U18 Kings' (white) apply the pressure in U16 Kings zone in SIJHL Guest Schedule action December 18. Photo by Gary Moskalyk.

U18 Kings Lead the Way

SIJHL Fri Dec 18 2020

Story by Gary Moskalyk, Special to the SIJHL


The old guys served notice.

The U-18 Thunder Bay Kings defeated their U-16 counterparts 7-1 in SIJHL action at the Fort William Gardens. Under code orange COVID restrictions the crowd was exactly zero.

Josh Lehto opened the score shorthanded less than a minute in, roofing one past U-16 netminder Nathan Krawchuk. Ryan Doucette appeared to tip in a shot from close in at 5:32 of the first but the tally was credited to Jack Cook. Either way Doucette had a three-point night to lead all scorers.

“It’s hard to play a younger team like that. It’s different for sure,” said Doucette. “I feel like we gave it our all and it kind of showed up on the scoreboard. So yeah, overall I thought it was a team effort. We did well. Pucks deep, shots on net. Played good defence. Hope to bring the same stuff back tomorrow.”

The U-18’s survived a double-minor and a two-man deficit for a full two minutes to close out the first frame.

Jeremy Dunmore and Jett Mintenko doubled the U-18 lead to 4-0 through the second stanza.

Krawchuk made a pair of saves big saves four minutes in and Connor Larrett converted a goal mouth feed from EJ Paddington about a minute later as the younger Kings broke Keenan Marks shutout five minutes into the third.

But goals by Doucette, Jack Pineau and Tyler Lewis closed out the scoring.

Winning coach Gary Ricciardi viewed the game on a grander scale.

“The big picture here tonight is it was a good night, an excellent night for the (Kings’) organization,” said Ricciardi. “Good night for both teams, good night for the parents and the families and the players. We’re in a high performance league now. We’re playing high competition against each other to start, getting each ourselves prepared for the other teams in the league. It’s exciting for the kids to get back to something that’s as close to normal in a non-traditional year as possible.”

Gary coaches the older club and his brother Jeff is head coach of the U-16’s.

“It’s a unique situation,” continued Gary. “We’re both coaches on both staffs. I’m the associate coach on their staff (U-16) but I’m the head coach of this one, and vice versa. Our end goal is to make sure that the kids are ready and developed for the next level of hockey. That’s our job here.

“We’re competitive (though). I almost lost my voice on night one.”

The U-18’s outshot the U-16’s 44-21, and out-penalized the younger squad 20 minutes to 14.

“The reality is they’re an older, stronger, faster team and our team needs to figure out how to play and compete at a higher level,” said U-16 head coach Jeff Ricciardi. “Bit of an eye-opener for our kids. At the same time, a fantastic opportunity to get high quality competition in a year where we really haven’t seen it. . . It was good start/opener for our team to have the opportunity to compete at that level.”

Keenan Marks was the winning goaltender stopping 20 of 21, while Krawchuk was 37 of 44.

Max Buffone collected three assists, Dunmore and Mintenko collected an assist each in addition to their goals. Ten U-18’s collected at least a point.

Game two of the four-game set goes Saturday at 7:30.