Thunder readies itself for first-ever tryout camp

Picking up the pieces after the departure of Borderland Thunder head coach Mike Allison last month, current head coach Wayne Strachan is hoping this weekend’s tryout camp will be the beginnings of fielding a competitive on-ice squad for their upcoming inaugural season.
The tryouts, which will feature close to 70 hopefuls from here, Kenora and Minnesota, will be held at the Memorial Centre, and the team is hoping to have at least 20 players signed and sealed by next week.
Strachan said there will be a few more players who will be assessed in a mini-camp in late August.
The team also announced Sean Taggert as the new assistant coach and Neil Cooper as the new goalie coach.
Strachan was officially named head coach on July 9 after Allison had expressed his lack of available time to team president Shawn Jourdain and general manager Brent Tookenay. Strachan had already been on board as an assistant with Shane Bliss since May 1 when Allison had been hired.
Strachan said he did not have that much trouble adjusting to Allison’s departure, adding he and Bliss had to work on recruiting the out of town players more.
“Bascially, it wasn’t too bad. The work been divided between us. When we found out Mike was done. We just split everything up so the transition wasn’t too bad,” he remarked.
“But it would have been great to have Mike aboard,” added Strachan.
The camp will begin on Friday evening with a series of drills as the locals taking the ice first at 7:00 pm. The out-of-town players will be on at 8:30 pm.
Strachan said the groups will be divided into four teams and scrimmage games will be held all-day Saturday and Sunday.
“A lot of the kids haven’t skated in a while, so hopefully they’ll have some time to get sharp,” he mentioned.
Brad Kennett, head coach of Red Lake Falls program in Minnesota, will run the majority of on-ice drills and games as the coaching staff will evaluate from the stands. Parents and anyone interested is welcome to stop by and check out the action.
“We’re looking for the best talent, but there’s going to be character kids with leadership that can help us,” said Strachan.
The Thunder is hoping to squeeze in some exhibition games against Dryden before their first league tournament in Thunder Bay on Sept. 14-16.
Strachan, 28, played high school for the Muskies, college hockey at Lake Superior State, and several professional leagues before a back injury cut his playing career short. His only coaching experience has been with the local Tagg’s Bantam ‘AA’ team, who topped the 40 win-mark this past season.
He said he’s looking forward to continue to build on what he’s learned since then, crediting Bliss, who helped him with Tagg’s, and former Lake Superior coach Jeff Jackson, who now leads the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm.
“To be on the ice and play is much different. I learned a lot from Shane because he has some more experience coaching,” he said. “To see how he handled the players and talked to them. I learned alot from him. He’s very valuable.
“Jim taught me the basics; that hard work and defence will ultimately win you games,” added Strachan.
The Thunder are a part of the new Tier II Junior ‘A’ Superior International Junior Hockey League which saw its inception last February.