Latest on the U18 Jr. Hounds

November 11, 2023

Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League have decided on their coaching staff as they move ahead on the 2023-2024 season. Joining recently appointed head coach Denny Lambert on the new look staff of the Jr. Greyhounds are assistant coaches Jeremy Stevenson, Keegan Stevenson and Ty Zachary with added support from goalie coach Ryan Cook, trainer Dr. Kevin Caruso and equipment manager Louie Cuglietta.

The winds of change altered the course of the Jr. Greyhounds just three games into the ’23-24 Great North U18 HL regular season when head coach Sean Gagnon was suspended by the Northern Ontario Hockey Association pending an investigation relative to some written complaints from team members.

The suspension ultimately resulted in the Sault Major Hockey Association turning to the 53-year old Lambert to take the head coaching reins from Gagnon. Lambert quickly brought familiar sidekick Trevor Zachary on board as general manager to take over from Joe Albert, who is the parent of one of the Jr. Greyhound players. And then came the recent finalizing of the key assistant coach positions under Lambert with his handpicked hiring of Zachary’s 21-year old son Ty and the father-son Stevenson duo of 49-year old Jeremy and 22-year old Keegan.

Interestingly, Lambert, the Zacharys and the Stevensons all have a prior association as coaches, managers and players with previous ownership groups of the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. In fact, a few years back when local businessman Darren Smyl owned the Thunderbirds, Trevor Zachary was the general manager, Lambert was the head coach and Jeremy Stevenson was an assistant.

Jeremy Stevenson

At any rate and to be sure, the U18 Jr. Greyhounds still have plenty of time to turn around the ’23-24 season with some pretty good personnel among the players for the well-known, deep rooted, coaching staff to work with.

Anyone with half a hockey brain knows that the Jr. Hounds have as good a net duo as there is in the Great North U18 HL with the tried, tested and true tandem of Nick Marson and A.J. Borrelli. There is a top six forward group of rookies Seb Dos Reis, Sam Caruso, Danny MacDonald and Nathan Dupuis and veterans Coulson Bell and Griffin Albert that has definite potential to blossom under Lambert and his chosen staff. And while the defensive corp is a bit on the thin side relative to overall experience, veteran Sam Gravel and rookies Brady Real and Liam Watson can be a trio to lean on.

It should also be noted that the aforementioned Sean Gagnon spent the entire summer as a conditioning and scrimmage coach for the Jr. Hounds. Gagnon’s dedication to the program over the course of the summer and to begin the season should not be overlooked.

Back to Lambert and his select coaching staff, there are varying forms of highest and high level experience among the group. And besides their respective hockey backgrounds, Lambert, the Stevensons and Zachary are all known as individuals of good character.

Hailing from Wawa, Ontario and currently a First Nations police constable in the Sault Ste. Marie area, Lambert has had a long and stored association with the game of hockey. 

Never drafted into the Ontario Hockey League or the National Hockey League, Lambert nonetheless made it to both levels as a relentless forward with a never quit attitude.

Denny Lambert

A hard nosed, rugged left winger during his playing days, Lambert skated for the Soo Greyhounds from 1988 to 1991 and posted 65 goals, 83 assists, 148 points over three full seasons in the OHL. Then, regular season and playoffs included, Lambert played in more than 500 NHL games with four different teams.

Following his playing career, Lambert coached the Soo Greyhounds for parts of eight OHL seasons, including three as the head coach. As an assistant with the OHL Hounds, Lambert learned the coaching side of the game from world class bench boss Craig Hartsburg. Lambert has since coached the Soo Thunderbirds of the NOJHL and has the added experience as the northern scout for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL.

Over to Jeremy Stevenson, his hockey playing career ended a dozen years ago at age 34. But now, at 49 years of age and at his playing size and weight of 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Stevenson still looks fit and trim enough to be patrolling the left wing.

A first round pick of the Cornwall Royals in 1990 who would finish his OHL career with the Soo Greyhounds, Stevenson defied the odds to play in 228 NHL games after being an 11th round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 1994. Now working in law enforcement in Sault Ste. Marie, Stevenson would play in 228 NHL games, playoffs included, and total 43 points from 19 goals, 24 assists while racking up 471 minutes in penalties as a fibrous, physical, fearless forward.

Stevenson’s OHL career was also noteworthy, going from being a first round pick by Cornwall from the Elliot Lake midgets in 1990 to being traded to the Soo during the 1993-1994 campaign and scoring 18 goals, 19 assists, 37 points in 48 regular season games while piling up 183 minutes in penalties for coach Ted Nolan’s Greyhounds.

Keegan Stevenson

Meanwhile, his son, Keegan Stevenson, gets to work alongside his dad at the young age of 22 — he turns 23 next month — after a notable playing career as an effective forward that had him move up from the Soo Thunderbirds of the NOJHL to the Guelph Storm of the OHL to Acadia University.

At age 21, Ty Zachary’s hockey resume includes time spent as a hard working forward with the NOJHL Thunderbirds and the Sault College Cougars of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

As for Trevor Zachary, he was the GM for the NOJHL’s Soo Thunderbirds for four successful years beginning in 2017.

There is a lot of hockey left to be played for the U18 Jr. Greyhounds this season. There is the regular season slate, the league championship playoff tournament as well as provincial play downs that are slated for Sault Ste. Marie.

First activity for the Jr. Greyhounds under Lambert and the new hockey staff is a pair of home games this weekend against the Timmins Majors.

Jr. Greyhounds rookie forward Sam Caruso. (photo by Bob Davies)

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