Thunderbirds open up their 24th season tonight against the Eagles

By Matt Stefano

Tonight’s the night!

Your defending Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy champion Soo Thunderbirds will officially kick off their 2022-2023 regular season tonight at 7:00 p.m., when they take on their cross-border rivals the Soo Eagles at the John Rhodes.

Tonight’s game will also be the first time these two clubs will meet since the Thunderbirds swept them in four-straight games during the 2022 NOJHL West Division final series.

And as we get set for season 24 of Soo Thunderbirds hockey tonight, here’s what you need to know heading in.


Last season was a memorable season for the Soo Thunderbirds as they finished in first place in the NOJHL standings with a record of 38 wins, 5 losses, 2 overtime losses and 3 shootout losses, good for 81 points.

The Birds also gave up the least goals against in the entire NOJHL last season, only letting in 101.

And not only did the Thunderbirds finish in first place in the entire NOJHL last season, but they also set the new NOJHL record for most regular season titles won by an NOJHL team, with 8.

Following their successful regular season, the Birds then went on to win their 5th Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy (NOJHL Playoff Champions) in franchise history after eliminating the Hearst Lumberjacks in 7 games during the 2022 NOJHL final.


When both the Soo Thunderbirds and the Soo Eagles step on John Rhodes ice tonight for their first game of the regular season, it will also be the first time Thunderbirds forward Ethan Novello will be taking on his cousin Kenny Belanger Jr., who was traded from the Thunderbirds to the Eagles back on July 26.

Novello, who is entering his third season with the Thunderbirds, had 0 goals and 7 assists in 32 regular season games last season, before recording 1 assist in 9 games during the 2022 postseason.

Three of Novello’s assists last season also came on goals by his cousin Belanger.

Belanger, who will be entering his second season in the NOJHL and his first season as a member of the Soo Eagles, spent last season with his hometown Soo Thunderbirds where he recorded 11 goals and 11 assists in 44 regular season games.

Tonight will also be Belanger’s first visit to the John Rhodes Community Centre since the trade to the Eagles.


After leading the Soo Eagles in scoring last season with 56 points in 47 games, Soo Eagles forward Chase Tallaire is back with the Eagles this year for his final season of junior hockey.

During the 2021-2022 season with the Eagles, Tallaire found the back of the net 27 times and set up 29 others, and also led all NOJHL players in game-winning goals with 9.

Tallaire, who is a 2002-birth-year forward, will be looking to lead the way again for the Eagles this season.


This season will be the final season of junior hockey for Soo Thunderbirds forward Michael Chaffay.

Chaffay, who is a 2002-birth-year forward, finished fifth in team scoring last season with 33 points, including 20 goals and 13 assists in 38 regular season games.

His 20 goals last season were also the second most on the team, right behind defenceman Andrew Gibson (Expected to make the Soo Greyhounds), who had 21.


Looking at birthdays now, Soo Thunderbirds second-year blueliner Kolby Fellinger is turning 19-years-old today.

Fellinger, who is entering his second season with the Thunderbirds, had 1 goal and 12 assists in 46 games with them as a rookie in 2021-2022.

(Photo of Thunderbirds forward Ethan Novello credit to Bob Davies)


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