THUNDER BAY, Ont. –“I’m very happy with the group that we have. We have a lot of work to do and feel that it will take some time out of the gate to instill the effort and commitment required to win and make it to the next level. The dressing room is great as everyone is getting along and we are already starting to look like a family. We still have some holes to fill on defence, but the group we have is working very hard and getting better every day. We will compete every night and play the game with the discipline and respect which it takes to win. We will do everything in our power to win and to ensure our players make it to the next level,” stated Gary Wenzel, Head Coach..
Thunder Bay has turned to veteran head coach Gary Wenzel in an effort to return the club to previous successes.
Winners of a record five SIJHL titles in the league’s first 14 years, the North Stars will once again look to be among its elite.
Wenzel, a former Ontario Hockey League, United States Hockey League and Thunder Bay Kings head coach, brings experience and knowledge to help put the North Stars back on top of the SIJHL.
Having coached countless players that have played or are still playing in the NHL, Wenzel’s goals will be development, moving players to a higher level and winning.
He has won at all levels he has coached and expects to be successful his first year with the North Stars.
TEAM: Thunder Bay North Stars
GM: Scott Kellaway
HEAD COACH: Gary Wenzel
NICHOLAS NIGRO, FORWARD: Veteran forward Nigro is back for another year with his hometown side.
The 19-year-old Thunder Bay product led the North Stars and was tied for second in goals with 31 last season while also supplying 17 assists.
“Nick is one of the most skilled players in the league,” offered Wenzel.
“He will be providing a lot of our team’s offence by using his pro shot,” added the new Stars bench boss.
“A great kid on and off the ice that will provide leadership to all our rookie players on what is takes to compete and be successful.”
KENNY TURNER, FORWARD: Another one of the many Thunder Bay natives on the North Stars roster is Kenny Turner.
The 20-year-old forward played in 52 games last season and scored eight times and chipped in with 13 assists.
He was a point-per-game man in the playoffs with eight in as many outings, including three tallies.
“Kenny is a veteran player that is in unbelievable condition,” offered Wenzel.
“He is extremely fast and will provide offence and defence in all important times of our games. His work ethic in practice is second to none and is a pleasure to coach.”
AARON WESLEY-CHISEL, DEFENCE: Acquired from the Fort Frances Lakers in January the 19-year-old blueliner helped anchor the North Stars defensive corps.
In 16 games with Thunder Bay he scored three times and assisted on two more.
He also had eight points in 30 contests with Fort Frances with a couple of markers and a half dozen helpers.
“Aaron skates extremely well and has a real passion for the game,” stated Wenzel.
“He will keep all opponents honest as if you have your head down he will will take it off in the neutral zone. He’s more of a solid defensive defenseman that will be counted on to add offense this season.”
BRENDAN GILLIS, FORWARD: The 17-year-old Caramat, Ont., product signs on with Thunder Bay after helping the Soo Thunderbirds AAA midget side capture a Great North Midget League championship in 2014-15.
Gillis lit up the GNML scoring 31 times in 36 games while dishing out 23 assists for 54 points.
“Brendan will be one of the fastest players in this league this year,” claims Wenzel.
“He played major midget in the Soo last year and scored a pile of goals. College teams are already looking at this player as he plays and completes hard in both ends of the rink.”
BRAD ARABIA, FORWARD: Returns home to Thunder Bay after seeing his Canadian Junior Hockey League playing rights picked up by the club from the Estevan Bruins of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
With four points in 35 games in Estevan, the North Stars look for him to put up the big numbers he had while playing minor hockey in the Thunder Bay Kings AAA system.
“Brad has returned to Thunder Bay after time in the SJHL,” offered Wenzel.
“Brad put up record kind of numbers his last year of major midget with the Kings and is expected to provide a lot of offence this season. Brad works very hard and is also a good defensive player.”
RILEY CORBIN, GOALTENDER: Corbin is yet another Lakehead native returning home to play.
He boasts experience from the OHL as well as Jr. A in leagues in B.C., Alberta and Manitoba.
“Riley has OHL and plenty of junior experience as a goaltender, summarized the Thunder Bay coach.
“He is very calm in the net and his rebound control is excellent. Riley will be carrying a lot of the work load in net along with Eric Mann another solid veteran goalie.”