NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release Date: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014
NOJHL Notebook: Plenty to be decided in the standings
SUDBURY – Heading into the final few weeks of the regular season in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, much is yet to be decided in terms of which teams will meet in the first round of the playoffs as well as where each of the eight member clubs will finish in the overall standings.
TIGHT AT THE TOP: Friday’s final regular season match-up between the Soo Thunderbirds and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex could very well go a long way in determining who will finish in first place and secure the No. 1 seed in the postseason.
Currently the Thunderbirds, who are the top ranked side in the 128-team Canadian Junior Hockey League, hold the upper hand on the Gold Miners as they are up by six points with Kirkland Lake holding a game in hand.
The T-Birds magic number to clinch the regular season title is nine meaning any points gained by Sault Ste. Marie or lost points by the Gold Miners totally nine will give the Thunderbirds the crown.
Each team is guaranteed to finish no lower than second in the standings, which gives them home ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs should they both win their respective quarter-final series.
JUST AS CLOSE: It’s also another tight race to see which other two NOJHL clubs will lock down home ice in the opening round of the postseason.
At the moment the Abitibi Eskimos are in third spot with 59 points and that is four more than Espanola in fourth, but the Rivermen also hold three games in hand on the Eskis.
Abitibi also hosts Espanola March 1 in the last regular season head-to-head meeting between the two sides at Jus Jordan Arena.
The Elliot Lake Bobcats also remain in contention for home ice in round one, but will need to go on a roll as they are seven points behind the Rivermen and nine down on the Eskimos.
Of the Bobcats seven remaining regular season contests, five are against teams that are lower than them in the standings. They also have one game apiece vs. league-leading Sault Ste. Marie and second place Kirkland Lake.
EVEN CLOSER: While the Sudbury Nickel Barons and North Bay Trappers have an outside chance at catching Elliot Lake for fifth it appears their battle will be with each other for sixth overall.
Sudbury is three points clear of North Bay with the Trappers holding a pair of games in hand on the Nickel Barons.
They have also concluded the head-to-head meeting this season with Sudbury taking six of the eight encounters.
Six of those eight games were decided by one goal however, including three in overtime.
TOUGH CHOICE: All but assured to finish eighth overall are the Blind River Beavers, who know either the Thunderbirds or Gold Miners await them in the upcoming first round best-of-seven playoff series.
They were 0-7-0-1 vs. the Sault and were outscored 46-13 and have gone 0-7 so far against Kirkland Lake having scored 10 times while giving up 43.
THIS WEEK: The schedule this week got underway Tuesday night in Iroquois Falls with the Abitibi Eskimos riding the three-goal, two-assist performance of Erik Robichaud to blast the North Bay Trappers 8-1 at Jus Jordan Arena.
League play resumes tonight as Sudbury hosts Blind River in a 7:30 p.m. start at McClelland Arena.
Three more 7:30 p.m. tilts go Friday including the Thunderbirds on the road to take on the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake.
The other two contests feature Blind River at Espanola and North Bay visiting Elliot Lake.
Saturday sees a pair of match-ups on the docket as Abitibi entertains Sault Ste. Marie while the Nickel Barons will take on the Beavers at the Blind River Community Centre. Face-off in each affair is 7:30 p.m.
A couple of Sunday matinees will conclude weekly action with Espanola heading to Blind River at 2 p.m. and the Thunderbirds will take on the Trappers at 3:30 p.m. in a game that will be played at Rodden Arena in Mattawa.
EIGHT ARE GREAT: Taking a look at one player off each of the eight NOJHL teams that have made a difference on their respective clubs.
ABITIBI ESKIMOS – SYLVAIN MORIN (G): The Eskimos netminder has been solid so far this month helping Abitibi pick up nine out of 10 points in five starts going 4-0-0-1 along the way.
Miron has a 1.99 goals-against average in that span along with an equally solid .933 save percentage.
BLIND RIVER BEAVERS – SCOTT MARSHALL (D) – Skating for his hometown Blind River side the 19-year-old Marshall is on the verge of setting a new personal single-season high in points as he is among the top 10 in offensive production for defencemen.
He just requires one more goal or an assist to match the 26 he had last season.
His 18 helpers are already a career high and two more tallies will match the nine he scored in each of his first two campaigns with the Beavers.
ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS – BRETT WAGNER (F): Despite being held off the score sheet in his past four outings, Wagner remains the runaway point producer for the Bobcats.
With 68 in 49 games, the Elliot Lake forward, who is in his final season of Jr. hockey, sits fifth in NOJHL scoring.
Wagner also leads all league shooters in shorthanded tallies with nine and sits second in game-winning markers with seven.
ESPANOLA RIVERMEN – BRENNEN DUBCHAK (F): Of the 46 games he has competed in this season Dubchak has only been held pointless in eight of them with the Rivermen only going 2-6 in those contests.
Among his season highlights to date was a league-high 27-game point streak where he amassed 50 of the 73 points he has registered so far in the 2013-14 campaign.
The veteran forward is fourth in league point totals, is third in goal and assists with 32 and 41 respectively. He also shares third in power play markers with 11 and tied for third overall in shorthanded efforts with four.
KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS – SAMUEL WILBUR (F): Perhaps no skater in the NOJHL is as hot at the moment that the Gold Miners’ Wilbur.
He is currently riding a 12-game point streak and has moved into a tied for the league lead in scoring with 78 points.
Wilbur has 33 points during his streak and now leads the NOJHL in power play goals with 16.
NORTH BAY TRAPPERS EVAN CORMIER (G): Even with suffering the loss in a setback at Abitibi Tuesday evening Cormier has still had a solid rookie season.
The younger player in the league is fourth among all goaltenders in save percentage at .913 while facing the most shots against at 1,121. On average he has had over 36 shots per appearance fired his way in games.
The 16-year-old Cormier, who does turn 17 until November has also played the third most minutes of any netminder at just under 1,680.
JOEL HORODZIEJCZYK – SOO THUNDERBIRDS (G): No goaltender in all of the Canadian Junior Hockey League, let alone the NOJHL, has been as solid all season long as the Thunderbirds’ Horodziejczyk.
Last year’s rookie of the year has won his last 24 starts in net for Sault Ste. Marie and has not suffered a loss in regular season action since Sept. 27.
He also leads all stoppers in wins, (27), goals-against average (1.70) and save percentage. (.930)
SUDBURY NICKEL BARONS – KHADYN BUTTERFLY (D): Nickel Barons blueliner Khadyn Butterfly has put up some solid numbers in helping bolster the Sudbury defensive corps.
His 10 tallies are the second most of any D-man in the league so far this season trailing only Kirkland Lake’s Ethan Strong’s 11.
Meanwhile his 28 total points tie him for the third most of any rearguard in the NOJHL.
PLAYOFF TIMELINE: The dates of which each NOJHL playoff series will be contested between.
1 vs. 8
2 vs. 7
3 vs. 6
4 vs. 5
March 28-April 9
Highest remaining seed vs. Lowest remaining seed
2nd seed vs. 3rd seed
Best-of-seven series for the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy
Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A Championship
April 29 – May 3
Wellington Dukes (Host – OJHL)
RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A Championship
Dudley-Hewitt Cup champion
Fred Page Cup champion
Western Canada Cup champion
Western Canada Cup finalist
Vernon Vipers (Host – BCHL)
NOJHL ON FASTHOCKEY: Each and every NOJHL game this season is available online on a pay-per-view basis via FASTHockey.
Fans can view the games through the FASTHockey link on the league website at www.nojhl.com.
ABITIBI ESKIMOS – Abitibi has the fewest regular season games remaining of any team in the league at five. Four of those however will be on home ice. … Abitibi is fifth overall in the league in power play proficiency at 17.4% and are seventh on the penalty kill at 78.4%. …Brady Clouthier’s nine game-winning goals are the most in the league. … He also leads the team offensively with 66 points and sits in the top 10 in league scoring. … Goaltender Sylvain Miron has gone 4-0-0-1 in his past five starts.
BLIND RIVER BEAVERS – Blind River has a league-high nine games left before the playoffs including a road contest at Sudbury tonight. …The Beavers are eighth overall in both the power play and penalty kill at 12.6% and 73.4% respectively. … Tyson MacLeod tops the team offensively with 32 followed by defenceman Scott Marshall. … It’s almost assured they will play Sault Ste. Marie or Kirkland Lake in the opening round of the postseason.
ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS – The Bobcats have struggled as of late going 2-7-0-1 in their past 10. … Elliot Lake has seven regular season games remaining of which three are at home on Centennial Arena ice. … The squad has slipped to seventh best in the league while on the power play at 14.2%. They have however improved to fourth on the penalty kill at 82.2%. … Brett Wagner leads the team offensively and is fifth overall in the NOJHL in scoring with 68 points. … Wagner also leads the league in shorthanded markers with nine. He is also second in game-winners with seven.
ESPANOLA RIVERMEN – The Rivermen trail third place Abitibi by four points, but hold three games in hand on the Eskimos. … Espanola has eight contests left before the playoffs. … Forward Brennen Dubchak sits in the top five in nearly offensive category in the league. …The club is third in the NOJHL in power play success at 20.2%. … The Rivermen are fifth overall on the P.K. at 80.8%. … 13 different skaters on the team have scored game-winning goals this season. … Espanola has only lost once in overtime to date, which is the lowest total in the league.
KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS – Special teams have been stellar for the Gold Miners this season as they top the league in power play proficiency and penalty kill prowess at 26.8% and 90.5% respectively. …Kirkland Lake has seven games left before hitting the playoffs, including a big game at home vs. first place Sault Ste. Marie Friday night at The Joe. … Netminder Jeremy Pominville leads all NOJHL goaltenders in shutouts with four. … Samuel Wilbur has reeled off points in 12 straight contests. … Wilbur is tied for the league scoring lead with 78 points. He is also leads the way in man advantage efforts with 16. … The Gold Miners were ranked 13th in the latest CJHL top 20 rankings and entered play this week fifth overall in CJHL winning percentage at .837.
NORTH BAY TRAPPERS – North Bay has eight games remaining in regular season play. They have four on the road and have two scheduled in nearby Mattawa Sunday afternoon and Monday night. … The Trappers trail Sudbury by three points in the race for sixth overall in the standings, but hold two games in hand on the Nickel Barons. … Ryan Demyen leads the squad offensively averaging just over a point-per-game with 48 in 46 outings. …Rookie goalkeeper Evan Cormier is fourth in the league in save percentage at .913. … North Bay is third overall on the penalty kill at 82.7%, but just sixth on the power play at 16.5%.
SOO THUNDERBIRDS – The Thunderbirds are the top ranked team in the CJHL for the third straight week. … Despite having a 25-game winning streak snapped by Kirkland Lake on Sunday, Sault Ste. Marie has posted a 38-3-0-2 record since the end of September. … They are one of six CJHL squads with 40 or more wins to date. …The T-Birds are second in the league on the power play at 20.7%. They are also second on the P.K. at 86.1%. … Their magic number to clinch the regular season title sits at nine. … Gavin Burbach paces all skaters in the league in tallies with 42. He is also tied for the league point lead with 78. …Joel Horodziejczyk has won his last 24 starts and tops all NOJHL netminders in goals-against average and save percentage. …The Thunderbirds have six games remaining. … They lead the league in goals scored with 215 and has given up the fewest at just 91 against.
SUDBURY NICKEL BARONS – The Nickel Barons will look to extend their lead to six points over North Bay in the battle for sixth place in the standings tonight as they host Blind River at McClelland Arena. …Sudbury has moved to fourth overall in the league on the power play at 18%. … They sit sixth on the penalty kill at 80.2%. … August Jarecki’s 37 points lead the team. … Defenceman Khadyn Butterfly’s 10 goals are the second most among any blueliner in the NOJHL. … Goaltender Andrew Lefevbre has won his past two starts for the Nickel Barons.