Soo Eagles play with an edge…Two expansion-team success stories…A star centre is back in the Ontario Hockey League…
EAGLES HAVE AN EDGE
Coached and managed by Bruno Bragagnolo, a no-nonsense guy who has been coaching for more than 30 years, the Soo Eagles of the North American Hockey League have their share of grit-and-grind players.
To be sure, the Eagles are a solid combination of skill and sandpaper and with a game-changing goalie in recently-acquired Chad Catt, the Soo has moved into a second-place tie in the North Division with 12 games to go in the regular season.
Eagles forwards who play with a definite edge include veterans Trevor Cope, Denver Pierce, Mitch Vanderburg and Matt Menta, rookies Raymond Brice and Keegan Miller and seasoned defencemen Pat Gazzillo and Michael Caruso, among others. As well, there is fibrous forward Jacob Hernandez, who just made his Eagles/NAHL debut on the weekend.
With four straight victories and three home games against the Springfield Jr. Blues on the slate for this week, the Eagles seem to be hitting stride in the late stages of the season.
They are two first-year franchises that have exceeded expectations.
With four games to go in the regular season, the Elliot Lake Wildcats are third overall in the nine-team Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, just behind the pace-setting Soo Thunderbirds and the defending champion Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
Featuring five 20-goal scorers — Cole Hepler, Spencer MacLean, Shane Woolsey, Adam Baxter and Nathan Campbell — Elliot Lake has 71 points in 48 games from a record of 34-11-3.
Over to the seven-team Midwest Jr. Hockey League, the Motor City Monarchs have clinched second place with one game to go in the regular season.
With 64 points in 45 games from a record of 32-13-0, Motor City not only features the top two scorers in the MWJHL in forwards Adam Jonak and Trevor Pode but the top-scoring defenceman in Jarrad Vroman.
Kudos to the management and coaching staffs of both teams.
BENNETT IS BACK
Battling for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference of the Ontario Hockey League, the Kingston Frontenacs will have the use of star centre Sam Bennett for the rest of the season.
Bennett, a first-round, fourth overall pick of the Calgary Flames at the 2014 National Hockey League draft, led Kingston in scoring in 2013-2014 with 36 goals, 55 assists, 91 points — not to mention a team-leading 118 penalty minutes.
But Bennett had shoulder surgery just before the start of the 2014-2015 season and has yet to play a game.
He is scheduled to make his season debut for the Frontenacs this week.