NOJHL West semifinal previews

SUDBURY, Ont. – Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League playoff action begins Thursday on three fronts, including two NOJHL West Division semifinal get togethers in a pair of best-of-seven affairs.

In the West, the No. 1 Blind River Beavers take on the No. 4 Espanola Paper Kings, while the No. 2 Greater Sudbury Cubs will meet the No. 3 Soo Thunderbirds.

Here’s a look at the two match-ups in the NOJHL West:

Photo credit: Helene Rancourt

NOJHL West Division semifinal
Blind River Beavers vs. Espanola Paper Kings
Best-of-seven series


Beavers: Kyle Brick
Paper Kings: Jason Rapcewicz


Beavers: 45-12-0-1 (1st NOJHL West/1st overall)
Paper Kings: 34-23-1-0 (4th NOJHL West/7th overall)

: The two clubs met four times during the course of the regular season with Blind River coming away victorious on each occasion, including registering a pair of shutouts.

In all, the Beavers outscored the Paper Kings by a 20-9 margin.


Oct. 7 @ Espanola: Beavers 3 Paper Kings 0
Oct. 28 @ Blind River: Beavers 6 Paper Kings 3
Jan. 14 @ Blind River: Beavers 2 Paper Kings 0
March 15 @ Espanola: Beavers 9 Paper Kings 6


Game 1: Thursday, March 21 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 2: Saturday, March 23 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 3: Sunday, March 24 @ Espanola 7 p.m. (Regional Recreation Complex)
Game 4: Tuesday, March 26 @ Espanola 7 p.m. (Regional Recreation Complex)
Game 5*: Thursday, March 28 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 6*: Friday, March 29 @ Espanola 7:30 p.m. (Regional Recreation Complex)
Game 7*: Sunday, March 31 @ Blind River 2 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
*-if necessary

THE BEAVERS: Capturing their initial league regular season title in franchise history, Blind River is the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. … Backstopping the Beavers is NOJHL rookie of the year, goaltender Noah Tegelaar. … He led all netminders in wins (27); goals-against average (2.02); save percentage (.928) and shutouts (6). … Boosting Blind River’s back-end is top defenceman award recipient Andrey Manov. … He averaged over a point-per-game and set personal single-season bests in goals (12); assists (50) and points (62). … Manov’s five game-winning goals led all league defencemen and he finished second in offensive production among rearguards. … Both were also named 1st NOJHL All-Stars. … 2nd Team selection Daniel Vasic was only held off the game sheet three times in 35 outings. … Beginning with points in each of his first 22 games of the campaign, the 17-year-old from Newmarket, Ont., went on to score 37 times and assist on 22 others. He tied for second overall with his six game-winning tallies. … The Lake Superior State, NCAA Division I commit, also had a league-high 10-game goal streak earlier. … League top defensive forward honouree Jakob Kovacs paced all NOJHL skaters in shorthanded goals, with six. … The veteran forward from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., also established single-season highs in goals (30); assists (35) and points (65). … Under NOJHL coach of the year Kyle Brick, his side went 45-12-0-1 overall. … Special teams work saw Blind River end-up fourth in power play proficiency (25.2%) and third on the penalty kill (85.2%). … They were second overall in shorthanded markers with 14. … The Beavers were also 40-3-0-1 when scoring first in a game and they only lost once when leading after two periods. … The Beavers only allowed a league-low 148 goals against.

Boasting plenty of firepower, Espanola boasted three of the NOJHL Top 5 point-getters. … Leading the way is league MVP Lucas Signoretti, who paced all skaters in goals, assists and points with 47, 70 and 117 respectively. … Signoretti’s overall point totals were the most in league play since the 2011-12 campaign. … The Paper Kings centre was twice named the NOJHL’s Forward of the Month; the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s (CJHL) 1st Star of the Month, Fuelled by Gatorade, for October, earned honourable mention for the same award in February and on three occasions was named one of the NOJHL’s Eastlink TV 3 Stars of the Week. … He wrapped up the regular season on a league-best 14-game assist streak, that also featured 14 tallies, Signoretti had 33 multi-point efforts, including 21 of which were three points, or more. … Another 100-plus-point-man was most improved player Owen Fergusson. … Fergusson tallied 41 times and helped set-up 69 others for 110 points. … His contributions saw him finish third in power play markers (15); come second in shorthanded goals (5) and tie for second in game-winning efforts (6). … 1sT Team All-Star on defence, Spencer Horgan led the Paper Kings from the back-end. … Horgan topped all league blueliners in scoring with 89 points in 53 games played. In all, the 19-year-old from Bowmanville, Ont., scored 29 times and helped set-up 60 others this season. …Twice a NOJHL Defenceman of the Month award recipient, Horgan boasted 27 multi-point efforts this season. … Espanola was fourth overall in goals scored with 271 and eighth in goals-allowed at 219. … Special teams saw the Paper Kings sit second in the NOJHL, converting at a rate of 26.7%. … On the P.K., they were fifth at 81.5%. … They led the league in shorthanded goals with 15.

Photo credit: Bob Davies

NOJHL West Division semifinal
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Greater Sudbury Cubs
Best-of-seven series


Cubs: Darryl Moxam
Thunderbirds: Cole Jarrett


Cubs: 43-12-1-2 (2nd NOJHL West/2nd overall)
Thunderbirds: 38-14-4-1 (3rd NOJHL West/4th overall)

HEAD-TO-HEAD: In their four meetings, it was the Thunderbirds who took the season set, three games to one. … Three of the contests were decided by just one goal, with the T-Birds holding the overall edge in goals by a 15-11 count.


Oct. 19 @ Sudbury: Thunderbirds 4 Cubs 3
Nov. 11 @ Soo: Thunderbirds 5 Cubs 2
Jan. 18: @ Sudbury: Cubs 4 Thunderbirds 3
Jan. 19 @ Soo: Thunderbirds 3 Cubs 2


Game 1: Thursday, March 21 @ Sudbury 7:05 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
Game 2: Friday, March 22 @ Sudbury 7:05 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
Game 3: Monday, March 25 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 4: Tuesday, March 26 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 5*: Thursday, March 28 @ Sudbury 7:05 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
Game 6*: Saturday, March 30 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 7*: Monday, April 1 @ Sudbury 7:05 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
*-if necessary

THE CUBS: Sporting the second-best overall record in the 12-team NOJHL, Greater Sudbury boasted a winning percentage of .767 while going 43-12-1-2 overall. … The Cubs feature plenty of veteran talent, with a nice mix of youthful skill. … NOJHL 1st Team All-Star Oliver Smith was second in the league in goals scored with 45, giving him 100 overall in his career, and finished third in scoring with 102 points. … Six of his markers were game-winners, which knotted him for second in the NOJHL in that department. Smith also had a 21-game point streak during the campaign. … 1st Team All-Rookie squad member Hudson Chitaroni led all first-year skaters in scoring, ending up tops in goals (31); assists (46) and points (77). … He finished sixth in league scoring. … They also boast two other skaters who had 60-plus points this season in forwards Samuel Assinewai and Nolan Newton. … They averaged 63 points between them and combined for 49 tallies. … A trio of veteran defencemen, in Josh Kavanagh, Chris Innes and Mason Chitaroni boost the Cubs back-end as does All-Rookie 1st Team blueliner Hudson Martin. … The foursome all had over 30 points apiece. … 3rd Team All-Star goaltender Noah Metivier goalkeeper went 24-9-0-1 overall. … His win total was second-best in the league with 14 of the starts made by the 20-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., seeing him allow two, or fewer goals, including a pair of shutouts. … Fellow goalkeeper Noah Beaulne was 18-3-1-1 with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. … Greater Sudbury led the NOJHL in goals scored with 285, with skaters notching 10, or more, markers. … Solid defensively as well, the Cubs gave up the third-fewest goals-against at 167. … Their 25.5% success rate on the power play ranked them third in the league. … The club was first overall in penalty kill proficiency at 85.9%.

THE THUNDERBIRDS: Knowing how to win, the Thunderbirds have won five NOJHL championships in the past 13 seasons. … Last year’s league finalist, Sault Ste. Marie went on a 12-1 run down the stretch and finished 39-14-4-1 overall. … 1st NOJHL All-Rookie Team forward Jacob Smith paced the Thunderbirds in scoring with 66 points in 58 games. … In all, Smith notched a team-best 29 goals and chipped in with 37 assists. … Veteran winger Jackson Truchan produced at well over a point-per-game clip with 60 in 36 outings, including 19 markers. … Also contributing offensively were Daniel Beaupre and Grayson Ebrahim, who supplied 58 and 56 points respectively. … Ebrahim topped the team in game-winning goals with six. … Veteran D-man Kaden Dundas, a 3rd Team All-Star has dressed in the third-most contests, since he joined the league, at 162. … Fourth in scoring among NOJHL defencemen this season, the 20-year-old Dundas had 45 points for his hometown squad in 46 appearances, scoring 10 times and assisting on 36 more. … 2nd Team rookie blueliners Declan Gallivan and Candon O’Neill both showed quality in their league debuts. … Gallivan averaged close to a point-per-game for the Thunderbirds with 36 in 39 appearances. … As for O’Neill, who earlier committed to attend Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., on NCAA Division I scholarship, provided 31 points in 39 appearances in his early days in the NOJHL. … Goaltender Kolton Bourret was solid in net for the T-Birds all season. … A 2nd Team All-Star, Bourret finished second in the league in goals-against average (2.28) and third in save percentage (.922). … His 22 victories were the third-most in the NOJHL and the Thunderbirds had a .741 winning percentage in his appearances. … The Soo finished fifth in the league on goals scored, with 265, while their 158 given up was the second lowest in the NOJHL. … A 24.3% success rate saw the T-Birds end up fifth overall in power play proficiency. … While shorthanded, the team finished second-best, handling their man-down chances at a 85.5% clip.

The winners of these two series will meet in the best-of-seven NOJHL West final.

All NOJHL playoff games will be streamed live, and on demand, via, the league’s official online broadcaster.

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