CANADIAN JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release date: Wednesday, March 22, 2017
CJHL Spotlight: The NOJHL
CALGARY, Alta. – The 2016-17 regular season in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League has come to a close and they are now down to the final eight in postseason competition.
As is the case in most playoffs, there are some predictable results taking place along with a number of tightly-contested match-ups and the odd potential upset in the making.
The Powassan Voodoos soared to their first NOJHL regular season crown in franchise history this season by racking up 46 victories and 95 points.
After a first round bye, the top seeded Voodoos are up 3-0 in their best-of-seven series vs. the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in their third postseason get together in as many years with each side coming away winners once in the previous two playoff meetings.
Meanwhile the two-time defending league champion Soo Thunderbirds skated to their fourth straight West Division title posting 43 wins and 88 points, but are currently trailing the cross-border rival Soo Eagles 2-0 in that best-of-seven match-up heading into a pivotal Game 3 Wednesday night in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Other league divisional semifinal series has the Cochrane Crunch tied with the Timmins Rock at a game apiece in the NOJHL East while the upstart Blind River Rivers, who established a club-mark for triumphs in a season under league coach of the year Kyle Brick, are presently leading the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 2-1 in their West Division best-of-seven affair.
The Crunch and Rock play Game 4 tonight in Timmins while the Canadians will host the Beavers in Game 4 of that series Thursday evening at Chelmsford Arena.
NATIONALLY RANKED: The final 2016-17 Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 rankings saw two NOJHL clubs garner national recognition.
Powassan was tabbed ninth overall in the 132-team CJHL while the Soo Thunderbirds were slotted 14th.
SCORING LEADERS: Cochrane Crunch forward Braeden Cross paced the NOJHL in offensive production this season with 82 points in 54 games played.
In all, the Sechelt, B.C., product, who is in his final year of Jr. A hockey, tallied 37 times and doled out 45 assists along the way.
Yianni Liarakso of the Blind River Beavers and Shadow Reuben were next in NOJHL scoring with 78 points apiece.
Powassan first-year forward Andy Baker led the league in goals with 45 and was fourth in points with 75 while Alex Storjohann of Kirkland Lake was fifth in overall numbers with 73, including a NOJHL-best 53 assists.
TOP NETMINDERS: The Voodoos Nate McDonald had an impressive regular season in net.
His 30 wins were the most of any goaltender in the league while his 2.159 goals-against average was the lowest in the league.
The 17-year-old, who hails from North Bay, Ont., was also third in save percentage at .923 and finished tied for second in shutouts with three. His efforts saw him named the NOJHL’s most valuable player.
McDonald earlier represented the league at the CJHL Prospects Game and was one of the Team NOJHL goalkeepers at the Eastern Canada Cup Challenge showcase event, which were both held in Cornwall, Ont.
Aidan Doak’s 2.164 average was second in the league and the Blind River Beavers netminder led the league with a .940 save mark. Brandon Gordon had five shuts for the Soo Thunderbirds to pace the pack in that category.
COMMITMENTS: Nate McDonald’s tremendous season also saw him secure a NCAA Division I scholarship.
The Powassan goaltender has committed to attend school at Niagara University as well as play for the Purple Eagles out of the Atlantic Hockey conference in the fall.
Four other NOJHLers have also committed to NCAA programs to begin the 2017-18 campaign.
The Cochrane Crunch duo of Konnar Dechaine and Brandon McReynolds are off to Wisconsin-Stout and Wisconsin-Stevens Point respectively.
You also have Soo Eagles forward Bradley Hofelich set to attend the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while Cameron Anklewich of the Espanola Express will also play NCAA D-III at King’s College in Pennsylvania later this year.
ABOUT THE NOJHL
Commissioner: Robert Mazzuca
Statistician/Historian: David Harrison
Defending champion: Soo Thunderbirds
With files from NOJHL Statistician/Historian David Harrison
NOJHL STATS PACK
|Kirkland Lake Gold Miners||56||28||21||4||3||63|
|Iroquois Falls Eskis||56||16||36||4||0||36|
|French River Rapids||56||3||51||1||1||8|
|Blind River Beavers||56||32||20||4||0||68|
|Elliot Lake Wildcats||56||23||26||4||3||53|
|FINAL SCORING LEADERS|
|Yianni Liarakos||F||Blind River||54||39||39||78|
|Shadow Reuben||F||Iroquois Falls||55||33||45||78|
|Alex Storjohann||F||Kirkland Lake||46||20||53||73|
|Kevin Ford||F||Kirkland Lake||56||36||34||70|
|Matthew Caruso||F||Soo Thunderbirds||54||29||41||70|
|Tyler Fyfe||F||Kirkland Lake||56||28||40||68|
|Aidan Doak||Blind River||21||12||7||0||3||2.16||0.94|
|Doug Newhouse||Soo T-Birds||19||16||1||1||3||2.26||0.915|
|Brandon Gordon||Soo T-Birds||38||26||10||0||5||2.44||0.907|