Jr. Greyhounds v. Soo Indians

July 13, 2023

A cross-border under-18 hockey rivalry is in position to be rekindled for the 2023-2024 season. Personnel from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League and the Soo Indians of the USA Under 18 Tier 1 Hockey Federation League are upbeat and eager to face off in a series of exhibition matches over the course of the ’23-24 campaign.

“It just makes sense,” incoming head coach Sean Gagnon of the Jr. Greyhounds relayed to Hockey News North. “It is a natural rivalry. It makes absolutely no sense that the teams haven’t played each other for a while.”

Meanwhile, Indians general manager Mike Kaunisto told Hockey News North that “we are all for this. When Jimmy Capy was coaching (the Jr. Greyhounds) a few years back we had a great series of games with them. When Jimmy left we wanted to keep having the games between the two teams. Every year after (Capy left) we asked the Jr. Greyhounds if they wanted to play us and for whatever reason, they refused.”

Both Gagnon and Kaunisto noted that when their respective regular season schedules are set for the ’23-24 campaign, they will compare open dates and try to finalize a home and home series of four to six games.

“We definitely want to play them,” said Gagnon. “I think it would be great not only for players and fans but for the Twin Soo hockey rivalry in general.”

Adding sizzle and spice to the looming rivalry is the fact that four players who were with the Jr. Greyhounds in 2022-2023 opted to leave the program and head across the St. Mary’s River and International Bridge to sign with the Indians ahead of the upcoming season. They are goalie Nathan Maguire,  defenseman Tyler Neveau and forwards Deven Jones McDonald and Carter Huckson. All four players have 2007 birth dates — and two of them were chosen at the 2023 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft.

Maguire, who had a 1.69 goals against average and four shutouts for the Great North regular season champion U18 Jr. Greyhounds in ’22-23, was a seventh round pick of the Flint Firebirds at this year’s OHL priority selections draft.

A hulking forward at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Jones McDonald was picked by the Oshawa Generals in the 11th round of the ’23 OHL priority selections draft. Regular season and playoffs included for the U18 Jr. Greyhounds in ’22-23, Jones McDonald had 16 goals, 15 assists, 31 points while showing signs of being a power forward.

Meanwhile, Huckson came through with six goals, nine assists, 15 points in 28 regular season games for the U18 Jr. Greyhounds in ’22-23 and then clicked for a goal and an assist in five playoff matches. And Neveau had two goals, five assists, seven points in 17 regular season games for the U18 Jr. Greyhounds in ’22-23 and followed that up with five assists in five playoff outings from his defense post.

It should be noted that all four players departed the Jr. Greyhounds before Gagnon was hired as the new head coach early in the off season.

Meanwhile, the four players are not the only ones from the Ontario side of Sault Ste. Marie who will have a presence with the Michigan-based Indians. The others are Indians assistant coach Jerry Lortie and goalie coach Terry Barbeau.

Over to the Jr. Greyhounds, they have a tie to the Indians. Pat Carricato, who has been brought on to the Jr. Greyhounds staff as an assistant to Gagnon, is a former head coach of the Indians. Carricato is also a big fan of seeing the revival of the Jr. Greyhounds/Indians cross-border rivalry as he gets back into coaching after a few years away from the game.

Coulson Bell

As for the Jr. Greyhounds, as they enter a new phase of the U18 program with Gagnon at the helm, Carricato as one of his assistants and Darrin Thomsen as the general manager, they currently have 19 players signed ahead of the ’23-24 season, including six with Great North U18 experience.

Three holdovers from the ’22-23 Jr. Greyhounds have signed up to play for the ’23-24 team — defenseman Samuel Gravel and forwards Griffen Albert and Lucas DiBerardino. The Jr. Greyhounds have also signed three other locals who played in the Great North with the Sudbury Nickel Capitals in ’22-23 — goalies A.J. Borrelli and Nick Marson and forward Coulson Bell.

Besides the six players with Great North U18 experience, newcomers who have committed to the Jr. Greyhounds for the ’23-24 season are a collection of forwards and defensemen that (alphabetically) include Jacob Briffett, Sammy Caruso, Sebastian dos Reis, Nathan Dupuis, Espen Escasa, Kadin Johnston, Cameron Kontulainen, Wyatt Leblanc, Danny Macdonald, Brady Real, Stosh Schultz, Liam Watson and Cole Wreggitt. All are locals except Schultz, who hails from the Petoskey, Michigan area.


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