By Matt Stefano
For the second straight year, the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy was won on John Rhodes Community Centre ice in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
But this year, it wasn’t the Soo Thunderbirds who won it.
On Sunday night, the Timmins Rock clinched their first ever Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in the team’s eight year history, as they doubled up the defending NOJHL champion Soo Thunderbirds by a score of 4-2 in game 6 of the NOJHL final at the John Rhodes.
And for defenceman Kyle Trottier, it was in the same rink, but with a different team.
Last year, Kyle Trottier won the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy with the Soo Thunderbirds on John Rhodes ice in game 7 of the 2022 NOJHL final back on May 12.
But this year, he got to hoist it with his new team, the Timmins Rock.
“It feels incredible and there’s no real words to describe this feeling,” said former T-Bird defenceman Kyle Trottier, who had one assist for the Rock on Sunday night in game 6 of the NOJHL final. “Obviously being able to win the cup back-to-back years with two different teams is an incredible accomplishment and I’m just so happy for our team (The Rock), because we battled so hard this year and it just feels amazing to get the job done.”
Trottier, who was traded from the T-Birds to the Rock last September, also talked about what it was like to win the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy last year in his rookie season with the Soo.
“I remember when I was playing the Thunderbirds last year, we had a great leadership group and we had a willingness to never give up,” Trottier said. “Last year we did a great job battling back from being down three-games-to-none (In the 2022 NOJHL final) against Hearst, before coming back to win the NOJHL championship, and it feels amazing to win another one here this year with the Rock,”
“There’s no surprise that Trottier has two Copeland Cup McNamara Trophies in his first two NOJHL seasons,” added Timmins Rock head coach Brandon Perry. “Trottier is the ultimate warrior and he’s the ultimate competitor, and I can see why the Thunderbirds had success with him on their championship team last year. He’s just a super special player and he plays through a lot of stuff and takes a lot of beatings.”
On Sunday night, Rock captain Nicolas Pigeon had a big night offensively, as he scored the game-winning goal and set up another, giving him his fourth multi-point game of the playoffs.
With the Rock leading the T-Birds 2-0 with under five minutes to go in the second period, Pigeon notched his 5th goal of the playoffs at 15:14 (Of the second), which at that time gave the Rock a 3-0 lead.
Pigeon then drew and assist on an empty net goal by Nicolas Frederick with just 36 seconds to go in the third period, which made the score 4-2.
Pigeon’s assist, also turned out to be his 28th career playoff point, which set the new Rock record for most career playoff points by a Rock player, passing Derek Seguin (2017-2020), who held the previous record with 27.
“Pigeon is just a really, really special individual,“ Perry said. “I don’t know if there are words that I can find right now to describe what he means to us and our program. He’s just and exceptional young man and I’m super happy for all the success that he has had.”
Brady Harroun and Harry Clark had the other goals for the Rock on Sunday night while Lucas Piekarczyk chipped in with two assists.
Clark, who had one goal for the Rock on Sunday night, was also named the 2023 NOJHL Playoff MVP.
Kenyon Nyman and Liam Wells also got on the scoresheet for the Rock on Sunday night with one assist each.
Jackson Truchan and Michael Chaffay (Power play) had the goals for T-Birds while Tyler Boudreau, Wyatt Marlow, Brodie McConnell-Barker and Ranon Joseph all set up a goal each.
This year’s NOJHL final was a battle between the No. 1 seeded team in the East (Timmins Rock) and the No. 3 seeded team in the West (Soo Thunderbirds).
The Thunderbirds, who finished as the No. 3 seeded team in the NOJHL’s West Division, became the first No. 3 seeded team to make it all the way to the NOJHL final since the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners did back in 2016.
“Making it all the way to the NOJHL final as the No. 3 seeded team in the West is something that we can definitely be proud of,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett. “We’ve loved our last month and a half of hockey and we saw our players take their game to another level, but unfortunately we just came up short.”
This year, the T-Birds are going to be losing at least seven players due to graduation, including Noah Zeppa, Justin Mauro, Wyatt Marlow, Michael Chaffay, Dharan Cap, Youssef Chaouachi and captain Brock Santa Maria.
Two other players that have a chance to move up next season to the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds, are defenceman Brodie McConnell-Barker and goaltender Landon Miller.
“Right now we are going to be reflecting a bit on what we did this season, but there’s already lots of positive things that are happening for next season, and we will have something for our fans to look forward to when they come again to watch us play at the John Rhodes,” Jarrett said.
During the 2023 playoffs, T-Birds rookie forward Jackson Truchan led all NOJHL players in scoring with 21 points in 13 games.
Truchan, who was the top scorer in this year’s playoffs, is also eligible to come back to the T-Birds for one more season.
“J.T. was a force for us all year,” Jarrett said. “Him and Capper (Dharan Cap) spent the majority of the year playing on the same line and those guys always seemed to produce and come up big.”
During Sunday night’s game, T-Birds goaltender Landon Miller gave up 3 goals on 28 shots while Rock netminder Patrick Boivin made 26 saves on 28 shots.
Miller, who played in his 16th game of the playoffs on Sunday night, also set the new franchise record for most games played by a goaltender during a playoff season, passing Colin Ahern (2019) and Shane Bellini (2003), who both shared the previous record with 15.
“Milsy was awesome for us this season,” Jarrett said. “He’s such a pleasure to coach, he’s a great person to get to know and he was a real bright spot for us. He definitely has something special and he showed it all playoff long, and he was a huge reason why we made it all the way to the final.”
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)