Junior hockey: Thunder add a pair of blueliners

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The Twin City Thunder signed a pair of former Junior Bruins defensemen this week.

Hunter Stewart played this past season with the Missoula Junior Bruins of the NA3HL, while Nick Malik played for the Boston Junior Bruins’ U18 USPHL team.

“They are both coming with experience,” Thunder coach Doug Friedman said. “Hunter is coming out from a tough league in Missoula. He’s a pretty steady, hardworking defenseman. He should provide leadership. I think Nick is coming from a strong U18 (midget) team here in Boston. I’ve seen him in person, and he’s a strong skater, a smart, edgy, play-making defenseman. He should play an important role on our special teams.”

Stewart, who will turn 20 right before the season, is a 6-foot, 183-pound defenseman from Rapid City, South Dakota. In his first season of junior hockey he had a goal and two assists in 40 games played.

The previous four seasons prior to his time in Missoula he played high school hockey in South Dakota.

Malik, who is entering his 19-year-old season, is a 5-foot-10, 181-pound defender. The Fort Myers, Florida, native spent three seasons in the Boston area, including the past two when he played with the Boston Junior Bruins organization. He tallied a goal and six assists in 21 games in 2017-18.

Malik spent the 2015-16 season with the Boston Bandits U16 team.

Earlier this summer, he attended the Springfield (Missouri) Junior Blues’ (North American Hockey League) tryout camp. Tyler Rennette, Springfield’s coach, was Friedman’s teammate with the Worcester Icecats of the American Hockey League during the 2000-01 season.

“I’ve got good reports from there,” Friedman said. “(Rennette) was really happy with him, but he’s just not there right now. The reality is he’s still young, right? (He’s) a ’99 (birth year) and potentially has two years left (of junior eligibility). A lot of these guys are close to that next level, just like they are close to college. They just need a little bit more time and a little more development.”

The Thunder have already signed several defensemen for their inaugural season, but Friedman expects to bring in a few more before the start of training camp.

“This puts us at six defensemen,” Friedman said. “Ideally, we will be in the seven or eight range. There will be guys that may get injuries or may have some ruts in their game, you know? We will have to have some guys that can step in and play. We are still on the lookout for one or two guys.

“This time of year, things are sort of shaking out from other leagues,” he said. “Our phones are starting to ring a bit, too, with our contacts, in terms of guys who didn’t make a North American (Hockey) League team, for example, and are now looking for a place to play.”

The other defensemen the Thunder have signed this spring and summer are David Martinek, Erik Throndson, Rease Hubert and Matt Jolicoeur.

Looking for billets

The Twin City Thunder are still looking for host families around Lewiston and Auburn for the upcoming season. Billet families will receive a monthly stipend. The player(s) will need a room of their own, or can share with a team member. They will need a bed, bureau and closet space.

For more information about hosting a player, visit https://www.twincitythunder.com/billets, or contact owner Dan Hodge at [email protected]

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