NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release Date: Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012
NOJHL clubs to meet teams from SIJHL in Showdown Series
SUDBURY — Some cross-league competition is in store for a pair of Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League clubs.
Both the Soo Thunderbirds and Elliot Lake Bobcats will be heading to Wisconsin the first weekend in January to go up against a pair of formidable opponents from the Superior International Junior Hockey League.
The Thunderbirds and Bobcats will be showcased against the two-time SIJHL champion Minnesota Wilderness as well as last year’s league finalist the Fort Frances Lakers in games that will be contested at the Ice House in Spooner, Wis.
Action will open up Friday, Jan. 4 when Sault Ste. Marie meets Fort Frances at 3:30 CT/4:30 p.m. ET followed by Elliot Lake and Minnesota at 7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET.
Two more tilts will go Saturday, Jan. 5 as the Bobcats tangle with the Lakers at 3:30 CT/4:30 p.m. and the T-Birds take on the Wilderness at 7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET.
One other contest will also be featured on Sunday, Jan. 6 as the Bobcats will meet the Wilderness for a second time with this game being played in nearby Hayward, Wis. at 2 p.m. CT/3 p.m. ET.
As a result of Elliot Lake competing in the games vs. the SIJHL their originally scheduled league game on Friday, Jan. 4 vs. Sudbury has been postponed and will be made up on Feb. 1.
Each of the four games in Spooner, Wis., is expected to be available online on a pay-per-view basis through FASTHockey via the SIJHL website at www.sijhlhockey.com.
Live online scoring should also be offered on the SIJHL website.
SIJHL-NOJHL SHOWDOWN: This first-ever event between the NOJHL and SIJHL presents an opportunity for both leagues to showcase their players to the many NCAA division I and D-3 schools that are situated in the Northern Wisconsin/Minnesota region.
“Being part of an event such as this offers tremendous potential and opportunities for all the competing players and both the NOJHL and SIJHL,” offered NOJHL Commissioner Robert Mazzuca.
“Going up against stiff competition in two strong SIJHL clubs will not only provide the Thunderbirds and Bobcats the chance to showcase their talents to the NCAA schools at a high level, but it should also be some pretty good hockey in an inter-league format, much like the Dudley-Hewitt Cup is every year,” added Mazzuca.
NOJHL OPPONENTS: The two sides the Thunderbirds and Bobcats will face next weekend are among the best the SIJHL has to offer.
The following is a breakdown on both clubs:
MINNESOTA WILDERNESS: Not only are the Wilderness the top team in the SIJHL at the moment they are also among the elite in the entire 128-team Canadian Junior Hockey League.
Winners of 17 consecutive games, they presently boast an impressive 29-3 overall record and are currently ranked No. 2 in the CJHL while holding down the second best winning percentage in the CJHL at .906.
Their 53 goals against is the fewest of any squad in the CJHL with goaltenders goaltenders Gordie Defiel and JoJo Jeanetta sitting one-two nationally in goals-against average at 1.59 and 1.66 respectively.
The Wilderness presently have five skaters in the top 10 in SIJHL scoring including Mike Dietrich who leads the league offensively with 49 points in 27 games, including 19 goals. He is riding an eight game point streak and has also gotten on the score sheet in 24 of his past 25 outings.
Jake Larson (25-17a-42pts), Jordan Shockley (12g-27a-39pts), Michael MacKinnon (12g-22a-34pts) and Jeremy Johnson (16g-17a-33pts) are third, fourth, seventh and tied for 10th in SIJHL offensive numbers.
They are led by SIJHL coach of the year Rod Aldoff, who played NCAA hockey on defence at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, before going on to a long professional career in both North America and Europe.
He recently coached Team West to victory at the recent CJHL Prospects Games that were held in conjunction with the World Jr. A Challenge in Nova Scotia last month.
FORT FRANCES LAKERS: Guiding the Lakers fortunes is their head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
A three-time SIJHL coach of the year recipient, Strachan played in the NCAA at Lake Superior State in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., where he was part of two national championship clubs in the early 1990s.
Sitting with a 17-12-1-1 record the Lakers’ leading scorer is the latest player of the week in the SIJHL in forward Jordan Christianson. He is fourth in the league in assists with 26 and sixth overall in points with 38.
Colton Spicer is knotted for 10th in league numbers with 33 points on 20 tallies and 13 helpers.
Both of their netminders in Jameson Shortreed and Tanner Hamilton sit in the top five in SIJHL goals-against average. Shortreed was also one of the goalkeepers for Canada West in the 2010 World Jr. A Challenge.
NOJHL THREE STARS: Defensive systems are gradually sinking in within the NOJHL.
Goals were down almost 1.5 per game as the league wound down towards the Christmas break.
Still, a handful of scorers managed to break free just long enough to work their way into the “NOJHL Three Stars of the Week for the period ending Dec. 23.
MARTIN JOLICOEUR – SUDBURY NICKEL BARONS: The Nickel Barons have looked as good lately as they have since their season-opening win streak thanks, in part, to the continued production they are receiving from 19-year-old forward Martin Jolicoeur.
The Sudbury native was held to just six points in his first 16 games, but has bounced back to register 16 points in his last ten games, moving into fourth place in team scoring.
Jolicoeur scored three times last week as the Barons ran their win streak to five games with victories over both Abitibi and Sault Ste. Marie.
DUSTIN JESSEAU – KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS: The Gold Miners are hoping for a second half surge, a run that could challenge the front-runners from North Bay and the Sault, with a pair of recent acquisitions expected to be key.
Unhappy with his situation in Iroquois Falls, Aurora native Dustin Jesseau has settled in nicely in Kirkland Lake, picking up eight points in four games.
The well-travelled 20-year-old forward was shipped from the Eskimos to the Estevan Bruins in early November, making his way back to Northern Ontario in early December.
Jesseau enjoyed a four-point outing as the Gold Miners whooped Elliot Lake 8-0 last Friday night at home.
ZACH PEASE – BLIND RIVER BEAVERS: 18-year-old forward Zach Pease and the entire roster of the Blind River Beavers were pleased to get things back on track last week.
Snapping a personal five-game scoreless skid, Pease recorded three assists in a 4-3 overtime win over the Soo Thunderbirds as the Beavers chalked up their first win in four games.
Making his way north after toiling with the Ontario Hockey Academy last year, Pease now has 17 points in 22 games to his credit, good for eighth place in the Blind River scoring parade, despite not joining the team until late September.
THIS WEEK: As the holiday break continues there is no league action on the slate this week with play in the NOJHL set to resume in the New Year as Kirkland Lake hosts Blind River at The Joe on Jan. 4.
2013 DUDLEY-HEWITT CUP: The North Bay Trappers will serve as the host team for the 2013 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A championship tournament.
The five-day event will be held at North Bay Memorial Gardens April 30 through May 4. It features the Trappers along with the champions of the NOJHL, Ontario Junior Hockey League and Superior International Junior Hockey League taking part.
Should North Bay go on to capture the NOJHL championship, then the league finalist will round out the four-team field with a berth to the Royal Bank Cup national Jr. A championship in Summerside, P.E.I. in May on the line.
Looking at the NOJHL’s potential competition at the DHC you’ll find the Minnesota Wilderness of the Superior International Junior Hockey League are going all out to make their third straight Dudley-Hewitt appearance. Winners of 17 games in a row they currently pace the SIJHL standings with a 29-3 record.
Over in the Ontario Junior Hockey League it’s close near the top in points with only two points separating the three leading teams.
The Buffalo Jr. Sabres have the most points overall with 57 followed by the Trenton Golden Hawks at 56 and the Georgetown Raiders at 55.
Trenton currently leads the way in winning percentage at .757 with Buffalo next at .713 and the Oakville Blades at .712.
CJHL TOP 20: The Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 rankings will return in the New Year with the next listings set to be released on Monday, Jan. 7.
The last CJHL Top 20 had the Soo Thunderbirds in 12th spot overall while the North Bay Trappers earned Honourable Mention.
ABITIBI ESKIMOS – Abitibi returns to game action Jan. 5 as they welcome Blind River to Jus Jordan Arena. … The Eskimos sit fifth in the league standings at 11-16-0-1. … Team captain Richard Therrien sits third in NOJHL offensive numbers with 56 points. 34 of those points have come in his previous 13 games. His nine power play goals put him in a tie for the league lead… Ryan Wildman is second in team scoring with 30 points in just 19 outings. … Abitibi plays four of their next five as the home team. This includes a Jan. 11 neutral site contest in Timmins vs. the T-Birds.
BLIND RIVER BEAVERS – Blind River looks to extend a modest winning streak to two as they open play in 2013 on Jan. 4 at Kirkland Lake. That will be the first of three straight on the road the club will play in the New Year. Their first home date in January will be Jan. 12 vs. Sudbury. … The club is 6-17-2-4 overall and sits in sixth in the league standings. … Forward Samuel Wilbur is seventh in NOJHL scoring with 32 points on 13 goals and 19 assists. He has points in eight of his last 11 outings. …Corey McEwen is knotted for 11th in league scoring with 28 points, including 10 tallies.
ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS – With the Bobcats competing in the Showdown Series vs. the SIJHL their Jan. 4 league contest vs. Sudbury has been moved to Feb. 1 and the game they had on that date against Sault Ste. Marie with now be played on Feb. 3. …Elliot Lake has scored the fewest goals in the league so far this season at 73 while their 143 against is the second most given up in the league. … Steve Gaul leads the Bobcats offensively with 19 points. … Brad Holman is next with 18. … Six of the nine goals Nicholas Tassone has scored this season have come on the power play. … When scoring first in a game the Bobcats are 6-2-1, but a mere 1-18 when their opposition strike first.
KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS – The Gold Miners are 16-11-2-1 overall sitting in fourth place in the NOJHL standings. … Kirkland Lake has a two-game home stand to kick off 2013 as they host Blind River on Jan. 4 and North Bay Jan. 5 before rounding out the week Jan. 6 on the road vs. the Trappers. …Captain Connor McNally has a three-game point streak on the go and leads the team offensively in goals with 17 and points at 26. … Nine of Steven Babin’s 13 goals have come on the power play tying him for the league lead. … Netminder Chris Komma has posted back-to-back shutouts and has an active goalless streak of 122 minutes and four seconds. He is second in wins with 12 and fourth in goals-against average at 2.74. He is also fourth in save percentage at .900.
NORTH BAY TRAPPERS – The Trappers begin play in the New Year with a Jan. 5-6 home-and-home with Kirkland Lake. . … They are 3-0-1 in their past four and sit two points behind Sault Ste. Marie in the race for first in the overall standings with three games in hand. … North Bay sports the seventh best winning percentage in the entire CJHL at .778. … The club has scored the second most goals in the NOJHL this season at 125 while allowing the fewest against at 68. … Goalie Greg Dodds leads the league the NOJHL in wins with 14. He is second in goals-against average in the league at 2.36 and has the best save percentage at .924. … Brandon Janke is eighth in league scoring while leading the Trappers with 31 points. … Brennen Dubchak (11g-15a-26pts) and Samuel Blanchet (12g-13a-25pts) are second and third on the squad and rank in the top 20 overall. … Cole Klippenstein leads all NOJHL D-men in points with 24. … North Bay is 9-0-2 when Graham Pickard picks up at least one point in a game. … The Trappers play five of seven on the road.
SOO THUNDERBIRDS – The No. 12 CJHL ranked Thunderbirds will meet SIJHL competition for the first time since winning last season’s Dudley-Hewitt Cup in Thunder Bay. They defeated the Wilderness 4-3 in overtime to begin that event. … They are 11th overall in the CJHL in winning percentage at .733. … Rookie netminder Joel Horodziejczyk leads all NOJHL netminders in goals-against average at 2.27 and in save percentage at .921. … Another first-year netminder in Steven Dombrowski has won his last seven starts and is third in GAA at 2.64 and save percentage at .912. … The Soo continues to have four players among the top 10 in NOJHL scoring. Darcy Casola (20g-26a-46pts) sits fourth, Adam Ritchie (18g-23a-41pts) is fifth, Greg Sartoretto (12g-22a-34pts) is sixth while Derek Battagin (9g-21a-30pts) is knotted for ninth. …The club’s next NOJHL action will be Jan. 11 in a neutral site game in Timmins vs. Abitibi.
SUDBURY NICKEL BARONS – The hottest team in the league, Sudbury has won six straight games heading into their Jan. 9 encounter at home against North Bay. … Sebastien Leroux and Darcy Haines are first and second in league scoring with 62 and 57 points respectively. … Leroux has only been held pointless three times so far this season. He has a six-game point streak on the go… Haines is second in the league in goals with 28. … Michael Muzyka remains fifth in the NOJHL in goals-against average at 3.34. … He is 5-2 in his last seven appearances. Alex Laino meanwhile is 4-0 of late.