The Superior International Junior Hockey League announced on December 5 that both the Kenora Thistles and Thunder Bay Kings U18 squads would participate in league action in 2020-21. The following day the Thistles made their SIJHL debut at the Fort Frances Lakers losing 9-1.
So who are the Kenora Thistles AAA U18? Formerly known as the Kenora Stars, the Thistles compete in the Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League. The team changed their name for the 2006-07 season. Currently the U18 squad are one of just two AAA U18 programs under Hockey Northwestern Ontario sanctioning. The Thistles annually square off with the Thunder Bay Kings for the Don Smith Cup – the HNO branch championship. Kenora has captured the trophy on five different occasions: 2001 (as the Stars), 2012, 2013, 2015 (uncontested) and 2016.
The 2012-13 edition is one of the most successful in team history finishing 25-13-1-5 in league play. Scott Parsons was a 17-year old goaltender on that team going 14-7 with a 2.64 GAA and .919 save%. He would go on to play three seasons with the Winnipeg Blues in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
Parsons is now head coach of the Thistles, a job he accepted after a season on the team bench as an assistant. https://www.ckdr.net/2020/09/18/u-18-kenora-thistles-appoint-new-head-coach/
The early edition of this seasons Thistles is young – with an average age of 16.39. Their opening game roster against the Fort Frances Lakers featured a 15-year old, ten 16-year olds and seven 17-year olds.
Seven players return from last season, including those in leadership roles. Dante Derouard, a third-year player who just turned 17 is team captain. Alternate captains are Cael Anderson, Jace Dittaro and Jeff McMenemy.
Dylan Marino is the lone Red Lake native on the roster. The 16-year old played last season with the Red Lake Rams High School team posting eight points in 12 NorWOSSA games.
The Thistles take the ice once again on Friday in Fort Frances. The game will stream live on HockeyTV https://www.hockeytv.com/game/938413.