Soo Thunderbirds begin defence of their Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League regular-season title tonight when they play host to the Blind River Beavers.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. at John Rhodes Community Centre.
The game also marks the 2014-2015 debut of the Carmen Provenzano Memorial Cup regular-season series between the Highway 17 rivals.
The Birds begin the new season minus all-star goalie Joel Horodziejczyk, the NOJHL’s most valuable player in 2013-2014 whose request to be traded to a rival Jr. A league was honoured by Soo general manager Kevin Cain.
Returnee Brian Kment and rookie Mario Culina will form the Birds twine tandem.
On the blueline, 2013-2014 NOJHL rookie-of-the-year Owen Headrick heads the brigade with fellow returnee Brandon Grandinetti and rookie Alex Morin, an Ontario Hockey League draft pick of the Plymouth Whalers.
Up front, Anthony Miller and his 29 goals from 2013-2014 leads a list of veteran junior forwards that includes Jaren Bellini, Nathan Hebert, Brett Jeffries, Matt Mitchell, Matt Pinder and Nic Tassone.
Rookie forwards of note are Matt Caruso and Guelph Storm draft pick Nic Sicoly.