Soo Eagles v. Kam River


By
August 9, 2022

It looms as an inter league prelude to the 2022-2023 regular season. As in, Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and Kam River Fighting Walleye of the Superior International Jr. Hockey League are slated to face off in a three game set on Labour Day weekend.

Playing for the Teleco Cup, the Fighting Walleye of the SIJHL will play host to the Eagles of the NOJHL on September 2 to 4 at NorWest Arena, which is located on the outskirts of Thunder Bay.

To be sure, both teams are set up to be on the high end side in their respective leagues this coming season.

Jeremy Dunmore

ON THE FISH POND

Looking ahead to the ’22-23 season, Kam River has already confirmed the return of several key performers from the 2021-2022 campaign including goalie Eric Vanska, defenseman Kyle Lamoureux and forwards Trenton Morriseau, Jeremy Dunmore, Ethan Lang, Carson Gorst and Colton Crysler. Morriseau, Dunmore and Lang all scored 20 goals or more during the ’21-22 term, regular season and playoffs included.

The Fighting Walleye also added some quality depth when it acquired established forward Ryan Doucette in an off season trade with the Blind River Beavers of the NOJHL. A 5-foot-11, 185 pound winger with a 2003 birth date, Doucette hails from Thunder Bay. As an NOJHL rookie with Blind River in ’21-22, Doucette netted five goals, 10 assists, 15 points in 41 regular season games for the Beavers and then added one goal, one assist, two points in five playoff outings.

In bringing Doucette home to Kam River, Fighting Walleye general manager Kevin McCallum likes what he has in the gritty grinder.

Ryan Doucette

“We are excited to bring Ryan into the organization,” McCallum relayed to Hockey News North. “He brings speed and a bit of an edge with some offensive upside. I believe he is going to be a key asset for our club.

Kam River is assembling for just its second full season as members of the SIJHL and has rapidly become a first rate franchise from ownership to the masterful duo of aforementioned general manager Kevin McCallum and head coach Matt Valley.

There is little misgiving that Kam River is prepped to again be a prime time title contender in the SIJHL in ’22-23 and, along with the equally capable Dryden Ice Dogs, at or near the top of the league’s attendance chart.

WHERE EAGLES DARE

As for the Eagles, they have consistently been an NOJHL challenger over many years, including the ’21-22 season in which they finished in second place in the West Division with 70 points from a record of 33-11-4. Come playoff time, the Eagles then upended the Sudbury Cubs in the West side semi finals before losing to to the eventual league champion Soo Thunderbirds in the division finals.

Chase Tallaire

And if history holds true, the Eagles should again be a force within the West Division of the NOJHL in ’22-23 while continuing to be one of the league’s attendance leaders thanks to the loyal fans who regularly flock to venerable Pullar Stadium.

The Eagles will return a nest of key players for the upcoming season including forwards Chase Tallaire, Brian Fiddes and Jack Mortson and defensemen Kris Clark, Coby Fox and Isaiah Gagerman. Tallaire potted 31 goals in ’21-22 while Fiddes netted 20 and Mortson chipped in with 18, regular season and playoffs included.

Also confirmed to return in ’22-23 are forwards Zachary Briskey, Alex Freund, Mike Sziag and goalie Logan Raffaele. A local product, Raffaele was the third string net minder behind graduated 20-year olds Ryan Gilmore and Gabe Rosek in ’21-22.

Jack Mortson

Doug Laprade, the veteran head coach of the Eagles, likes his group of NOJHL returnees.

“We are very excited about our veteran presence this coming year … 10 returning kids is huge going into this season,” Laprade relayed to Hockey News North. “Remember, because of the Covid year, all of these players were technically rookies last year regardless of their age. So, it will be great to watch them in their second real season of junior hockey.”

Of further significance, the Michigan-deployed Eagles will also feature a pair of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario products this season. They are forward Kenny Belanger and defenseman Michael Starzomski.

Kenny Belanger

Belanger, a lanky forward with a 2004 birth date who was relatively productive in modest duty with the cross-river Soo Thunderbirds as an NOJHL rookie in ’21-22, is now a member of the Eagles following a recent trade. Regular season and playoffs included in ’21-22, the 6-foot-2, 170 pound Belanger netted 12 goals, 11 assists, 23 points in 56 games. Starzomski, who played high school hockey locally for the St. Mary’s Knights in ’21-22, recently signed with the Eagles as a free agent after a strong showing at their tryout camp.

Meanwhile, the upcoming Labour Day series against Kam River will be a return to his Thunder Bay area roots for aforementioned Eagles head coach Doug Laprade.

Laprade played junior hockey for the erstwhile Thunder Bay Flyers back during the 1986-1987 season before going on to patrol the right wing for the Lake Superior State University Lakers of the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association for four years.

“Obviously I am very excited to be going home and to be able to coach my team there,” Laprade relayed to Hockey News North. “Hockey has taken me places and given me opportunities that I would not have had and it all started for me back home in Thunder Bay.”

Playing a team from the SIJHL — in this case reigning regular season champion Kam River — will not be a new experience for Laprade and the Eagles. 

When the Province of Ontario was in shutdown in January of this year relative to Covid, the Michigan-stationed Eagles played host to the Wisconsin Lumberjacks of the SIJHL in a pair of inter league exhibition games. The Eagles took both matches by 4-3 scores and the games were well received by Laprade and general manager Bruno Bragagnolo of the Eagles as well as Wisconsin coach-GM Doug Lein.


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