The retread Port Huron Fighting Falcons are one playoff victory away from matching their regular season win total of a year ago.
And as Port Huron is primed for North American Hockey League prime time, the north shore of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League is priming for old times.
Having won just six of 58 regular-season games a year ago, Port Huron turned it around this season by winning 38 of 60 regular-season matches to take first place in the NAHL North Division.
Thus far in this spring's playoffs, the Fighting Falcons have won five of six games -- including five in a row -- and are not only one win away from matching last season's win total but advancing to the Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament.
Of note, Port Huron features a plethora of players who have been obtained in trades with other NAHL teams within the last year.
Among the acquisitions, defencemen Bret Lewandowski and Ryan Teal and forward Ian Miller were all obtained from the Michigan Warriors, forward Maxwell Reavis and defenceman Mitch Sand are formerly of the Aberdeen Wings, defenceman Nolan Valleau came over from the New Mexico Mustangs, forward Rick DeRosa is erstwhile of the Amarillo Bulls and goalie Peter Megariotis is a transfer from the Fresno Monsters.
Then there's forward Easton Powers, who hopped on the bus to Port Huron from the Blind River Beavers of the NOJHL.
Even coach-of-the-year candidate Bill Warren was a mid-season addition a year ago, moving up to the Fighting Falcons from the Port Huron Northern high school program.
BACK IN THE SADDLE
Bryan Verreault, who has a long association with the NOJHL and who is a former assistant coach with the OHL Sudbury Wolves, figures to wind up in Blind River as coach and general manager of the Beavers.
Verreault had hoped to buy the Beavers, who are a community-owned team, but priorities with his employer, Bell Canada, will not allow for a purchase of the Blind River franchise, he said.
"I have pulled out of my intent of purchasing the team," Verreault told me in a phone interview from Sudbury. "My job with Bell Canada comes first and I have commitments with them that would make it difficult to be the owner, general manager and coach of the Blind River Beavers."
Verreault, though, told me that he has spoken with Beavers president Stuart Campbell about being GM and head coach.
Campbell, from his end, told me that the Beavers board of directors have indeed voted to offer Verreault the dual role of GM-coach.
"I would hope and expect this to be finalized sooner rather than later," said Campbell.
Verreault would replace the duo of Jim Capy and Jim Yardanoff atop the Beavers hockey department.
Campbell said that while the Beavers "do not have a for sale sign hanging on the door", he still believes private ownership is the way to go to try to ensure the future of the Blind River franchise.
"Right now, though, our priority is getting Bryan signed up to be our coach and GM and getting ready for next season," Campbell added.
The Beavers are coming off a 2011-12 season in which they won only 8 of 54 games, playoffs included.
Attendance also took a nosedive, though Campbell feels that having the Elliot Lake Bobcats join the NOJHL effective the 2012-13 "will be a great rivarly that will increase our attendance."
Blind River and Elliot Lake are less than 45 miles apart and the two towns have a long and historic rivalry dating back to the old days of the International Jr. B Hockey League.
As I was first to report on Elliot Lake joining the NOJHL and who will lead the Bobcats, former Sault Ste. Marie resident Ryan Leonard is the owner, general manager and coach of the team.
The 32-year old Leonard, who once played in the NOJHL with the Thunderbirds and who has been an assistant coach with Blind River, will have a staff that includes a definite Sault Ste. Marie flavour.
Chad Vresk is on board of vice president of hockey operations and NOJHL veteran Charly Murray will assist with scouting.