Soo Indians moving on, up

March 20, 2014

They played 58 games this 2013-2014 season as a major midget outfit that rose from the doldrums after being dormant in 2012-2013.

And Soo Indians not only fashioned a 31-26-1 record against top competition — the season concluded with a berth at the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association state championships — but a number of their players have attracted the attention of teams from various junior leagues.

While only five players, all with 1995 birth dates, have exhausted their midget eligibility and graduated the program, Indians coach Pat Carricato told me he expects another five or six of his younger skaters will move up to junior hockey in 2014-2015.

Carricato, appearing on the Hockey North Show that I host on ESPN 1400 Radio, said he couldn’t be happier that so many of his players will get the opportunity to play at a higher level next season.

“That’s what we are here for, to develop players,” Carricato said evenly. “Do we want to win every game we play? Absolutely. We want players to be a part of a winning environment that helps them to develop and achieve their goals. It’s all about player development with us.”

As the Indians ended their 2013-2014 term at the MAHA state championships in Detroit recently, multiple eyes were upon them from the stands.

For example, Soo Eagles and Michigan Warriors of the North American Hockey League have already made their interest in players known as have Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League.

And at least two Indians — 1998 birth-year forwards Ashton Calder and Casey Gilling — are up for selection at this year’s Ontario Hockey League draft.

Then there are three 1997 birth-year skaters who have almost-certainly played their final game of midget hockey despite having remaining eligibility.

They are the team’s top two scorers in forwards Frankie Pucci and Cole Lussier along with puck-moving defenceman Andrew Barbeau, who served as the Indians captain.

Pucci, who is an OHL draft pick of the Erie Otters, has teams from both the NAHL and USHL talking to him, as does Barbeau.

Among others, 1996 birth year defenceman Cade Nolan — who is from the same Garden River First Nation Ojibwa band that has produced world-class coach Ted Nolan and his National Hockey League-playing son Jordan Nolan — looms as a possible selection at this year’s NAHL draft.

PHOTO: Soo Indians forward Frankie Pucci is an Ontario Hockey League draft pick who also has the attention of teams from the North American Hockey League and United States Hockey League. (Photo by Mark Krupiarz.)

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