By Matt Stefano
The Soo Thunderbirds are adding another Noah between the pipes!
After signing goaltender Noah Metivier back on June 12, the Soo Thunderbirds have announced today that they have signed 2002-birth-year netminder Noah Zeppa as a free agent for the upcoming season.
Zeppa, who stands 5’11 and weighs 170 pounds, was a member of the CCHL’s Renfrew Wolves in 2020-2021.
“We’re really happy for Noah and his family to bring him back home where he will have an opportunity to continue his development as a person and a hockey player,” said Soo Thunderbirds general manager Jamie Henderson. “We have seen him play some great hockey here and we know he is highly motivated and excited to regain that form.”
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native is also no stranger to the Soo Thunderbirds organization, as he dressed as an an affiliate back up goalie with the Thunderbirds during the 2018-2019 regular season and during the 2019 NOJHL finals.
“Obviously it’s a huge honour getting another chance to represent the Soo Thunderbirds organization and my hometown,” said Zeppa. “It’s always a surreal feeling to be apart of something I have idolized and dreamed of as a young kid. I’m also very thankful towards coach Jarrett and Jamie Henderson for bringing me back home and I can’t wait to get started.”
Zeppa, who turned 18 years old last December, began his junior hockey career with the GOJHL’s Chatham Maroons in 2019-2020, where he had a record of 1 win, 2 losses and 1 overtime loss while posting a 3.96 goals against average along with a .897 save percentage.
After playing just 4 games with the Maroons, Zeppa then ended up on the NOJHL’s Hearst Lumberjacks for the remainder of the 2019-2020 season, where he had a record of 1 win, 1 loss and 1 overtime loss while posting a 3.29 goals against average along with a .876 save percentage.
“I feel my 2019-2020 season with Hearst and Chatham had a huge impact on my life and they both helped me mature into the person I am today. Suffering a couple of concussions during that season obviously limited the number of games I played, but being part of such a championship caliber team like Hearst opened my eyes to how serious junior hockey is and the importance of showing up ready to play everyday. That season, moving away from home at only 16 taught me that junior hockey is bigger than the game itself as the new relationships and new friendships I made will forever be priceless,” said Zeppa.
Zeppa picked up his first career NOJHL win in his in his first career NOJHL game played with the Lumberjacks back on December 10, 2019, when he made 26 saves in a 4-0 win against the Cochrane Crunch at Claude Larose Arena in Hearst.
That night, he also became the first goaltender in Lumberjacks history to record a shutout in his first career NOJHL game.
“All I remember was just getting into Hearst and the team was on a six-game winning streak. I was a little nervous because it was my first game since the injury and first impressions are so crucial, but most importantly I just wanted to keep the streak alive. I remembered seeing that Hearst crowd during the 2019 NOJHL finals when I was called up by the Thunderbirds and it was unbelievable, but playing in front of them on their side for the first time and getting that win and shutout was a great feeling,” said Zeppa.
Before beginning his junior hockey career in 2019-2020, the 18-year-old netminder played the 2018-2019 season with the Great North Under-18 Hockey League’s Soo Major AAA Thunderbirds, where he posted a 3.73 goals against average and 2 shutouts in 23 regular season games.
“Playing for the AAA Thunderbirds during the 2018-2019 season was definitely unique and it really helped me develop my game to the junior level. But most importantly a shoutout out to the coaching staff of Alex Cruise, Chris Hails, Josh Dunn and Mike McPhail for always believing in that team and they’re a huge reason why the season ended up being a success. Although it ended by playing an undefeated North Bay squad, winning the first couple rounds of the playoffs with only eleven guys was probably the coolest moment of my career and just seeing how happy my teammates were after such a rollercoaster of a year,” said Zeppa.
In 2018-2019, Zeppa was also named the Great North Under-18 Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player and Top Goaltender.
“Winning the Great North Under-18 Hockey League MVP and Top Goaltender was definitely a huge honour. Also, falling under the same category (MVP) a guy like former Thunderbirds forward Lucas Theriault is a pretty cool accomplishment,” said Zeppa.
Following his season in the Great North Under-18 Hockey League, Zeppa was then selected by his hometown Soo Greyhounds in the 2nd round (37th overall) in the 2019 OHL Under-18 Priority Selection.
“Being selected by the Soo Greyhounds in the OHL Under-18 Draft was simply a dream come true. Being drafted is a huge honour, but being drafted by the team I idolized growing up is something I will forever be grateful for and I can’t say enough how thankful I am towards the Soo Greyhounds organization from top to bottom,” said Zeppa. “Getting an opportunity to work with Greyhounds goalie coach Dan Stewart was pretty incredible as I got to learn and understand the position from one of the best.”
(Photo of Noah Zeppa as a member of the Soo Major AAA Thunderbirds credit to Bob Davies)