As the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League playoffs open, earlier this week, the league announced the recipients of some of its major awards.
Among the recipients were members of the Soo Thunderbirds.
The Thunderbirds goaltending duo of Brandon Gordon and Eric Schuch shared the NOJHL Team Goaltending Award for fewest goals allowed. The Thunderbirds surrendered just 134 goals in 56 games, an average of 2.39 per game.
Gordon also earned a spot as the goaltender on the NOJHL’s first all-star team.
Coach John Parco was named the Mirl “Red” McCarthy Memorial Award recipient as the NOJHL’s Coach of the Year while also being named a first team all-star.
In his first season behind the bench with the team, the Sault native led the Thunderbirds to a 36-16-3-1 record. The team was rebuilt from last year and featured 12 rookies on the roster.
Thunderbirds owner Darren Smyl was named the NOJHL’s Director of the Year, earning the Joe Drago Trophy.
Also earning an all-star nod from the Thunderbirds was Jay Thomas, who was named a second team trainer/equipment manager.
The Thunderbirds are in the midst of preparing for a West Division semifinal showdown with the Soo (Mich.) Eagles.
The series is set to open at the John Rhodes Community Centre for games one and two on March 17 and 19. Puck drop for both games is set for 7:30 p.m.
The series will shift to Pullar Stadium in the Michigan Sault for games three and four on March 21 and 23.
Following their final game of the regular season, the Thunderbirds were hit with a pair of suspensions.
Braden King was hit with a five-game suspension after being involved in an altercation in the opening seconds of the Thunderbirds game with the Eagles. King was hit with a fighting major an hit with supplemental discipline.
As a result of the incident, Parco was also suspended and will miss the opening three games of the series between the Thunderbirds and Eagles.
The NOJHL also announced the suspension of Rayside-Balfour Canadians forward Evan Krassey following an incident against the Thunderbirds on March 6. Krassey was hit with a major penalty following a high hit that injured Thunderbirds forward Camaryn Baber.
After reviewing the play, Krassey has been suspended 10 games by the league.