By Matt Stefano
The regular season is now over!
And now the road to the Centennial Cup officially begins!
After hitting the 30-win plateau for the thirteenth consecutive season and finishing in third place in the West Division with 67 points, the Soo Thunderbirds have gotten a bye into the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series, where they will take on the the second place Blind River Beavers.
The Thunderbirds finished in third place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings with a record of 30 wins, 19 losses, 3 overtime losses and 4 shootout losses while the Beavers finished in second place with a record of 37 wins, 15 losses, 1 overtime loss and 3 shootout losses, good for 78 points.
HEAD TO HEAD
In eight meetings against the Beavers this season, the Thunderbirds had a record of 4 wins, 3 losses and 1 overtime loss.
They have also outscored the Beavers 30-26 overall.
Thunderbirds leading scorer Jake Kovacs led the way offensively in the regular season series against the Beavers this season, scoring 5 times and setting up 4 others, good for 9 points.
WINNING IN THE DAM
When it comes to playing on home ice, the Beavers have had no problems getting the victories at the Blind River Community Centre.
The Beavers, who had 21 wins on home ice this season, set a new franchise record for most wins at home during a regular season, breaking their previous record from 2016-2017 when they finished off with 20.
MAN IN THE BOX
He led the league in penalty minutes in the 2018-2019 season, but he also did it again in 2019-2020.
Blind River Beavers defenceman Nathan Balkwill led all NOJHL players in penalty minutes during the 2019-2020 regular season with 114.
Balkwill, who led the NOJHL in penalty minutes for the second consecutive season, became the first player to lead the league in penalty minutes in back to back seasons since Brett Dusick (Sudbury Junior Wolves/Manitoulin Islanders/Sudbury Cubs) did back in 2010-2011 & 2011-2012.
This season, the Blind River Beavers have led the NOJHL in penalty minutes with 851.
The 2019-2020 regular season was a memorable one for Blind River Beavers captain Caleb Serre.
The Blind River, Ontario native led the NOJHL in scoring this season with 47 goals and 113 points in 55 games.
He also became just the second player in Beavers history finish first in league scoring, joining Thomas Laplante (2005).
Serre, who is in his fourth and final season in the NOJHL, became the Beavers all-time leader in goals (117), assists (152), points (269) and games played (210).
This season, the fourth year forward also set some single season records for the Beavers, including most goals (47), most assists (66) and most points (113).
They may have not finished in first place this season, but they still finished off with their best record in franchise history.
The Blind River Beavers, who finished off this season with 37 victories, set a new franchise record for most wins in a regular season.
Their previous record was 33 back in the 2017-2018 season.
Their 78 points also set a new team record for most points during a regular season, breaking their previous record from 2007-2008 when they had 74.
HE’S GOT THE POWER
This season, Beavers captain Caleb Serre led the NOJHL in power play goals with 17 and power play assists with 26.
His 17 power play goals this season also set the new Beavers record for most power play goals by a player in a regular season, surpassing Yianni Liarakos (2017), who had 14.
This season, Blind River Beavers rookie defenceman Jake Behnen was the only rookie defenceman in the NOJHL to score a shorthanded goal.
YOUNG FOR 28
This season, Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Warner Young led all NOJHL rookie defencemen in assists with 28.
Young’s 28 assists this season, tied the Thunderbirds record for most assists by a rookie defenceman in a regular season, joining Barnabas Birkeland (2003) and Steven Bellini (2018).
This season, Thunderbirds rookie forward and Soo Greyhounds 2019 eleventh round pick Tyler Savard led all NOJHL rookies in overtime goals with 2.
Savard, who had 2 overtime goals this season, tied the Thunderbirds record for most overtime goals by a player in a regular season, joining Jeff Rainville (2003), Jerry Petingalo (2011), Geoff Gieni (2011) and Eric Hillock (2014).
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
The Thunderbirds will officially kick off their semifinal series against the Beavers on Thursday, March 12th at 7:00 p.m. in Blind River.
The full schedule can be viewed right here: https://www.soothunderbirds.com/stats/schedule/5
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)