The holidays provide not only a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends, but also the opportunity to catch up on some of the local hockey talent strutting their stuff away from home.
Few from the area are likely further away than former Sudbury Lady Wolves' defenceman Corie Jacobson. The Warren native, finishing her final year of midget eligibility with the North Bay Ice Boltz, cracked the roster of the Canadian U18 women's team in the fall.
Already committed to attending Clarkson University in September of 2013, Jacobson and her teammates are competing at the 2013 IIHF World Women's Under-18 Championships in Finland, opening play on Dec. 29 against Hungary.
Jacobson played with the Lady Wolves at both the peewee and bantam levels, before opting to join head coach Darren Turcotte and the North Bay crew two years ago. The gold-medal game for the U18 tournament is slated for Jan. 5, with Canada having captured the championship in two of the past three years.
Former Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves' captain Joey Derochie is back with the Queen's Golden Gaels for a fourth season of OUA hockey. Back from an early season injury, Derochie has recorded six points in nine games, giving the 5-10 forward a total of 61 points since moving to Kingston.
Fellow Sudbury GNML alumni Vern Cooper has picked up 15 points in 17 games in his first year with the Nipissing Lakers while Valley East forward Jamie Haines has made the jump from the NOJHL to the OUA, registering six points, so far, with the Ryerson Rams.
One-time Wolves draft pick and former Valley East Cobras' blue-liner Elliott Richardson has kicked off his university career with the Windsor Lancers, garnering three assists in his first 13 games in the league.
A quick glance at the list of OUA leading scorers provides a few more tidbits for local OHL fans as 2006 draftee Justin Larson sits fifth with 24 points, Sault Ste Marie native Matt Caria is 13th with 20 points and Jesse Messier continues to enjoy his recovery from a near career-ending injury suffered in Sudbury, cracking the top 20 with 19 points at York University.
On the girls' side of OUA action, Lively native Kayla Brown has recovered from an early season adjustment to the university ranks, currently leading all rookie netminders with goals-against average of 1.86 in six games with the Laurier Golden Hawks.
Teaming with sophomore Erika Thunder of Manitoba, Brown has helped backstop the first-place Hawks to a record of 14-1-2, one point ahead of Queen's and two up on Guelph. The Laurier roster also features national-calibre ringette star Erika Kiviaho from Lively, as well as one-time Sudbury Lady Wolves' defenceman Arla Biron.
Espanola defenceman Rebecca Bond has netted the first two goals of her OUA career at York University over the past few months, breaking a three-year scoreless streak that spanned more than 70 games.
The Laurentian Voyageurs women's team will join the fray next September, likely featuring a handful of local talent on the roster as new head coach Stacey Colarossi gradually assembles a lineup that she hopes will be competitive.
With a Telus Cup championship already on his resume, Copper Cliff puckstopper Chris McDougall is looking to add a Sutherland Cup to the mix, helping the Welland Canadians to remain among the league-leaders of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Now 20 years of age, McDougall boasts the league's second-lowest goals-against average at 2.26, accompanied by a sparkling .930 save percentage. Joining McDougall in Welland is Jason Lacroix, the Hearst forward who suited up with the Sudbury Jr Wolves last year, seeing action in a handful of OHL games in the Nickel City as well.
A reunion of former Nickel City Sons continues with the Cambridge Winterhawks. Cody Gratton leads the team in scoring with 39 points, while Alex Bottigoni, now seeing more time on the blue-line than up front due to injuries on the team, racked up 15 points in 30 games.
Defenceman Anthony Guido is back for a second season in Cambridge (7 points in 30 games) while Jacob Bonin has bounced back from a pair of serious injuries, chalking up 11 points in 16 games with the Waterloo Siskins.
Finally, with the NHL lockout continuing into the New Year, the American Hockey League enjoys an influx of NHL-ready hockey talent — not that this has stopped a handful of former local connections from enjoying success.
OHL scoring leader one year ago, Michael Sgarbossa is right back at it in the pros, leading the Lake Erie Monsters with 27 points in 30 games, good for 13th place in the AHL scoring race.
Marcus Foligno (24 points in 27 games), one-time Wolves draft pick Brandon Pirri (22 points in 30 games) and league-leading scorer Jordan Eberle (40 points) were just a few of the others that caught our eye.