By Matt Stefano
They only face each other twice during the regular season, but these two clubs have been one of the best rivalries in the NOJHL from 2014 – present.
Tonight at 7:30 p.m. from the John Rhodes, the Soo Thunderbirds, who are currently in third place in the West Division, will take on the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, who enter tonight’s game sitting in third place in the East Division.
The Thunderbirds, meanwhile, are returning home to the John Rhodes tonight after picking up 3 of a possible 4 points in their two-game road trip this past weekend.
The Thunderbirds and Gold Miners have a history of facing each other in the NOJHL finals.
Back in the 2013-2014 season, the Thunderbirds, who finished in place first in the entire Canadian Junior Hockey League, lost in six games to the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in the NOJHL finals.
That year, Kirkland Lake won their first ever Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in franchise history.
The Soo would then get revenge a couple seasons later, as they would then sweep the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in four straight in the 2016 NOJHL finals, capturing their second consecutive Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy title.
LAST YEAR’S RESULTS
In two meetings during the 2016-2017 regular season, the Thunderbirds defeated the Gold Miners both times while outscoring them 7-4 overall.
In the first meeting at the Essar Centre back on November 25th, 2016, the Thunderbirds defeated the Gold Miners by a score of 3-1.
Nick Smith led the way with a goal (empty net) and an assist while Brandon Gordon made 15 stops for the win.
Gordon also had an assist on Smith’s empty net goal at the 18:52 mark of the third period.
On December 16th, 2016, in the second and final meeting of the 2016-2017 regular season, the Thunderbirds were in Kirkland Lake and defeated the Gold Miners 4-3 in overtime at Joe Mavrinac Community Complex.
Matt Caruso, who was the Thunderbirds captain and top scorer during the 2016-2017 regular season, scored the overtime goal and added an assist.
Goaltender Brandon Gordon made 22 stops that night for the Thunderbirds victory as they would go on to sweep the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 2-0 in the regular season series.
Soo Greyhounds prospect Robert Calisti is the latest member of the Thunderbirds to score his first career NOJHL goal.
The Toronto, Ontario product found the back of the net on the power play this past Sunday in a 4-3 double overtime loss to the Elliot Lake Wildcats at Centennial Arena.
NEW, BUT FAMILIAR FACES
It was a busy past weekend with some transactions taking place, as the Soo Thunderbirds picked up forwards Lucas Theriault and Mark Tassone.
Theriault, who is a Niagara IceDogs prospect, came over in a trade from the GOJHL’s Kitchener Dutchmen Jr. B hockey club, where he had 3 assists in 9 games with them this season.
The 17 year old played 3 games as a call up with the Thunderbirds during the 2016-2017 regular season, where he had 1 goal.
After being traded to the Trenton Golden Hawks during the offseason, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario product Mark Tassone has been reacquired this past weekend from the Powassan Voodoos.
The return of Tassone will add some more offence to the Thunderbirds up front, as he finished fourth in team scoring a season ago, putting up 18 goals and 37 points through 52 regular season games.
BABER IS BACK
He’s a Thuderbirds rookie, but he’s also getting some ice time in the OHL!
After suiting up for five games this month with the Saginaw Spirit, Camaryn Baber has been reassigned back to the Thunderbirds and is expected to be back in the lineup tonight against Kirkland Lake.
In a total of seven games played this season with the Spirit, Baber has one assist and six penalty minutes.
Baber, who was taken by the Saginaw Spirit in the 3rd round (57th overall) during the 2017 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, picked up his first career Ontario Hockey League point and assist on November 10th, 2017, when the Spirit lost 4-2 to the Mississauga Steelheads at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.
BACK FROM TRENTON
As the club continues to be busy getting players back for tonight’s game, the Soo will also welcome back a few members of the club that have suited up for Team NOJHL at the Eastern Canada Cup All-Star Challenge, which was held in Trenton, Ontario from November 13th – 15th.
The four members that participated in this event, include defenceman Ryan Mulligan, goaltender Brandon Gordon, forward Kaidan McDonald and associate coach Toots Kovacs.
This week, Soo Thunderbirds graduate and current Soo Greyhounds star forward Boris Katchouk participated in his second straight CIBC Canada Russia Series and served as captain for Team OHL.
Katchouk became the first Soo Greyhound to captain Team OHL at the Canada Russia Series since Darnell Nurse did back in 2014.
The Soo Thunderbirds pink jerseys auction on Facebook officially came to a close on Sunday, November 12th, and all jersey winners can purchase their jerseys tonight at the front entrance of the John Rhodes.
Here is the list of all the winners below:
JERSEY WINNER BID
# 4 Robert Calisti Jenny Dell $55.00
# 5 Bradon Caruso Jennifer McDonald $100.00
# 6 Austin Heinrich Archie Heinrich $100.00
# 7 Nolan Ford Highland Ford Sales Ltd. $100.00
# 10 Nicolas Case Catherine Case $100.00
# 12 Tanner Mayne Krista Searcy-Mayne $100.00
# 14 Alex Acosta Eleni Tzombankis-Acosta $65.00
# 15 Tristan Cicchello Silvana Cicchello $50.00
# 16 Ryan Mulligan Rod Aubertin $50.00
# 17 Tyler Malpass Julie Beninger-Malpass $50.00
# 20 Steven Bellini Lorie Bellini $60.00
# 21 Braden Robbins Melissa Deevey $50.00
# 22 Nick Smith Patti Smith $75.00
# 23 Ryan Lawrence Christopher Shoust $50.00
# 24 Brendan Miller Crystal Miller $50.00
# 25 Kaidan McDonald Melissa Deevey $50.00
# 26 Camaryn Baber Cara N Dave $100.00
# 27 Noah Solinger Claudia Marie $75.00
# 30 Eric Schuch Sandra Parker Schuch $75.00
# 35 Brandon Gordon Sandra Flumian $100.00