Tillsonburg Thunder will be officially recognizing their 2105 WOAA championship banners Saturday night at their home opener against Clinton Radars, Tillsonburg's first-round opponent in last year's playoffs.
An official centre-ice red-carpet ceremony will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tillsonburg's Evan Van Moerkerke, winner of a Pan Am silver medal, will be dropping the puck. There will be a moment of silence for Fred Franklin, longtime Vipers and Thunder volunteer, who passed away in July.
"Not all the players are coming back this year," said team president Mike Holly, expecting some of those players to be there for the banner ceremony. "We'll be recognizing those players, too."
The two banners – one for WOAA's overall North-South Division championship, the other as South Division champions – were actually raised by arena staff a couple weeks ago. Both will be in the spotlight Saturday.
The Thunder are 1-1 to start the 2015-16 season, winning 6-5 in overtime in Tavistock, and dropping a close 5-3 decision last Friday in Petrolia (with a late empty-net goal).
Both games set the tone for what is expected to be a competitive league.
"It's going to be tough for the first month or two," said Holly, noting several team players are getting married this fall... and several are in the wedding parties.
"We're a little thin on guys," said Holly, counting on the support of their fans.
Tillsonburg was leading 1-0 after the first period in Petrolia, but the Squires replied with three second-period goals, and the teams were deadlocked at 3-3 after two complete. Petrolia's Chris Edwards beat Cody Vinnai, who made 38 saves on the night, to win it for the Squires scoring at 10:55 of the third.
Scoring for Tillsonburg were Mike Findlay (Nathan Peacock, Ryan Stephenson), Nathan Peacock (Ryan Stephenson, Shane Balcomb), and Braeden Shand (Ryan Stephenson, Drake Morrell).
"We have a lot of new guys this year, a lot of good local guys," said Holly. "We only have one import (Jason Skinner) on the team right now... and he's not even here yet. There's definitely a local flavour on this team."
There are six teams in the South Division this year, and the biggest change in lineups might be Seaforth (Huron East Centenaires).
"They (Huron East) beat Milverton 9-2," Holly noted.