Tough tests loom for T-Birds

March 3, 2014

Okay, we know that Soo Thunderbirds have clinched first place in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League standings and will meet the lowly Blind River Beavers in the first round of the playoffs.

But despite their lofty standing in the NOJHL, tough tests loom for the Thunderbirds come playoff time.

NOJHL playoffs are slated to begin sometime during the week of March 10.

Before that, the Thunderbirds have two games left to play in the regular season, both at home this weekend.

With 95 points from a record of 46-5-3, the Thunderbirds have set franchise and league standards for regular-season victories.

As the Thunderbirds will finish first and Blind River will end up in last, there will be three other first-round playoff matchups in the eight-team league.

The Thunderbirds are a team without an apparent weakness, though as head coach Jordan Smith is fond of repeating, plenty of hard work and commitment went into the Soo’s first-place finish.

“We have pride in our work ethic and as a team I think we showed that throughout the entire course of the season,” Smith said on a recent edition of the Thunderbird Hockey Show on ESPN 1400 Radio.

Their amazing regular-season record aside, the Thunderbirds have plenty more work ahead of them once the playoffs get underway.

Second-place Kirkland Lake Gold Miners are a force to be reckoned with and should finish the regular season with 90-plus points of their own.

And below Kirkland Lake, the Abitibi Eskimos and Espanola Rivermen both have records well over the .500 mark.

To be sure, the Thunderbirds will be considered favourites headed into the playoffs — though definitely not by a clear-cut margin with Kirkland Lake, Abitibi and Espanola lurking in the shadows.

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