Up next for the Great North Under 18 Hockey League champion Soo Jr. Greyhounds is Ontario’s Central Region championship tournament. It is slated for April 4 to 10 in Toronto.
Six teams will take part in the event. And with six players born in 2006 on their roster, the Jr. Greyhounds will be one of the youngest teams at the event, according to head coach Jamie Henderson.
“We know what we are up against,” relayed Henderson. “There will be teams there who have all second and third year players and experience on their side. But we like our group and we have a lot of practice time to work on things before we head out to Toronto. Make no mistake about it, we are going there as underdogs.”
The Jr. Greyhounds are fresh from both winning first in the Great North during the regular season with a 20-4-0 record and then going 3-1-1 at the league’s championship tournament including a victory in the title tilt.
Forward Jacob Smith, who scored five goals in 24 regular season games for the Soo, was a bright light in the championship tournament. Not only did Smith score five goals in the five playoff games but he tallied the last-minute winner in the championship game, which was a 4-3 victory over the Sudbury Under 18 Nickel Capitals.
As noted, the Soo had finished the regular season with a league best record of 20-4-0. That put the Jr. Greyhounds just ahead of third place Sudbury U18, which had a 17-6-1 mark, slightly behind the second seed North Bay Under 16 Trappers, who went 17-4-2.
Because of Covid cancellations, not all eight teams of the Great North played the same number of regular season games. But all eight gathered in Kapuskasing for the recent playing of the 2022 playoff championship tournament.
And as the Jr. Greyhounds came away as winners and as the Great North declared a playoff champion for the first time since 2019, Henderson relayed some of the journey to Hockey News North.
“It has been a long few years waiting to have this opportunity. We had such a great group two years ago and then again last year and it was unfortunate they didn’t have this opportunity,” Henderson began.
“These young men have been through so much with lockdowns and missing tournaments and so it was really just nice to know we would have this opportunity. It wasn’t an easy week … we dealt with injuries, we had a tough loss (in the round robin) but we remained focused and finished up with a great couple of days. I can’t say enough about their commitment to playing the right way but more importantly for us playing with class on and off the ice,” Henderson summed up.
To get to the championship game against Sudbury U18, the Soo first had to get past the upstart Timmins Majors in the semi-finals. And the Jr. Hounds were able to defeat no. 6 seed Timmins 6-2 in the semis.
And now, for the Jr. Greyhounds, the Central Region championship tournament in Toronto awaits them.