NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release Date: Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013
NOJHL SPOTLIGHT: Sudbury’s Punkari recalls CJHL Prospects Games success
SUDBURY – Two weeks have passed since those representing the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League at the Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects games in Nova Scotia achieved tremendous success.
One those selected to attend to suit up for the Team East roster that was compiled the CJHL in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting was Sudbury Nickel Barons forward Ryan Punkari.
The 17-year-old Lively, Ont., product, who scored in each contest, including the game-winner to help his Team East mates take the opener 4-2 and the get his side on the board first in the finale, took time to reflect on his experiences prior to a Saturday evening home game vs. the Abitibi Eskimos.
Punkari marvelled when describing the experience and atmosphere of playing in the CJHL Prospects games.
“It was an amazing experience playing there,” he offered. “I had the opportunity to play with and against a lot of unreal hockey players and see where I fit in. I also got to see where I need to be if I want to move forward in hockey.”
The opportunity granted him in participating in the high-profile event also left him in awe.
“The atmosphere playing there was like nothing I’ve experienced before. We were treated like gold all weekend long by the coaches and the volunteers. There were kids asking for autographs and I thought it was pretty cool playing in front of large crowds of people as opposed to the smaller crowds we get in our league.”
While just competing was an experience in itself, contributing offensively was in both games was an added bonus for the Nickel Barons forward, who is currently averaging nearly a point-per-game with Sudbury so far this season.
“The goals were a team effort and I was just lucky enough to be there to finish of the play,” he stated modestly. “I was playing with two great players on a line with me that have already committed to NCAA Division I schools, so that helped me out having skilled wingers to play with.”
Seeing each of the NOJHLers play pivotal roles in seeing his side capture the President’s Cup title 8-4 in the two-game, total-goal series was also something not lost on Punkari.
“It was unbelievable to see the NOJHL players have such an impact in the two games. Horodziejczyk was phenomenal between the pipes as he was one of the big reasons we won that second game. Roberge too held his own out there as well with three assists on big goals that we needed.”
When taking some of the top talent from across the 128-team, 10-league CJHL it’s expected that the proficiency of those taking part would certainly increase.
“The skill level was pretty crazy, said Punkari. “Every single player on both teams was capable of working the puck down low and skating end-to-end. It was an eye opener for me because I’m more used to a dump and chase style of play in the NOJHL and I had to adjust quickly to keep up to the play. In the Prospects games, if you stopped moving your feet, you were in trouble.”
With the spotlight on being on the national stage behind him the Sudbury standout has now shifted him focus on what lies ahead.
“Right now my goals for the rest of the season are to be as much help to the Barons as I can be and help our team get on the winning track, Punkari provided. “My future goals are to keep playing hockey at the highest level I can, and hopefully get my schooling paid for either committing to a NCAA school or maybe even an OHL team.
Then one day when he looks back on his CJHL Prospects experience he’ll know those who represented his league at the two-day event certainly showed they deserved to be there.
“I think we earned a little more respect for the NOJHL with our performances.”