T-Birds v. Eagles for two more

September 30, 2015

Make way for two more rounds of the Soo Thunderbirds-Soo Eagles junior hockey border battle.

Cross-river rivals, the reigning Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League champion Thunderbirds will face off with the Michigan-based Eagles in a home-and-home series this weekend.

The Eagles will play host to the Thunderbirds on Friday night at Pullar Stadium. The Thunderbirds will return the favour and usher in the Eagles on Saturday night at the Essar Centre.

Both games are slated to begin at 7:30.

The two teams have already met twice thus far this 2015-2016 season and the Thunderbirds won both games — 5-2 at the Essar and 6-3 at the Pullar.

The Thunderbirds enter play this week in first place in the NOJHL’s West Division with 14 points from a record of 7-1. The Eagles are fifth in the West with 3 points from a record of 1-4-1 and have played 2 less games than the Thunderbirds.

While there are factions on both teams that get along with one another off the ice, the same cannot be said when the Thunderbirds and Eagles step onto the frozen stage against one another.

Thunderbirds president-director of hockey operations Kevin Cain said there is no question that the rivalry is an intense one.

Speaking on a recent edition of the Hockey North Show that I host on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on ESPN 1400 Radio, Cain made it clear that there is no love lost between the Thunderbirds and the Eagles.

“There is a mutual respect, I do believe, between the two teams,” Cain began, “but the fact of the matter is, we don’t like them and they don’t like us.”

Having said that, Cain noted that “it’s great” that the Eagles are back in the NOJHL after three seasons in the North American Hockey League.

In the two previous seasons before the Eagles departed for the NAHL, the teams rotated as NOJHL champions.

The Eagles won the 2010-2011 NOJHL crown and the Thunderbirds took the 2011-2012 championship.

There are those who were part of both teams then that are still around.

Bruno Bragagnolo was coach-general manager of the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 Eagles teams — titles he still holds for the 2015-2016 squad.

And the aforementioned Cain was with the Thunderbirds teams of 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 — just as he is still with the 2015-2016 edition.

So too is Jamie Henderson still with the Thunderbirds, having moved up in the organization over the past five years from assistant coach to assistant general manager to general manager.

Then there is the Jim Capy factor.

Capy has coached in the NOJHL over parts of the past three decades. The veteran Capy previously coached the Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers and erstwhile Soo Indians — and is now co-coach of the Eagles alongside Bragagnolo.

At any rate, as the two teams prepare for the upcoming home-and-home series, Bragagnolo has faith in his young Eagles squad despite its 1-4-1 record.

“We are getting chances to score, we just aren’t finishing,” Bragagnolo said. “If we weren’t getting the chances, I would be concerned.

“We are a young team and Jim (Capy) and I are trying to remain patient,” Bragagnolo added. “We need to step up as a team and our leaders need to be leaders.

“There are no easy games in this league and we have a couple of real tough ones coming up against the Thunderbirds. Hopefully we can steal a point or two and turn this thing around.”

The Eagles played their last two games — both losses to the Elliot Lake Wildcats — shorthanded as five Soo players were suspended indefinitely for what Bragagnolo called “violation of team rules.”

PHOTO: Soo Eagles defenceman Cullen Gookin and Soo Thunderbirds forward Matt Mitchell in an earlier game this season. (Photo by Ali Pearson.)

What you think about “T-Birds v. Eagles for two more”

  1. Lets face it the Eagles are no match what so ever for the Thunderbirds. Its not even close in terms of talent and expearance. Good Luck Eagles cause you guy’s do not stand a friggin chance right now.!

  2. Seriusly? You have got to be kidding Thunderbirds Fan. You may be # 1 at the moment how ever I do think our Eagles will give yous a good fight be fore this is all over.

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