Espanola Paper Kings goaltender Jake Marois (30) lunges to make a save on Greater Sudbury Cubs forward Cameron Shanks (7) during NOJHL action at Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury, Ontario on Thursday, October 12, 2023. PHOTO BY BEN LEESON/THE SUDBURY STAR/POSTMEDIA NETWORK
Home-and-home series continues on Saturday
Nolan Newton’s torrid start to the NOJHL regular season has already earned him individual recognition, but the Greater Sudbury Cubs forward was focused squarely on team goals on Thursday night, even after adding five points to his league-leading total in a 7-1 win over the Espanola Paper Kings.
Newton recorded his first hat trick of the season, but sixth multi-goal outing of 2023-24 and added two assists at Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex as the Cubs improved to 11-1-0-0, good for sole possession of first place in the NOJHL West. Head coach Darryl Moxam and company will try to improve on that mark in the second half of their home-and-home against the Paper Kings, to be played at Espanola Regional Recreation Complex on Saturday.
“I’m feeling great,” said Newton, a 17-year-old French River product, who will enter Saturday’s game with 33 points in only 11 appearances this season. “The boys are looking really good right now. Mox put it in our heads that it’s team-first, two-way hockey and I think that’s what we’ve been doing to win this much at this point.”
Brock Houser, Chris Innes, Sam Assinewai and Cameron Walker also scored and Noah Metivier made 28 saves for the Cubs on Thursday. Newton’s linemate Oliver Smith collected a pair of assists as he and Cameron Shanks continued to show good chemistry with Newton, their linemate for much of the last few weeks.
“All three of us aren’t afraid to go in the corners and we would do anything for each other,” Newton said. “There’s no selfishness coming out of all three of us.”
Graydon Guthrie had the lone goal for Espanola, which did have its chances to make it a closer contest, especially on power plays in the second and third periods. Jake Marois, a Sudbury native and former Cub, made 33 saves for the Paper Kings.
While Newton’s speed and skill were on display throughout the contest, the Barrie Colts prospect was a little lucky on his first marker, a power-play goal in the opening frame that resulted when Smith’s pass deflected off his skate and past Marois.
Newton certainly showed some deft playmaking ability on his team’s second tally, sending a saucer feed to Houser which the 18-year-old defenceman from Dunnville, Ont. converted for his fourth goal of the year.
Newton handled the scoring duties himself on Sudbury’s final tally of the period, accepting a two-on-one feed from Smith and sending a quick shot into the bottom corner of Marois’ net with just over a minute to play.
Greater Sudbury appeared to benefit from a missed offside call on its fourth goal as Innes sent a well-aimed shot from the slot past his former teammate to give the home side a commanding lead.
Newton completed his hat trick on another power play, this time driving hard to the net before sending a low shot past Marois on the blocker side to give him an NOJHL-best 15 goals.
For comparison, only eight U18 skaters topped the 15-goal plateau in 58 games last season, with former Cubs standout Billy Biedermann leading the way with 22. Biedermann has since signed with the Corpus Christ IceRays of the North American Hockey League and is off to a solid start with seven points in 10 games. Teammate Pierson Sobush, another former Greater Sudbury standout, had nine points.
Newton, who started the season with Collingwood of the Ontario Junior Hockey League before returning to the Cubs after just one game, said he likes the fit with his hometown team, which has made no bones about its intention to contend for a league title and a berth in the Centennial Cup national championship tournament.
“The coaching staff has been just amazing,” Newton said. “They told us from the start we’re here to win, not for individual things and honestly, it’s such a great fit. I’m just comfortable.”
Espanola finally spoiled Metivier’s shutout bid on a power play close to the midway mark of the third, when Guthrie jammed a rebound past the Greater Sudbury goalkeeper, but the Cubs got that one back quickly as Assinewai stuffed home his third of the year following a brief scramble.
Cameron Walker’s one-timer put an exclamation mark on the home team’s lopsided victory.
Newton had post-game praise for netminder Metivier, as well as defenceman Justin Seguin, a former Paper King who made his return to the Northern loop following a stint with Caledon in the OJHL.
“It’s just amazing to be a part of his group of guys,” Newton said. “Everyone is committed and everyone is ready to play each and every night. It’s a next-man-up mentality.”
Saturday’s game in Espanola starts at 7:30 p.m.
Greater Sudbury Cubs forward Nolan Newton (24) rushes a puck while Espanola Paper Kings defenceman Braydon Bruce (20) gives chase during NOJHL action at Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury, Ontario on Thursday, October 12, 2023. PHOTO BY BEN LEESON/THE SUDBURY STAR/POSTMEDIA NETWORK