Hockey Canada Network |
News
Road to The RBC Cup: Soo Thunderbirds (Central)
Peter Ruicci – Sault Star
|
RBC.011.12
|
May 3, 2012
|
|

While their recent accomplishments have been overshadowed somewhat, members of the Soo Thunderbirds are coming to Humboldt determined to do themselves, the city of Sault Ste. Marie and the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League proud.

Having won the Dudley Hewitt Cup, emblematic of Central Region supremacy, the T-Birds will begin play at the RBC Cup with a new bench boss.

Zoltan ‘Toots’ Kovacs was named the club's interim head coach on April 27, after the NOJHL suspended head coach Preston Mizzi and assistant Jamie Henderson over incidents in which alcohol was consumed by players and staff on the team's bus.

“We're going to the RBC to play for them,” Corey Jackson, named the NOJHL's best defenceman this season, said of Mizzi and Henderson. “They got us here and losing them is devastating, but we have to move forward. I'm very excited. I don't think the coaching change will be a big adjustment for us. We're a pretty tight-knit team.”

Captain Micky Sartoretto, named the league's playoff MVP, said going to the rink has provided an escape from off-ice news.

“Our coaches preached about staying together as teammates and focusing on playing hockey,” said Sartoretto, who spent three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League before joining his hometown Junior A team this season. “We have to play for each other and we won't underestimate ourselves at the RBC Cup.”

Neither will Kovacs, a former OHLer with the Soo Greyhounds in the late 1970s.

A Soo Greyhounds assistant coach for two years under Craig Hartsburg, Kovacs said he expects big things from his charges over the nine-day tourney.

“These guys have faced a hell of a lot of adversity over the last few weeks,” said the 52-year-old Kovacs, who, beginning in 2004, was the T-Birds head coach for two seasons. “You either let it get you down or you fight through it. These guys have fought through it and I don't expect anything less at the RBC Cup.”

The Soo finished the NOJHL season with the league's best record, 37-11-2, but saved its best hockey for the playoffs.

The Thunderbirds went 12-2 in the post-season, including a 4-1 victory over the North Bay Trappers in the best-of-seven league finals.

At the Dudley Hewitt Cup in Thunder Bay, the T-Birds confidence – unshakable through the NOJHL campaign – faced a major test.

After back-to-back wins to open the tournament, the Soo dropped a 10-2 decision to the Ontario Junior Hockey League champions, the Stouffville Spirit, on the final day of round-robin play.

After beating the host Thunder Bay North Stars 8-5 in the semifinal, the Thunderbirds came up against the Spirit with an RBC Cup berth on the line.

Prohibitive underdogs, the Soo rode a 44-save performance by netminder John Kleinhans to a 5-3 victory despite being outshot 47-16.

It's that kind of clutch performance the T-Birds are hoping for in Humboldt.

“I know there'll be some really good teams there,” said centre Greg Sartoretto, Micky's younger brother. “But if we put our minds to it, I don't think we take a back seat to anybody.”

Winger Matt Amadio, who joins the Sartorettos on the Soo's top line, calls the chance to play in the RBC Cup “a great experience,” and says he and his teammates are excited about testing themselves against the best Junior A teams in the country.

“If we compete hard, we'll do well,” said Amadio, chosen the top forward at the Dudley Hewitt Cup. “We're going to have to play for each other, be unselfish and get goaltending from Kleinhans. If that happens, I think we'll do pretty well.”


For more information:

André Brin
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557
abrin@hockeycanada.ca

Francis Dupont
Manager, Media Relations/Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4564
fdupont@hockeycanada.ca

Jason LaRose
Manager, Content Services
Hockey Canada
403-777-4553
jlarose@hockeycanada.ca

Kristen Lipscombe
Coordinator, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427
klipscombe@hockeycanada.ca

Keegan Goodrich
Coordinator, Media
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
kgoodrich@hockeycanada.ca

facebook.com/hockeycanada

twitter.com/hockeycanada

youtube.com/hockeycanadavideos

Videos
Photos
2014 WWU18C: CAN 5 – USA 1
Mar 30, 2014
U18 women win gold.
2014 WWU18C: CAN 1 – RUS 0 (OT)
Mar 29, 2014
Canada edges Russia in overtime.
2014 WWU18C: CAN 5 – CZE 0
Mar 26, 2014
Canadians shut out Czechs.
2014 WWU18C: CAN 7 – FIN 0
Mar 24, 2014
U18 women blank Finland.
2014 WWU18C: CAN 7 – JPN 1
Mar 23, 2014
Canada starts Worlds with win
2014 PARA: CAN 3 – NOR 0 (Bronze)
Mar 15, 2014
Billy Bridges scored a pair of goals to lead Canada to a Paralympic bronze.
2014 PARA: USA 3 – CAN 0 (Semifinal)
Mar 13, 2014
Corbin Watson made seven saves, but Canada will play for Paralympic bronze.
2014 PARA: CAN 1 – CZE 0 (Preliminary)
Mar 11, 2014
Westlake scored the lone goal to help Canada to a perfect preliminary round.
2014 PARA: CAN 4 – NOR 0 (Preliminary)
Mar 09, 2014
Adam Dixon scored twice to lead Canada to its second straight win in Sochi.
2014 PARA: CAN 10 – SWE 1 (Preliminary)
Mar 08, 2014
Gale, Dixon and Rempel had four points each to lead Canada to a win.
2014 PARA: Welcome to Sochi
Mar 02, 2014
Canada’s National Sledge Team has arrived ahead of the Paralympics.
2010 OLYW: Flag Raising
Feb 10, 2010
Canada's National Women's Team taking part in the Flag Raising ceremony at the Olympic Village in Vancouver, B.C.
Schedule
Close
Credit  
Close
Photo Credit: