By Matt Stefano
The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League announced their league award winners on Thursday, which was a day that saw a lot of winners on the Soo Thunderbirds.
With still one game remaining on their 2015-2016 regular season schedule, this season’s awards also saw some repeat winners.
This year’s recipient of the Gilles Laperriere Trophy as the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s most improved player was awarded to Soo Thunderbirds overage forward Nathan Hebert.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native, had a career high year for points thus far with 40 along with setting up 30 goals which passed his career totals in assists one season ago where he had 19.
Hebert becomes the first Soo Thunderbird to win the the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s most improved player award since Dan Vernelli did back in 2007-2008.
It was a repeat season for Soo Thunderbirds captain and overage forward Brett Jeffries as he won his second consecutive Mitch Tetreault Memorial Trophy as the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s top defensive forward.
The Cochenour, Ontario native, who suited up for Team NOJHL at this season’s Eastern Canada Junior A Challenge in Cornwall, Ontario, was a solid two way player and has 42 points through 50 games this season.
For the third straight season, a Soo Thunderbirds goaltender claimed the Wayne Chase Memorial Trophy for the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s lowest goals against average.
This year’s Wayne Chase Memorial Trophy was awarded to Soo Thunderbirds rookie goaltender Brandon Gordon.
The product of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, who signed with the T-Birds this past August, had the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s lowest goals against average of 1.53 along with the second best save percentage of .926. With one game remaining in Elliot Lake this Sarurday, Gordon is also second in league shutouts with 4.
With the rest of the teams in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League giving up at least 100 goals against or more, the Soo Thunderbirds were awarded this season’s Team Goaltending Award for giving up the fewest goals against this season with 84, heading into their final game of the regular season on Saturday.
The T-Birds, who have only allowed a team best 95 goals scored against back in 2000-2001, are capable of setting a new team record this season for least goals against in a regular season.
With a current record of 47-5-1-0 and going a perfect 27-0 on home ice this season, the Soo Thunderbirds won the James Aspin Trophy for a third consecutive season as the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s regular season champions. The T-Birds became the first team to win three straight regular season titles since the North Bay Skyhawks did from 2003-2005.
The T-Birds also won the William Sydney Memorial Trophy as the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division champions.
A pair of T-Birds who were named to Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s CCM first & second all star teams included Caleb Boman and Matt Busby.
T-Birds defenceman Caleb Boman, who was named to the CCM first all star team, has 14 goals and 48 points through 46 games and set new Soo Thunderbirds records for most career goals amongst defencemen and most goals in a single season amongst defencemen. He also leads all Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League defencemen with 9 power play goals this season. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also suited up for Team NOJHL at this season’s Eastern Canada All Star Challenge in Cornwall, Ontario, participated in this year’s CJHL Top Prospects Game, was named the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Gongshow Gear defenceman of the month for December and Committed to play for the Niagara Purple Eagles in NCAA division 1 hockey for the 2016-2017 season.
Named to the CCM second all star team, T-Birds defenceman Matt Busby is currently having a career season for goals with 12, assists with 26 and points with 38. The Shanty Bay, Ontario native, who was selected by the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires in the 15th round (285th overall) during 2013, was also named the Gongshow Gear’s defenceman of the month for February.