By Matt Stefano
With another regular season officially in the books, it’s been another successful one for the Soo Thunderbirds.
The T-Birds finished with a record of 43-11-1-1, good for 88 points, finishing first in the West Division and second overall in the NOJHL standings.
This was also the second consecutive season the T-Birds have hit 40 plus wins.
BEHIND THE BENCH
Since being named bench boss in the 2013-2014 season, Jordan Smith has guided the T-Birds to 176 wins from 2013-2017.
That makes him the T-Birds all-time winningest coach, passing Jim Capy (2000-2004), who had 134 wins behind the bench.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
This season, the T-Birds have received some solid goaltending from Brandon Gordon and Dougie Newhouse.
Gordon, who led the league in shutouts this season with 5, tied the NOJHL record for most shutouts in a single season, joining Frank Novello (2001, Soo Thunderbirds), Martin Perreault (2004, North Bay Skyhawks), John Kleinhans (2012, Soo Thunderbirds) and Garrett Forrest (2016, Powassan Voodoos).
The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan product, who now has 9 career shutouts through two seasons played with the T-Birds, has also set the new team record for most career shutouts by a Soo Thunderbird goalie, passing Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Frank Novello (1999-2001), who held the previous record with 7.
Soo Greyhounds prospect Dougie Newhouse, who is in his first NOJHL season, finished tied for second in league shutouts this season with 3.
The other goalies tied for second in shutouts with him, are Aidan Doak (Blind River Beavers) and Nate McDonald (Powassan Voodoos).
COVERED BY INSURANCE
This season, T-Birds forwards Matt Caruso and Zach Senecal finished tied for first in league insurance goals with 7 each.
After finding the back of the net just 10 times in his rookie season during 2015-2016, second year forward Zach Senecal has done something that no T-Bird has done since the 2013-2014 season.
Score 33 goals!
The last T-Bird to do so, was former captain Gavin Burbach (2013-2014), who went on to score 48 goals that season.
Senecal’s 33 goals were also the most on this year’s team.
CARUSO LEADS THE FLOCK
T-Birds captain Matt Caruso, who recorded 29 goals and 70 points this season, led his club in scoring for the second consecutive year.
One interesting fact that stands out, is that T-Birds assistant coach Ryan Maunu, like Caruso, led the T-Birds in scoring back to back seasons from 2004-2006.
Caruso was also the recipient of this year’s NOJHL Trophy, for the league’s best overall team player.
Caruso became the first T-Bird to win this award since Gavin Burbach (2014).
He was also just one of two T-Birds to be named to the CCM 2nd all-star team.
The other was defenceman Jake Behse.
This season saw a total of four former Soo Thunderbirds who went on to earn full time roster spots with Ontario Hockey League teams.
Those players included Darian and Drake Pilon (Sudbury Wolves), Owen Headrick (Erie Otters) and Nolan Makkonen (Guelph Storm).
There are now a total of eight former Soo Thunderbirds playing in the Ontario Hockey League, including Darian and Drake Pilon (Sudbury Wolves), Owen Headrick (Erie Otters), Nolan Makkonen (Guelph Storm), Nick Sicoly (Guelph Storm), Mario Culina (Windsor Spitfires), Medric Mercier (Oshawa Generals) and Boris Katchouk (Soo Greyhounds).
All these players who played on the Soo Thunderbirds, were also coached under Jordan Smith and assistant coach Ryan Maunu.
KATCHOUK IN HOUND TOWN
Currently in his second season with the Soo Greyhounds, Boris Katchouk leads the Ontario Hockey League in shorthanded goals with 7.
DID YOU KNOW?
Katchouk’s 7 shorthanded tallies this season, currently has him tied with Wayne Gretzky (1978), Brian Secord (1996), Brandon MacLean (2008) and Dustin Jeffrey (2008) for third on the Soo Greyhounds single season shorthanded goals list.