NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release Date: Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013
2013-14 Team Previews: Soo Thunderbirds
SUDBURY – A perennial power since Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., first iced a team in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s inaugural campaign back in 1962-63, this year’s edition of the Soo Thunderbirds will look to carry that tradition of excellence in 2013-14.
Having already flexed their talent-level last week by running the table in posting a perfect 5-0 record at the league’s Cottage Cup preseason event held in Elliot Lake, the T-Birds will look to build on that, commencing with their home opener Friday night as the North Bay Trappers pay a visit to Essar Centre in a 7:30 p.m. start.
Supplying a veteran-laden roster built by general manager Kevin Cain, who has the victories and titles to his credit since joining the organization, the Soo features no less than 10 players who donned a Thunderbirds jersey last season.
Already boasting 2012-13 NOJHL rookie of the year Joel Horodziejczyk, who was one of 15 NOJHLers who represented the league at the recently staged Ontario Summer Select Showcase in Cornwall, as one of their goaltenders, Sault Ste. Marie saw two other stoppers shine in the Cottage Cup triumph.
Markham, Ont., product Devin Tappenden was a perfect 3-0 in Elliot Lake a week ago posting a 2.00 goals-against average along with a stingy .957 save percentage.
That combined with former Soo Northstars netminder Brian Kment going 2-0 with a 3.00 GAA and .926 save mark shows the T-Birds are plenty deep between the pipes again this go around.
Offensively Gavin Burbach and Joey Miller were one-two in team scoring at the Cottage Cup registering eight and seven points respectively.
Anthony Miller, who also represented the T-Birds at the Summer Select Showcase, is also one of the Soo forwards to watch.
He was 10th in NOJHL scoring last season with 47 points in 45 games on 21 goals and 26 assists.
Another veteran on the roster is Anthony Butorac, a four-year player in the league.
Butorac picked up 25 points in 2012-13.
David Radke and Jeremy Solomon are just two of those expected to hold the T-Birds defensive corps together.
Among the other newcomers to keep an eye on is 1996-birth year defenceman Brandon Grandinetti and 1997 D-man Owen Headrick.
Both are products of the successful minor hockey system in Sault Ste. Marie with Grandinetti suiting up for the Soo North Stars of the GNHL.
As for Headrick, he played for the Soo Thunder minor midget squad and is an OHL draft choice of the Erie Otters.
The entire Sault Ste. Marie roster will be guided behind the bench by first-year head coach Jordan Smith, who joins the club after spending last year coaching the Thunder Bay North Stars of the SIJHL.
It was also in Thunder Bay where he starred on defence for the Lakehead University Thunderwolves of the OUA after an eye injury halted professional playing aspirations for the 2004 second round, 39th overall, NHL draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks.
Having been quoted earlier, Smith was candid when expressing the type of squad he expects to ice this season.
“We will be a team that competes every night; a team that plays hard,” stated the former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds rearguard.
“It’s what people want to see. It’s the way I played the game and the way I tried to mold myself and that’s basically what I’m going to put into the club. The players will dictate who sticks around and their role.”
After Friday’s home debut the T-Birds will embark on a three-game road swing next weekend with match-ups vs. Kirkland Lake, Abitibi and North Bay on the docket.