1 shootout loss, good for 47 points and third place in the East Division standings.
IN THEIR LAST MEETING
The last time the Thunderbirds and Voodoos met was back on November 30, 2019, when the Thunderbirds defeated them by a score of 4-2 at the Powassan Sportsplex in Powassan.
That night (November 30, 2019), the Thunderbirds got goals from Brock Santa Maria, Cooper Smyl, Mackenzie Walkington and Avery Rebek (empty net).
Defenceman Dylan Parsons led the way offensively that game with three assists while goaltender Dakota Meyer made 34 saves for the victory.
During that game, the Thunderbirds also did a great job staying out of the penalty box, as they finished off the night without taking a single penalty.
When both the Thunderbirds and the Voodoos hit the ice tonight at the John Rhodes, the Thunderbirds will also be up against their former goaltender Alex Bugeja, who is now a member of the Voodoos.
Bugeja, who was traded from the Thunderbirds to the Voodoos back on June 10, 2021, played one season with the Thunderbirds in 2020-2021, where he recorded 9 wins, 2 losses, 2 shootout losses and had a 2.37 goals against average along with a .936 save percentage.
The West Vancouver, British Columbia native was also the recipient of the Soo Greyhound Award as the Thunderbirds Most Valuable Player during the 2020-2021 season.
This season with the Voodoos, Bugeja has so far recorded 14 wins, 6 losses, a league-leading 3 overtime losses and 1 shutout.
Tonight’s game will also be Bugeja’s first visit to the Soo since the trade last summer.
HOUNDS PROSPECTS ON THE VOODOOS
Looking at some more players on the Voodoos roster now, the Voodoos have a total of three rookies on their team this year who happen to be Soo Greyhound prospects.
Those three players are Justin Spurrell, Caleb Van de Ven and James Johnson.
Spurrell, who is a 2004-birth-year forward, was drafted by the Soo Greyhounds in the 10th round (184th overall) back in 2020.
So far this season, Spurrell has put up 5 goals and 20 points in 32 games as a member of the Powassan.
Spurrell, who is a native of Brampton, Ontario native doesn’t turn 18-years-old until February 23.
Van de Ven, who is a 2004-birth-year defenceman, was drafted by the Soo Greyhounds in the 13th round (244th overall) back in 2020.
So far this season, Van De Ven currently leads all Voodoo bluliners in goals (6), points (19) and power play tallies (3).
He also leads the team in penalty minutes with 40.
Johnson, who is a 2004-birth-year forward, was drafted by the Soo Greyhounds in the 1st round (3rd overall) in the 2021 Ontario Hockey League Under-18 Priority Selection.
This season with the Voodoos, Johnson has so far put up 2 goals and 10 points in 31 games.
Johnson, who enters tonight’s game with 2 goals on the season, scored both of his goals back on December 3 in a 6-0 road win against the Cochrane Crunch.
SUDBURY WOLVES TIES
Another player who is in his rookie season this year with the Voodoos is 2005-birth-year forward Mike Levin.
Levin, who was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, currently has 14 goals and 18 points in 15 games played.
If the last name Levin sounds familiar to you, it’s because Mike Levin is also the younger brother of former Sudbury Wolves forward David Levin.
His brother David was also drafted by the Sudbury Wolves first overall in the 2015 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
During last night’s game against Greater Sudbury, Thunderbirds rookie defenceman and Soo Greyhounds prospect Andrew Gibson scored his 14th goal of the season on the power play, which tied the Soo Thunderbirds record for most goals by a defenceman in a regular season.
Gibson’s 14th goal of the season came on the man advantage at the 5:27 mark of the third period, which made the score 4-1 for the Soo.
The 16-year-blueliner is now just one goal away from becoming the Thunderbirds all-time leader for most goals by a defenceman in a regular season.
(Photo of Thunderbirds goaltender credit to Noah Zeppa)