NOJHL team previews: Soo Thunderbirds



Release Date: Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015

NOJHL team previews: Soo Thunderbirds

SUDBURY – The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s 2015-16 season gets underway Friday on six fronts as all 12 member clubs are in action.

As a prelude to the upcoming campaign, here is the first of 12 previews on the NOJHL teams, beginning with the defending league and Dudley-Hewitt Cup champion Soo Thunderbirds.

TEAM: Soo Thunderbirds

GM: Jamie Henderson

HEAD COACH: Jordan Smith

With the return of NOJHL coach of the year Jordan Smith and his entire staff, the Thunderbirds should once again be a formidable opponent in 2015-16.

Jamie Henderson moves up to the general manager’s role with the club while Kevin Cain will serve as team president and director of hockey operations showing the T-Birds remain in good hands.


JAREN BELLINI, FORWARD: Coming off a 59-point season, big things are expected from Bellini offensively.

A Soo Greyhounds draft pick in 2012, he finished second in T-Bird points and tied for first in team goals last season.

Entering his third season, the 19-year-old Sault Ste. Marie Product was a member of Team NOJHL at the 2014 Central Canada Cup Challenge and has also won back-to-back Fordy Varcoe Memorial Trophies in as the Thunderbirds most sportsmanlike player.

BRETT JEFFRIES, FORWARD: Entering his final year of Jr. A hockey, Jeffries had a strong presence on both ends of the ice.

Jeffries was the recipient of the Mitch Tetreault Memorial Trophy as the NOJHL’s top defensive forward.

He also chipped in offensively as a 20-goal man while also supplying 23 assists.

Through his first two seasons, the Cochenour, Ont., native also shared the Zolton “Toots” Kovacs Memorial Award with graduated player Eric Hillock as the T-Birds hardest working player of the year.

CALEB BOMAN, DEFENCE: Looking to help anchor and bolster the Thunderbirds defensive corps is Boman.

The 18-year-old, who is entering his second full season in the NOJHL, led all T-Birds defencemen in scoring with nine goals and 32 points through 49 regular season games.

His nine tallies also set the new team record for most goals in a single season by a rookie defenceman.

MATT CARUSO, FORWARD: Caruso certainly impressed in last year’s playoffs leading all NOJHL skaters in postseason goals with 14 helping the T-Birds win the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy emblematic of being league champions.

The 17-year-old Caruso, who plays for his hometown club, is entering his second season with the team.

His tally total also set the new Soo Thunderbirds record for most goals in a single postseason.


MATT MURRAY, DEFENCE: Murray, who signed with the T-Birds during the off-season, spent last 2014-15 with the Great North Midget League champion Soo Thunderbirds Midget AAA club.

The 17-year-old blueliner, who hails from Thessalon, scored 10 times and set-up 19 others through 35 games.

His efforts earned him GNML top defenceman honours last season and he was also named to the GNML all-star team.

Murray saw action in six games as a call-up last year with the Thunderbirds Junior A club notching his first career NOJHL goal last Sept. 30 vs. Blind River.

MARK TASSONE, FORWARD: The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native signed with the Jr. A T-Birds after their evaluation camp in August.

Tassone spent last season with the Soo Greyhounds Minor Midget AAA club, leading them in scoring with 39 goals and 72 points through 67 games

BRANDON GORDON, GOALTENDER: The Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., product signed with the T-Birds during the offseason.

Manning the nets for the Soo Indians AAA midget side, Gordon posted a solid 19-10-2 record with a stingy 2.10 goals-against average along with a .910 save percentage.

QUOTABLE: “Coming off a successful season we’re looking ahead now as a new group of T-Birds as we look to develop and grow together and see how good they can be. Our returning players will be expected to provide leadership and show the younger guys what it will take to reach our goals as a team.”— Jamie Henderson, Thunderbirds GM

With files from Matt Stefano, Thunderbirds Communications