T’hawks expecting full roster against Thistles

Joey Payeur

It will be all hands on deck for the Fort Frances Thunderhawks tonight—and they’ll be interested to see if it makes any difference.
The Thunderhawks entertain the Kenora Thistles in senior men’s ‘AAA’ hockey action tonight at the ’52 Canadians Arena, with the home team expecting to have a full roster at its disposal when the puck drops at 8:30 p.m.
That will be a big improvement from the last time the two squads met in Kenora back in November, when the Thistles prevailed 5-3.
In that contest, Fort Frances led 3-1 in the third period. But with only 14 players to start the game, and with four of those handed game misconducts during the affair, the T’hawks ran out of gas and gave up four goals in the final 20 minutes.
“The team that stays the most disciplined is going to come out of this in the best shape,” said Fort Frances coach Randy White, whose scouting report on Kenora reveals few chinks in the Thistles’ armour.
“They’ve got Jeff Richards [cousin of Philadelphia Flyers’ captain Mike Richards], who’s a one-man wrecking crew for them offensively,” White noted.
“They’ve got a pretty good supporting cast,” he added. “They move the puck well. Their defence is big, strong and mobile.
“If you beat them, you’ve earned it,” White stressed.
The two squads tentatively are scheduled to face off again here on Feb. 1, and then again March 5-6 in Kenora.
The games are part of their respective journeys to this year’s Allan Cup showdown April 11-16 in Kenora, which both teams already have qualified for (the Thistles as the host team and the T’hawks as the unchallenged second Northwestern Ontario rep).
White said the process is ongoing in terms of crafting the final roster that will represent Fort Frances on the national stage.
“We’re still looking at guys, and we’re going to take as long as we can and do our homework,” he stressed.
“Everyone is going to be jockeying for players and we’re no different.
“But we’ve got a solid nucleus right now,” White added. “Chris Medicine has been strong in goal from Day 1 for us, a real stand-out.
“Our defence has been strengthened, although losing [Clayton] Windego hurt us a lot.
“Offensively, we’ve got some serious talent up front,” White noted. “It’s going to come down to who’s got the best depth.
“I feel pretty good about where we’re at right now.”
That doesn’t mean White and general manager Dean Bruyere won’t continue to tweak the roster. New additions Derek Hansberry and Marty Goulet from Minneapolis were expected to join the squad for tonight’s game, but were unable to make it due to transportation difficulties.
“It’s tough to get time together to gel,” said Bruyere. “But that’s a problem every year when you’re dealing with senior hockey.”