They are the front runners of the West Division of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. Soo Thunderbirds, Michigan Soo Eagles, Sudbury Cubs and Blind River Beavers are all well above the .500 mark as the NOJHL heads into the stretch run of the 2021-2022 regular season.
At the top are the Thunderbirds with a winning percentage that is on par with the East Division leaders, the Hearst Lumberjacks.
While the Thunderbirds annually ice a highly competitive team, this season’s edition has actually been a surprise with the success it has shown led by two 16-year old Ontario Hockey League top prospects in forward Cooper Foster (Ottawa 67’s) and defenseman Andrew Gibson (Soo Greyhounds.)
Couple that with the fact that the Thunderbirds have continued to win despite dealing away two 17-year old standouts to teams in the Ontario Jr. Hockey League at the January 10 trade deadline, namely forward Tyson Doucette and defenseman Creo Solomon.
Still, it hasn’t been just about Foster and Gibson. Veteran forwards Brock Santa Maria and Michael Chaffay have stood out consistently as has defenseman Kaden Dundas. And the 1-2 goalie crew of Noah Zeppa and Noah Metivier has been exceptional as the Thunderbirds have been a feel good story under rookie head coach Cole Jarrett.
And with even keel coach Doug Laprade at the helm, the cross-border Eagles have managed to keep pace with the Thunderbirds led by forwards such as Chase Tallaire, Brian Fiddes and Seth Ferguson, defensemen Trevor Davis and Hayden Daca and goalies Gabe Rosek and Ryan Gilmore.
Over to Sudbury, the Cubs are as balanced a team as any led by veteran forward Kyler Campbell, rookie scoring star Billy Biedermann, defenseman Seth Coulter and seasoned goalie Joel Rainville.
Blind River and Sudbury are in a spirited tussle for third place and coach Kyle Brick and his Beavers have been sparked by forwards such as Caleb Minns, Evan Fraccaro, Hayden Webster and Jacob Kovacs, dandy defenseman Ethan Pegg and a crackerjack 18-year goalie duo of Gavin Disano and Patrick Boivin.
To be sure, there is not much to choose from among the front four of the NOJHL West.