NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release Date: Saturday, April 12, 2014
Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy NOJHL final preview
SUDBURY – The quest for the NOJHL championship and Copeland Cup – McNamara trophy between the Soo Thunderbirds and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners begins Saturday evening at Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie with game No. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
The following in a preview on this best-of-seven set between the two sides:
NOJHL final for the Copeland Cup-McNamara Trophy
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Kirkland Lake Gold Miners
Game 1: Saturday, April 12 @ Soo 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 2: Sunday, April 13 @ Soo 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 3: Thursday, April 17 @ Kirkland Lake 7:30 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac C.C.)
Game 4: Friday, April 18 @ Kirkland Lake 7:30 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac C.C.)
Game 5*: Sunday, April 20 @ Soo 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 6*: Tuesday, April 22 @ Kirkland Lake 7:30 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac C.C.)
Game 7*: Thursday, April 24 @ Soo 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
* – if necessary
NOTHING NEW: Being in the NOJHL finals is nothing new for the Thunderbirds as they are in their third straight league championship series as well as their fourth in five years.
As for the Gold Miners, they are making their first appearance in the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy final.
THE TEAMS: Both clubs have been nearly flawless in advancing to the finals with the Thunderbirds reeling off eight straight wins after dropping their playoff opener as they knocked off Blind River in five outings before handling Abitibi in the minimum four outings required.
The Gold Miners have been spotless posting back-to-back sweeps in the postseason disposing North Bay in quarter-final action before dumping Espanola in four straight games in semifinal play.
In regular season play the Thunderbirds finished first overall in the NOJHL standings while the Gold Miners finished second.
Sault Ste. Marie was the top ranked squad in the entire 128-team Canadian Junior Hockey League while Kirkland Lake was 13th.
THE SKATERS: Offensively the T-Birds have been led in the playoffs by rookie defenceman Owen Headrick who has a team-high 11 points to pace the squad. His totals also top all D-men in the NOJHL.
Talented forward Darcy Haines is next with 10 points followed by Anthony Miller with nine.
Kirkland Lake has been headed by Samuel Wilbur and Steven Babin as the duo has amassed 11 points apiece.
Damon MacEachern and Austin Rust have also contributed supplying nine points each.
THE GOALTENDERS: In net the two NOJHL finalists feature the top two goaltenders statistically in the league playoffs to date.
The Gold Miners Jeremy Pominville has been stellar going 7-0 so far while posting a NOJHL-best 1.43 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.
Sault Ste. Marie rookie stopper Brian Kment has been just as sharp registering an 8-0 record while sitting second in the league in average at 1.74 and save mark at .925.
THE COACHES: As their respective records would indicate both the Thunderbirds and Gold Miners are led by excellent coaches.
Jordan Smith with Sault Ste. Marie was named the NOJHL’s coach of the year this season while Kirkland Lake’s Marc Lafleur earned the nod in 2013-13.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The two squads met eight times during the course of the regular season with the Sault going 4-3-1-0 vs. Kirkland Lake.
The clubs also battled to the only tie game in league play all season in a wildly entertaining 3-3 double overtime draw back in their last meeting back on Feb. 21.
In all the Gold Miners scored 20 times while the T-Birds found the back of the net just 16 times.
Steven Babin and Samuel Wilbur shared the scoring lead for Kirkland Lake against Sault Ste. Marie with six points apiece.
Tanner Lafrance, Austin Rust and Everet Thompson were next with five points each vs. the Thunderbirds.
The Sault’s top point getter in games vs. the Miners was defenceman Tyler Jones with eight, including four goals.
Darcy Haines and Gavin Burbach were next as the duo both had five points against them.
Special teams saw the Gold Miners go 6-33 with the man advantage in the season set with the Thunderbirds being just 1-25 on the power play.
The Sault did notch the lone shorthanded tally between the two squads.
Sept. 13 @ Kirkland Lake (3-0 Gold Miners)
Oct. 19 @ Soo (2-1 Thunderbirds)
Nov. 8 @ Kirkland Lake (5-2 Gold Miners)
Nov. 24 @ Soo (6-2 Thunderbirds)
Jan. 3 @ Kirkland Lake (1-0 Thunderbirds)
Jan. 10 @ Soo (2-1 Thunderbirds OT)
Feb. 16 @ Soo (5-0 Gold Miners)
Feb. 21 @ Kirkland Lake (3-3 Tie 2 OT)
WHAT’S NEXT: The Bill Salonen Cup winner will advance to represent the league at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A championship April 29 through May 3 in Wellington, Ont.
They will join the title holders from the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Ontario Junior Hockey League along with the host Wellington Dukes (OJHL) at the five-day event.
RBC CUP: The winner of the Dudley-Hewitt Cup will move on to represent the region at the RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A championship May 10-18 in Vernon, B.C.