By Matt Stefano
With the holiday season officially started, the Soo Thunderbirds have completed the 2015 portion of their regular season, as they sit first in the NOJHL standings with 58 points. The defending league and Central Canada champions, who finished first in the NOJHL last season, winning 38 times, have already won 29 of their first 32 games this season. This club, who is guided under third year head coach and two-time NOJHL coach of the year Jordan Smith, have also entered the break with a perfect home record for the first time since the 2013-2014 season. First year general manager Jamie Henderson, who served as the club’s assistant general manager last season, has done a great job assembling this club to being one of the best in all the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
Second year forward Matt Caruso, who scored thirteen times and assisted on twenty one others a season ago, currently leads the T-Birds in scoring with eighteen goals and thirty nine points through thirty two games thus far. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native, who also set the new Soo Thunderbirds record for most goals scored in a single playoff season last year with fourteen, headed into the holiday break on a six game point streak, scoring ten goals and assisting on seven others, good for seventeen points. Not to mention, those seventeen points through his past six contests are half of what he had last season, where he recorded thirty four points during his rookie season with the T-Birds.
On the blueline side of things, the T-Birds currently have two defencemen sitting in the top ten of NOJHL defencemen scoring, including Caleb Boman and Matt Busby.
After leading all T-Bird defencemen in scoring during his rookie season, sophomore defenceman Caleb Boman currently sits second amongst NOJHL defencemen for points with thirty six. Boman, who has nine goals this season, is capable of becoming the first T-Bird defenceman to hit the ten goal plateau in a regular season, since former NOJHL defenceman of the year Tyler Jones did back in 2013-2014. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native, who recently committed to the Niagara Purple Eagles in NCAA division 1 hockey for the 2016-2017 season, also suited up for Team NOJHL at the Eastern Canada Junior A Challenge this past November, along with being named the league’s Gongshow Gear Defemceman Of The Month for November. He was also selected to Team Canada’s East selection camp roster with rookie forward Darian Pilon.
Shanty Bay, Ontario native Matt Busby, who is currently in his third NOJHL season and second with the Soo Thunderbirds, sits eighth amongst league defensemen in scoring with eight goals and twenty two points through thirty two games thus far. The 2013 fifteenth round pick (285th overall) of the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spirtfires, was joined by T-Birds net minder Mario Culina at Spitfires camp this past Summer.
Culina, who signed as a free agent with the Spits during September, has nine wins, no losses along with two shutouts since being reassigned from the Spits during November. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native, who helped the T-Birds capture the NOJHL and Central Canada titles last season, currently has a 1.43 goals against average along with a .928 save percentage this season.
THE NEST ISN’T EMPTY
This year, rookie forwards Darian and Drake Pilon have become the first twin brothers to play on the T-Birds since Laurie and Geoff Gieni did in 2010-2011. Darian, currently has ten goals and twenty eight points through twenty four games while his twin brother Drake, currently has nine goals and nineteen points through twenty six games along with a team leading fifty four penalty minutes. Darian, who was named the league’s Gongshow Gear Rookie Of The Month for September, also suited up for Team NOJHL at this year’s Eastern Canada Junior A Challenge along with being named to Team Canada’s East selection camp roster.
After spending his rookie campaign in 2012-2013 with the T-Birds and leading them in penalty minutes with seventy four along with being named to the NOJHL’s second all star team, T-Birds defenceman Mike Caruso is now on the same team as his younger brother Matt. Mike, who was acquired from the Yarmouth Mariners during November, is a 2011 fourteenth round pick (271st overall) of the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes. With his younger brother Matt having both league and Central Canada title winning experience, Mike currently has eight points through thirteen outings thus far for the T-Birds.
COVERED WITH INSURANCE
Overage forward Matt Pinder currently sits tied for first in the NOJHL for insurance goals with four, joining Hunter Atchison (Cochrane Crunch) and Marc-Antoine Arseneau (Kirkland Lake Gold Miners). He also sits tied for first in NOJHL overtime goals with one.
Four members that have graduated from last year’s Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy and Dudley Hewitt Cup champions squad are currently playing hockey this season at the next level. That group includes Owen Headrick, David Radke, Nick Sicoly and Boris Katchouk.
HEADS UP FOR HEADRICK
After committing to the Lake Superior State University Lakers in NCAA division 1 hockey prior to the start of last season, Owen Headrick is currently in his first season with the Lakers and leads all team defencemen in scoring three goals and seven points through twenty games thus far. The Garden River, Ontario product was also named the NOJHL’s playoff MVP, scoring twelve goals and twenty points through fourteen postseason outings along with being named the Dudley Hewitt Cup Tournament’s most sportsmanlike player.
RADZ IN COLORADO
Currently in his first season with the Colorado College Tigers in NCAA division 1 hockey, defenceman David Radke has one goal in nine games thus far. The twenty one year old also won back to back T-Bird scholastic player of the year awards during 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.
IN THE STORM CELLAR
Forward Nick Sicoly, who is currently in his rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League, has two goals and one assist along with seventeen penalty minutes through twenty nine games thus far for the Guelph Storm, who currently sit in last place overall. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native scored his first two career Ontario Hockey League goals back on October 3rd in an 8-5 loss to the Saginaw Spirit.
WELCOME TO HOUND TOWN
T-Birds graduate Boris Katchouk, who is in his rookie season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds, currently sits third in league rookie scoring with eleven goals and twenty eight points through thirty one games thus far and was listed as a “B” skater during November’s National Hockey League’s Central Scouting List for the upcoming 2016 draft.
Former T-Birds defenceman and Soo Greyhounds captain Colin Miller, who is in his first National Hockey League season with the Boston Bruins, will participate in the New Year’s Day Bridgestone Winter Classic Outdoor game between the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium.
Also, the Soo Thunderbirds will return to action on Saturday, January 2nd at 7:30 p.m. against the Soo Eagles from the Essar Centre.
(Photo credit to Rod Aubertin)