By Randy Russon – Hockey News North
Let’s begin by noting that the Soo Eagles are an expansion team in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and the Soo Thunderbirds are the reigning champions.
But status aside, this is what has come to be known as the Twin Soo Border Battle and the fact is, bragging rights are at stake whenever and wherever the two teams meet.
Thus far this 2015-2016 NOJHL regular season, the Twin Soo rivals have met four times and the Thunderbirds have won all four — two at the Essar Centre and two at Pullar Stadium.
Round 5 is slated for the Pullar at 7 p.m. on Saturday as the 8-11-1 Eagles will play host to the 18-2-0 Thunderbirds.
Can the Eagles, who are back in the NOJHL after a three-season hitch in the North American Hockey League, beat the Thunderbirds?
Of course they can.
But will they?
As the Eagles have added high-end players — notably forward Roman Gaudet, who has 6 goals, 10 assists, 16 points in just 10 games — since the two teams last met, so too have the already-powerful Thunderbirds.
Goalie Mario Culina, who had the best goals against average in the NOJHL in 2014-2015, returned to the Thunderbirds from the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League last week.
And the T-Birds also added hard-rock defenceman Michael Caruso from the Maritime Hockey League last week. Caruso, who played with the Thunderbirds as a rookie in 2012-2013, spent the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons with the cross-river Eagles when they were a part of the NAHL.
As for the Eagles, who are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games after going 2-7-1 in their first 10, coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo confirmed the recent signing of defenceman Zack Parrott, formerly of the Detroit Little Caesars major midgets.