The winds of change have altered the course of the Soo Jr. Greyhounds in what are still the early stages of the 2023-2024 Great North Under 18 Hockey League season.
The esteemed, well seasoned Denny Lambert has stepped in as head coach of the U18 Jr. Greyhounds and brought familiar sidekick Trevor Zachary on board as his hand-picked general manager.
The 53-year old Lambert takes over the bench of the U18 Jr. Greyhounds from Sean Gagnon, who is under an investigation from the Northern Ontario Hockey Association. Gagnon is under suspension by the NOHA in the interim. It is not known what his status with the U18 Jr. Greyhounds will be if he is ultimately cleared of any wrong doing by the NOHA investigators.
Moving forward, the U18 Jr. Greyhounds still have plenty of time to turn around the ’23-24 season. They have a very experienced and well learned head coach in place in the person of Lambert, who has some pretty good personnel to work with among the player ranks.
To be sure, 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 potential to bloom. And while the defensive corp is a bit thin, 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.
Meanwhile, Lambert, who has started running practice sessions for the Jr. Greyhounds, takes the helm of a team that has a record of 1-4-0 through its first five games of the 2023-2024 Great North U18 HL season.
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.
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 Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and has the added experience as the northern scout for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL.
As for the aforementioned Trevor Zachary, he takes over from Joe Albert as the GM of the U18 Jr. Hounds. Zachary was the GM for the NOJHL’s Soo Thunderbirds for four successful years beginning in 2017 and Lambert was the head coach for one of the seasons.
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.
Time is on the side of the U18 Jr. Greyhounds. And so too now is time on the side of the Jr. Hounds with a proven coach and leader of young men in Denny Lambert. With all due respect to Jim Capy, Lambert is probably the best coach that the local U18 hockey program has had since the days of the erstwhile Soo Legion and Soo North Stars and the likes of Abbie Carricato, Donny Kurylo and Mike Hall.
Next set of activity for the Jr. Greyhounds on the Great North U18 HL slate is pair of Nov. 11-12 home games against the Timmins Majors. With a lineup that features goalie Alex Hall and high scoring forwards Ian Lachance, Travis Poan, Tannen Iserhoff and Edan Etheridge, the Majors of Timmins figure to provide a good, solid test for the Jr. Hounds.