After slamming home an overtime winner in Game 4 of the Haliburton County Huskies first-round playoff series against the Toronto Patriots last month, 18-yearold defenceman Josh Sordo felt like he was on top of the world.

“I just remember lots of screaming and pats on the back. I ended up at the bottom of a huge pileup on the ice, it was crazy,” Sordo told The Highlander. “I don’t think I’d ever felt what I felt watching the puck go in before ever in my life.”

That tally was a major turning point in the series, which the Huskies went on to win 4-1. While the team ultimately dropped out of playoff contention last week following a 4-0 series sweep by the Wellington Dukes, Sordo said that’s a memory he’ll cling onto for the rest of his life.

The youngster only managed a few minutes of ice time against Wellington before a concussion ended his season. While disappointment drips off his every word, Sordo said he feels fortunate to have found such a welcoming home in Haliburton County.

Growing up in Ancaster, ON, Sordo was considered something of a blue-chip prospect while playing minor hockey. He finally landed with the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs AAA team as a teenager, playing three seasons with the organization.

It was fitting then when he was drafted by his hometown club in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection.

“I was getting my COVID shot when I got the call – so I sat there, waiting to leave so I could tell people. That was one of the toughest 15 minutes of my life,” he said, with a laugh. “It was such a surreal moment. It felt like the culmination of years of work.”

Sordo attended training camp with the team last summer but found himself behind some big names on the Bulldogs blueline. He was getting ready to return to the Brantford 99ers, where he played 51 games in 2021/22, when his coach called to say there was significant interest elsewhere. All it took was a phone call from Huskies bench manager, Ryan Ramsay, to turn his attentions north.

After playing in 50 regular season games, posting 18 points, Sordo broke out for three points in five games during playoffs. He said he channeled features of St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas’ game, who billeted with the Sordos for the second half of the 2017/18 OHL season.

“He used to say that he’d drown out all the noise and not let himself be taken out of the game, out of the moment, by anyone or anything… He always knew what to do,” Sordo said. “He was just such a professional, even at that young of an age. He’s someone I look up to, for sure.”

Sordo isn’t sure what next season has in store, but said he’d be open to a Highlands return.

“I had such a great time here. I was blown away the minute I stepped through the door – it’s the best program, facilities in the OJHL,” he said. “I’m going to go away, work hard during the summer and see where that puts me. Wherever I end up playing, I want to make the most of it.”

Blueliner Josh Sordo appeared in 50 games for the Huskies this season.