They improved immensely as the 2018-2019 regular season progressed. And while the .500 mark fell just out of their reach, Soo Minor Thunderbirds of the Great North Midget Hockey League wrapped up the regular season with a respectable record of 9-11-4.
Hard-working, disciplined and well-coached, the Minor Thunderbirds still have some hockey to play.
Even though the three minor midget teams don’t take part in the Great North playoffs with the six major midget squads, there are games still to be played.
The Minor Thunderbirds, Sudbury Minor Wolves and North Bay Minor Trappers will be joined by an entry from Thunder Bay as part of a four-team, minor midget tournament that is upcoming and sponsored by the Northern Ontario Hockey Association.
As well, three members of the Minor T-Birds, defensemen Tyler Dunbar and Jack Matier and forward Stephen Pszeniczny, will be part of the Team NOHA squad that will compete at the Ontario Hockey League-sponsored OHL Cup and the OHL Gold Cup.
Dunbar, Matier and Pszeniczny are all expected to be chosen at this year’s OHL priority selections draft, which will be held in April.
A cross-section of OHL scouts has the three Minor T-Bird players projected as early to mid round picks at the upcoming, 2019 priority selections draft.
Some scouts have Matier pegged as a potential first-round pick and Dunbar not all that far behind. And as the two defensemen are highly regarded, there are scouts within the OHL who like the skill and power forward potential of Pszeniczny.
All three players finished among the top five point-getters for the Minor T-Birds over the course of the Great North regular season.
Small-sized forward Jake Kovacs topped the Minor T-Birds scoring chart with 11 goals, 13 assists, 24 points. Matier and Pszeniczny were next with identical totals of 10-12-22, followed by Dunbar with 4-12-16 numbers and forward Gavin Ritacco with 5-10-15 statistics.
As a team, coach Jamie Henderson’s Minor T-Birds showed their disciplined side with only 223 penalty minutes in 24 games.
The average of less than 10 minutes in penalties per game was the best — by far — of any of the nine teams in the Great North.