By Matt Stefano
On Thursday night, the Soo Thunderbirds held their 2017-2018 team awards banquet at Sandro’s Restaurant on Trunk Road.
Two new awards that were added to the trophy case this year, included the Staff Award and the Michael Doan Memorial Award for the most improved player.
Goaltender Brandon Gordon and forward Noah Solinger won two awards each.
ZOLTAN KOVACS SENIOR MEMORIAL TROPHY (Hardest Working Player): NOAH SOLINGER
This was the first of two awards for the Thunderbirds captain during the evening.
The Chatsworth, Ontario native finished third in team scoring with 12 goals and 38 points through 52 regular season games and was tied for the team lead in shorthanded goals (2) with rookie forward Camaryn Baber.
JOHN L. COHEN AWARD (Scholastic Player) – NOAH SOLINGER
Captain Noah Solinger was the recipient of this award for the second consecutive year, becoming the first Thunderbird to win this award back to back times since defenceman Brandon Grandinetti did in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.
This was Solinger’s second award of the evening.
TED BROOKS MEMORIAL AWARD (Player Excellence In The Community): BRANDON GORDON
Goaltender Brandon Gordon was the recipient of this award for getting involved in community events in Sault Ste. Marie.
FORDY VARCOE MEMORIAL AWARD (Most Sportsmanlike Player): RYAN LAWRENCE
Rookie defenceman Ryan Lawrence had 2 goals, 9 points and 37 penalty minutes though 54 games during the regular season.
BEST DEFENCEMAN: STEVEN BELLINI
Rookie defenceman Steven Bellini led all Thunderbird blueliners in scoring during the regular season with 1 goal and 29 points through 55 games.
His 28 assists this season, tied the team record for most assists by a rookie defenceman in a single season, joining Barnabas Birkeland (2003).
JOE ROCCHETTA MEMORIAL AWARD (Top Scorer): NICK SMITH
Forward Nick Smith, who completed his second full season with the Thunderbirds, finished first in team scoring during the regular season with 35 goals and 69 points through 55 games.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also led the team in power play goals (13) and game winning goals (6).
Smith, who had 8 power play goals at home this season, tied the team record for most power play goals scored at home in a single season, joining Fred Coccimiglio (2001), Brett Perlini (2007) and Nick Minardi (2009).
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also five goal performance in a home game against the Espanola Express back on October 18th, 2017, which tied the team record for most goals scored in a single game, joining Matt Dias, Derek Mackay and David Borrelli.
JOEY MANCUSO AWARD (Rookie Of The Year): CAMARYN BABER
Rookie forward Camaryn Baber finished second in team scoring during the regular season with 15 goals and 46 points in 46 games.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario product also led the Thunderbirds in penalty minutes (67) and was tied for first in team shorthanded goals (2) with captain Noah Solinger.
The Saginaw Spirit prospect was the first 16 year old to have a 40 point season since Nic Sicoly (53) and Boris Katchouk (45) both did back in the 2014-2015 regular season.
MICHAEL DOAN MEMORIAL AWARD (Most Improved Player): NOLAN FORD
Rookie defenceman Nolan Ford was the first ever recipient for this award.
Not only did Ford play well on defence, but every time he had to fill in for another position, such as centre, left wing or right wing, he was always on his game.
PLAYERS’ PLAYER AWARD (Donated by Soo Sports Excellence) – BRANDON GORDON
This award is voted upon the players for who they think is a good role model both on and off the ice.
This was Gordon’s second award of the evening.
STAFF AWARD : CHRIS CARR
Thunderbirds equipment assistant Chris Carr was the first ever recipient for this award.
SOO GREYHOUND AWARD (Most Valuable Player): KAIDAN MCDONALD
The second year forward finished sixth in team scoring during the regular season with 12 goals and 32 points through 47 games.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)