Thunderbirds hand out hardware at Centre Ice

By Matt Stefano

With their 20th season in the NOJHL officially in the books, the Soo Thunderbirds hosted its 2018-2019 awards banquet on Sunday night at Centre Ice Bar & Grill upstairs at the Community First Soo Pee Wee Arena in Sault Ste. Marie.

Prior to the awards ceremony, the team owner, management, players, coaching staff, game night staff, billet families and families, were treated to chicken wings, salad, pasta, meetballs and bread.

During the awards presentation, a total of eleven trophies were handed out, which saw a total of 12 winners.

Two players who heard their names get called twice during the awards presentation, were forwards Lucas Theriault and graduating captain Kaidan McDonald.

Niagara IceDogs prospect Lucas Theriault was the recipient of the Highest Scoring Forward Award and was also the winner of the Soo Greyhound Award for the team’s Most Valuable Player.

Theriault also shared the Highest Scoring Forward Award with his linemate Noah Boman, who signed with the Thunderbirds prior to this season.

Not only did Theriault and Boman finish tied for first in team scoring with 76 points each, but they also finished tied for first in league scoring during the 2018-2019 regular season.

Thunderbirds graduating captain Kaidan McDonald was the recipient of two awards on Sunday night, including the Players Player Trophy (Donated By Sault Sports Excellence) along with winning the Zoltan Toots Kovacs Memorial Trophy for the team’s Hardest Working Player.

The team’s Rookie Of The Year Award was presented to Thunderbirds first year netminder Colin Ahern.

Ahern, who signed with the Thunderbirds prior to the 2018-2019 season, had 24 wins in 30 games with the Thunderbirds during the regular season, and also posted a 2.55 goals against average along with a .915 save percentage.

Ahern also suited up for 15 games during the 2019 postseason, which tied the Soo Thunderbirds record for most games played in a playoff season by a goaltender, joining Shane Bellini (2003).

The Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin native became the first Thunderbird goalie to win the team’s Rookie Of The Year Award since Mario Culina did back in 2015.

Thunderbirds forward Nolan Ford was the recipient of this year’s Most Sportsmanlike Player Award while rookie forward Cam Findlay won the team’s John L. Cohen Award (Sponsored By Traders Steel) for the team’s Scholastic Player Of The Year.

It was a repeat year for Thunderbirds defenceman Steven Bellini, who won the team’s Best Defenceman Award for the second consecutive year.

Bellini led all Thunderbird blueliners in scoring for the second straight season with 46 points in 53 games.

Bellini’s 46 points this season, finished tied with Soo Eagles defenceman Brendan Blair for first among league defencemen in scoring.

The Ted Brooks Memorial Award for Player Excellence In The Community was awarded to forward Tanner Mayne while Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Max Techel was the recipient of the Michael Doan Memorial Trophy for the team’s Most Improved Player.

Game night staff member Don Stares took home this year’s Team Staff Award.

(Photo credit to Matt Stefano)

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