Thunder Bay Northern Hawks have been a dominant force in the Thunder Bay Junior B Hockey League (TBJBHL) for several years. Eight times (six-in-a-row) the Hawks have won the league championship and have represented Hockey Northwestern Ontario nine times at the Keystone Cup, the Junior B championship of Western Canada.
2014-15 was the sixth-straight Brian Dell Trophy (TBJBHL regular season winner) captured by the Hawks, who finished with a record of 28-1-1. The lone loss came at the hands of the Thunder Bay Stars, a 5-2 result in November of 2014. The team went a perfect 8-0 in the league playoffs, sweeping both the Schrieber Falcons and Stars in best-of 7 series’.
Traveling to Cold Lake, Alberta for the 2015 Keystone Cup the Hawks felt good about their chances after coming up just short in the Bronze Medal game in 2014. Thunder Bay opened the tournament with a sluggish 3-3 tie against KJHL champion Selkirk Fishermen.
Day 2 had the Northern Hawks playing two games, first against the host team Cold Lake Ice. Goals by Matthew Ray, TBJBHL leading scorer Taylor Santorelli and Alex Valliant propelled Thunder Bay to a 3-1 victory.
Later that evening the Hawks took on the Saskatoon Quakers, winners of the Prairie Junior Hockey League with a 34-2-1-1 record. A horrible opening period saw the Quakers take a 3-0 lead at intermission. Brett Bishop got Thunder Bay on the board in the second, but Saskatoon answered to lead 4-1. A Santorelli power play goal gave the Hawks hope at second intermission.
Thunder Bay dominated play in the third period, outshooting Saskatoon 13-4 and at 12:37 Ryan Delvecchio scored to cut the lead to 4-3. The comeback was not-to-be as the Quakers held on for the victory.
In the final round robin game of the tournament Thunder Bay played North Edmonton Red Wings, champion of the Capital Junior Hockey League. After a second place finish (26-7-0-5) in the regular season North Edmonton defeated Fort Saskatoon Hawks in the finals to win the CJHL playoffs before defeating Peace River Navigators in the Alberta provincials final 3-1. The Red Wings already had clinched their spot in the Gold Medal game and the Northern Hawks knew they would be playing for Bronze.
Thunder Bay jumped on the Red Wings in the opening minute and did not look back cruising to a 5-1 victory to finish the round robin at 2-2-1 (fourth place). Goalscorers for the Northern Hawks were Morgan McKay (2), Ryan Gleeson, Delvecchio and Kevin Galley.
2015 Keystone Cup Medal Round
Bronze Medal: Saskatoon Quakers vs Thunder Bay Northern Hawks, noon (ET)
Gold Medal: Campbell River Storm vs North Edmonton Red Wings, 3 PM (ET)