Radke ready to roll

March 14, 2014

He is often overshadowed by two of his fellow defencemen, namely Tyler Jones and Owen Headrick.

But while Jones was named best defenceman and Headrick rookie-of-the-year in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, David Radke is also a much-valued member of the Soo Thunderbirds.

Fresh from a 99-point regular season and a record of 48-5-3, the first-place Thunderbirds will face the eighth-place Blind River Beavers in a first-round, best-of-seven playoff series that begins on Saturday night at the Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.

And as he has done all season long, Radke will be counted on to play major minutes as one of the Thunderbirds top three or four defencemen.

To be sure, Radke has flourished in this, his second season with the Thunderbirds.

“He has really stepped up his game from last season to this season,” Thunderbirds general manager Kevin Cain said of Radke. “He is playing with a lot more confidence and I think that stems from the fact that he is a lot stronger and faster than he was last year.”

At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Radke does not have the size of defensive mates Jones or Headrick. But his strength, agility and increased foot speed have made the 1994 birth-year defender a better National Collegiate Athletic Association prospect.

Playing at the NCAA level represents a goal for Radke, who already has the academic part of the equation in place.

For the second straight season, Radke was named the Thunderbirds scholastic player-of-the-year.

“Playing NCAA hockey is something I have wanted for a long time now,” said Radke, whose older brother Dan just completed a four-year career at Lake Superior State University as a solid forward and academic standout as — get this — a mathematics major.

“I would love to follow in my brother’s footsteps and play Division 1 hockey,” said Radke, whose parents reside in the Bay Area of California while maintaining a summer home in Sault Ste. Marie.

As for the upcoming NOJHL playoffs, Radke said he “can’t wait” for them to begin.

“Hopefully the series against Blind River is the start of a long playoff run,” said Radke, who produced 3 goals, 25 assists, 28 points in 54 regular-season games.

“We aren’t looking past Blind River,” Radke said of a Beavers team that finished 75 points back of the Thunderbirds during the regular season. “But as a team, we know what we are capable of. We’re ready to go.”

PHOTO: Soo Thunderbirds defenceman David Radke. (Photo by Ali Pearson.)

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