NOJHL Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy league championship series preview



Release Date: Thursday, April 14, 2016

NOJHL Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy league championship series preview

SUDBURY, Ont. – The Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., will be the site Friday for Game 1 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy championship series between the Soo Thunderbirds and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, which gets underway at 7:30 p.m.

Here is a breakdown on the series and the two competing clubs:


NOJHL championship
For the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Kirkland Lake Gold Miners
Best-of-seven series
Game 1: Friday, April 15 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 2: Saturday, April 16 Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 3: Thursday, April 21 @ Kirkland Lake 7 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac Community Complex)
Game 4: Friday, April 22 @ Kirkland Lake 7 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac Community Complex)
Game 5*: Sunday, April 24 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 6*: Tuesday, April 26 @ Kirkland Lake 7 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac Community Complex)
Game 7*: Thursday, April 28 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
*- if necessary

HOW THE THEY ARRIVED: Both the Thunderbirds and Gold Miners have been impressive so far in the postseason in earning their way to the NOJHL final.

Sault Ste. Marie has gone 8-1 overall in claiming the league’s West Division crown sweeping the rival Soo Eagles before dispatching the Elliot Lake Wildcats in five outings.

As for Kirkland Lake they knocked off the Powassan Voodoos in six games and then proceeded to bounce the Cochrane Crunch in five to capture the NOJHL East title.

The T-Birds, who hold home ice advantage in the series, have yet to lose a game in 2015-16 at Essar Centre.

They have come away victorious in each game they’ve been the home side in to date in both the regular season and playoffs.

REMATCH: This best-of-seven affair will be a rematch of the 2014 final in which Kirkland Lake came away victorious.

The Gold Miners won that best-of-seven affair in six well-played contests.

LAST SEASON: The Thunderbirds enter the series as both the defending NOJHL and Dudley-Hewitt Cup champions.

Not only are the T-Birds the reigning league title holders, but they are also appearing in their fifth consecutive NOJHL Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy final and seventh in the past eight years.

The Soo won both the NOJHL and Dudley-Hewitt Cup crowns in 2012 along with a league title in 2009.

THE NUMBERS: Looking at the numbers supplied by NOJHL statistician and historian David Harrison, you’ll find the two league finalists met a total of four times during the course of the regular season.

The Thunderbirds won the season set 3-0-1 winning 3-2 and 4-2 at home and posting a 3-0 triumph in Kirkland Lake while also dropping a 2-1 road decision in overtime back in January.

Nathan Hebert was the T-Birds leading point producer in those match-ups vs. the Gold Miners as he picked up five on two goals and three assists.

Jaren Bellini was next with four, including a team-high three tallies, while Matthew Caruso had three points on a marker and two helpers.

Pacing Kirkland Lake against the Soo was the NOJHL’s leading scorer Brayden Stortz.

The Gold Miners forward scored once and dished out three assists for four points.

Logan Fredericks followed Stortz with three points on a trio of tallies.

Eight other skaters on the club registered a point vs. the Thunderbirds.

PLAYOFF LEADERS: Leading the Soo in playoff scoring entering the finals is defenceman Michael Caruso along with rookie forward Drake Pilon.

The duo has 10 points apiece through nine postseason contests with Caruso scoring four times and Pilon twice.

Next on the squad are veterans Matthew Caruso and Brett Jeffries, who have recorded nine points apiece. Caruso has a team-high six goals to his credit and Jeffries has four.

Kirkland Lake’s big four have all produced so far in the playoffs.

Leading the Gold Miners is Brayden Stortz with 16 points, including eight goals.

Logan Fredericks is next with seven tallies and six helpers for 13 points while Brandon Wolfe and Joel Fortin are also in double digits with 12 and 10 points respectively.

So far in the postseason, 11 different Kirkland Lake skaters have scored at least one goal with three having notched five or more in Stortz (8), Fredericks (7) and Alexander Hester (5).

Meanwhile the T-Birds have seen 13 players’ notch markers in the playoffs.

Matthew Caruso and Drake Pilon share the league-lead in game-winning goals with two in group that also includes Brayden Stortz and Alexander Hester.

In net, both NOJHL finalists have received tremendous goaltending en route to league championship series.

Connor Ryckman has been outstanding for the Thunderbirds posting a 7-1 record along with a stingy 1.34 goals-against average along with a solid .943 save percentage.

His four shutouts lead all league netminders while the club’s five also top the NOJHL.

Teammate Brendon Gordon was also flawless in his lone start stopping all 21 shots he faced in a shutout vs. Elliot Lake.

As for Kirkland Lake, Joe Marcoullier is 7-3 to date with a 2.41 average and a .926 save mark.

Victor-Olivier Courchesne is 1-0 in two playoff appearances posting a 2.61 GAA and a .933 save percentage.

BACK-END PRODUCTION: Not only has the T-Birds defensive corps limited their opposition to just 11 goals against in their first nine playoff contests, they have also contributed mightily offensively.

The Soo blueliners have registered a combined 38 points overall.

In comparison Kirkland Lake rearguards have picked up 17 points between them heading into Game 1.

BOTH WILL ADVANCE: Regardless of the result of the league final, as Kirkland Lake is also the host club for this year’s Dudley-Hewitt Cup (May 3-7), the Thunderbirds will automatically advance to join the Gold Miners at the four-team event as the other NOJHL representative.

Both sides will be joined by the champions of both the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League with a berth to the RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A championship in Lloydminster, Alta., later in May on the line for the DHC winner.

The OJHL Buckland Cup final between the Trenton Golden Hawks and Georgetown Raiders begins Friday as well in Trenton.

Meanwhile the SIJHL’s Bill Salonen Cup featuring the two-time defending league champion and 2015 Dudley-Hewitt Cup finalist Fort Frances Lakers and the Dryden GM Ice Dogs starts tonight at Ice for Kids Arena in Fort Frances.

ONLINE ACTION: Each and every game of the NOJHL final will be available online at

For the Soo home games the Thunderbirds broadcast team of Anthony Valade and Dominic Turco will provide the play-by-play and in-depth colour commentary respectively.

Meanwhile when the series shifts to the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake for Games 3, 4 and if necessary 6, Rick Witty will be behind the microphone providing the call on all the action.

All three of these individuals continue to do a tremendous job broadcasting the NOJHL on FASTHockey as they are among the best in the league in what they do.


2014-15 Soo Thunderbirds Cochrane Crunch
2013-14 Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Soo Thunderbirds
2012-13 North Bay Trappers Soo Thunderbirds
2011-12 Soo Thunderbirds North Bay Trappers
2010-11 Soo Eagles Sudbury Kal Tire Jr. Wolves
2009-10 Abitibi Eskimos Soo Thunderbirds
2008-09 Soo Thunderbirds North Bay Skyhawks
2007-08 Sudbury Junior Wolves Abitibi Eskimos
2006-07 Soo Indians Sudbury Junior Wolves
2005-06 Sudbury Northern Wolves North Bay Skyhawks
2004-05 North Bay Skyhawks Northern Michigan Black Bears
2003-04 North Bay Skyhawks Soo Thunderbirds
2002-03 North Bay Skyhawks Soo Jr. Greyhounds
2001-02 Rayside Balfour Sabrecats Soo Thunderbirds
2000-01 Rayside Balfour Sabrecats Soo Thunderbirds
1999-2000 Rayside Balfour Sabrecats Sturgeon Falls Lynx
1998-99 Rayside Balfour Sabrecats Parry Sound Shamrocks
1997-98 Rayside Balfour Sabrecats Parry Sound Shamrocks
1996-97 Rayside Balfour Sabrecats Sturgeon Falls Lynx
1995-96 Rayside Balfour Sabrecats Sturgeon Falls Lynx
1994-95 Timmins Golden Bears Rouyn Noranda Capitales
1993-94 Powassan Hawks Rouyn Noranda Capitales
1992-93 Powassan Hawks Timmins Golden Bears
1991-92 Powassan Hawks Rayside Balfour Canadians
1990-91 Sudbury Cubs Rayside Balfour Canadians
1989-90 Sudbury Cubs Rouyn Noranda Capitales
1988-89 Sudbury Cubs Rayside Balfour Canadians
1987-88 Sudbury Cubs Elliot Lake Vikings
1986-87 Nickel Centre Power Trains Sudbury Cubs
1985-86 Onaping Falls Huskies Sudbury Cubs
1984-85 Sudbury Cubs Capreol Hawks
1983-84 Rayside Balfour Canadians Elliot Lake Vikings
1982-83 Elliot Lake Vikings Onaping Falls Huskies
1981-82 Onaping Falls Huskies Elliot Lake Vikings
1980-81 Onaping Falls Huskies N/A
1979-80 Onaping Falls Huskies N/A
1978-79 Nickel Centre Native Sons Sudbury Cubs
1977-78 No League No League
1976-77 No League No League
1975-76 No League No League
1974-75 No League No League
1973-74 No League No League
1972-73 No League No League
1971-72 Soo Greyhounds Sudbury Wolves
1970-71 Sudbury Wolves Soo Greyhounds
1969-70 Soo Greyhounds Sudbury Wolves
1968-69 Sudbury Wolves Soo Greyhounds
1967-68 North Bay Trappers Sudbury Wolves
1966-67 Soo Greyhounds North Bay Trappers
1965-66 North Bay Trappers Soo Greyhounds
1964-65 Garson-Falconbridge Native Sons North Bay Trappers
1963-64 North Bay Trappers Soo Greyhounds
1962-63 Espanola Eagles North Bay Trappers

List courtesy NOJHL Historian/Statistician David Harrison