AUBURN — Last season the Twin City Thunder had players from Belarus, Mexico, Hungary, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden and Ukraine along with kids from the United States and Canada all play for the Tier II National Collegiate Development Conference team.

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it looks like the 2020-21 roster won’t have that international flavor, but trying out at main camp this week are two kids from Japan including one with local ties in defenseman Daisuke Egusa, who played for the L/A Nordiques last season.

Daisuke Egusa takes the puck towards the goal during a Thunder Camp game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn on Saturday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The other is forward Seiya Kudoh, who last played with the Somang Hockey U18 program in Terrebonne, Quebec.

Japan is a developing hockey nation but other than two seasons ago, when Egusa was also a part of the Somang program, the two haven’t really played with each other. Egusa is from Sendal, a 90-minute ride on a bullet train to Tokyo, while Kudoh is from Tokyo.

“We did not know each other at all,” Egusa said. “We have an All-Japan tournament once a year and basically we would go up against each other right there. We (met) up together in Canada.”

How do two Japanese players end up in Quebec?

Well, Japan sends a team to the famed Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament in Quebec City and Somang had teams from the 12U level to junior hockey. Michael Bujold, who has worked at the Somang Group — a translation and consulting company based in South Korea and Canada — since 1999, became President of Somang Hockey in 2012. Young Ki You, the Co-President of Somang Hockey, helped recruit Japanese hockey players to Quebec.

Egusa did not play in the pee-wee tournament growing up, but was told the Somang program was a good place to continue to develop.

Kudoh lit it up for the Japanese Select team during the 2015 tournament, with six goals and three assists.

Seiya Kudoh brings the puck back around for another attempt at the goal during a Thunder Camp game at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn on Saturday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Egusa believes his time with the L/A Nordiques last season has prepared him for the tryouts with the Thunder.

“I played with a couple of guys who will play in the NAHL this year,” Egusa said. “It was definitely a great experience last year and I hope I can show my skill with the Thunder.”

L/A Nordiques leading scorer Joe Clark (50 goals, 34 assists) was drafted by the Janesville Jets in the fourth round of the NAHL Draft this summer. Sam Frechette signed a tender with the Maine Nordiques for the upcoming season and just recently took part in their main camp.

Egusa, who describes himself as a two-way defenseman, had eight goals and 21 assists in 46 games in his lone season with the Nordiques. The L/A Nordiques ceased operations with the addition of the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy this season.

Kudoh’s full stats for Somang 18U team weren’t fully available. He had two goals in six United States Premier Hockey League 18U games. The team also plays in the United Tier 1 Hockey League.

They each had similar starts in hockey.

“My grandfather was playing hockey. He wanted me to play hockey,” Kudoh said. “He taught me how to skate, everything, how to shoot.”

Egusa was also taught the game by his grandfather, who played the sport.

Even though Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world, there weren’t that many rinks around for Kudoh growing up.

“There are five rinks in Tokyo,” Kudoh said. “(It was) different than in Canada.”

Terrebonne is a suburb of Montreal, and according to arena-guide.com there are 115 rinks in the greater Montreal area.

Growing up it was tough for Kudoh to find competition.

“There were not enough players. There’s only like 100 players in Tokyo,” Kudoh said. “That’s the problem.”

When he had the opportunity to go to North America, there wasn’t any question that it was the right decision, as he had the support of his family.

“My parents pushed me to do this,” Kudoh said.


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