NOJHL NOTEBOOK: Round 1 playoff pairings to be finalized tonight



Release Date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013

NOJHL NOTEBOOK: Round 1 playoff pairings to be finalized tonight

SUDBURY — It has come down to the last night the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s regular season to determine the final standings and the respective first round playoff opponents.

Five of the seven playoff seeds have been finalized heading into the postseason with only the No. 3 and No. 4 spots to be decided and we’ll know the answer to that after tonight’s Sudbury Nickel Barons – Kirkland Lake Gold Miners contest, which goes at 7:30 p.m. at McClelland Arena in Copper Cliff.

Should Sudbury win or pick up a point by virtue of a tie or overtime loss they’ll lock up the No. 3 seed and will play No. 6 Elliot Lake in the first round of the playoffs.

That would also mean the Gold Miners will meet No. 5 Blind River in another first round match-up.

Should Kirkland Lake come away victorious with a triumph in regulation time, then they will nab the No. 3 slot and take on the Bobcats by virtue of a better head-to-head record against the Nickel Barons, who then would square off vs. the Beavers.

North Bay has already earned a first round by after capturing the regular season title last week and the No. 1 seed that goes along with it.

The other first round series will feature the No. 2 Soo Thunderbirds tangling with the No. 7 Abitibi Eskimos.

Each of the schedules for the opening round of the playoffs is expected to be finalized and announced once the outcome of the Sudbury-Kirkland Lake has been decided.

The Gold Miners have won five of the first seven meetings against the Nickel Barons heading into the finale tonight.

Tonight’s other NOJHL game, which will conclude regular season play, features Blind River at home to Sault Ste. Marie in another 7:30 p.m. face-off.

The season set between the Beavers and T-Birds has been a close one.

After seven get togethers, the Soo holds a 4-3 lead with seven different skaters notching a game-winning goal.

PLAYOFF FORMAT: All seven NOJHL member clubs will compete in the postseason with the first place North Bay Trappers having earned themselves the regular season title along with a first-round bye.

Each playoff series will be best-of-seven affairs.

Opening round action will run from March 15-27.

As mentioned, the first round playoff schedules is expected to be announced upon the conclusion of this evening’s Sudbury – Kirkland Lake tilt.

From there, North Bay and the three surviving clubs will square-off in semifinal play from March 29 through April 10.

The Trappers will take on the lowest remaining seed in one series with the other two squads meeting in the other.

From there the two surviving teams will vie for the NOJHL crown April 12-24.

Should the Dudley-Hewitt Cup host North Bay Trappers advance to the league final, then the other club there will also represent the NOJHL at the Dudley-Hewitt. The DHC winner then moves on to the Royal Bank Cup Canadian Jr. A championship in Summerside, P.E.I.

NOJHL playoff format (All series best-of-seven)

Round 1 Quarter-finals (March 15-27)

Series A: No. 2 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 7 Abitibi Eskimos
Series B: No. 3 Sudbury or Kirkland Lake vs. No. 6 Elliot Lake Bobcats
Series C: No. 4 Sudbury or Kirkland Lake vs. No. 5 Blind River Beavers
Bye: No. 1 Seed North Bay Trappers (Regular season winner)

Round 2 Semifinals (March 29 – April 10)
Series D:
No. 1 North Bay Trappers vs. Lowest remaining seed
Series E: Winner of round one with second highest standing vs. third highest ranked winner

Round 3 NOJHL Final (April 12-24)
Series F:
Semifinals winners meet for the NOJHL championship

Dudley-Hewitt Cup @ North Bay (April 30 – May 4)
North Bay Trappers; NOJHL champion or finalist
; OJHL champion; SIJHL champion

Royal Bank Cup @ Summerside, P.E.I. (May 11-19)
Summerside Western Capitals (Host)
Dudley-Hewitt Cup winner, Fred Page Cup winner, Western Canada Cup winner and finalist.

2013 DUDLEY-HEWITT CUP: The 2013 Dudley-Hewitt Cup is now less than seven weeks away with the NOJHL’s North Bay Trappers serving as the host team for the five-day event.

Joining them will be the NOJHL champion or finalist along with the title holders from the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League.

Dudley-Hewitt Cup tickets packages for all eight games remain on sale at the Trapper’s Box Office daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Adult packages are $95 while students and seniors go $75 and children just $50 and you can reserve your seat by calling by calling 705-474-3770.

Taking a glance at the other two leagues who will be heading to North Bay for the DHC, you’ll find the OJHL is now into the second round of their playoffs while the SIJHL concludes their regular season tonight with postseason play their expected to get underway Saturday.

In the OJHL North-East, the top two ranked clubs in that conference have already been bounced from the playoffs after a pair of stunning upsets.

The upstart Cobourg Cougars sent the No. 1 ranked Trenton Golden Hawks packing after a surprising four-game sweep.

Cobourg now meets the Kingston Voyageurs in one conference final, which gets underway Thursday.

Meanwhile the other North-East semi features the Newmarket Hurricanes taking on the Lindsay Muskies, who shocked the No. 2 Aurora Tigers in round one.

Over in the OJHL South-West the top four seeds there all advanced to round 2 with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres meeting the North York Rangers and the St. Michael’s Buzzers going up against the Georgetown Raiders.

Buffalo and North York take to the ice in game 1 tonight while Georgetown looks to pull even against St. Mike’s this evening after the Buzzers took the series opener by a 6-3 score.

Meanwhile up in the SIJHL, the highly-touted Minnesota Wilderness, who were the No. 2 rated club for the last 13 weeks of the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, will meet the winner of the Thunder Bay North Stars – Minnesota Iron Rangers play-in best-of-three series, which is set to commence Saturday in the Lakehead in one best-of-seven semifinal.

The other best-of-seven semifinal features the No. 2 Fort Frances Lakers taking on the rival No. 3 Dryden Ice Dogs.

It was the Wilderness who won their third straight SIJHL regular season crown in convincing fashion registering a SIJHL-record 104 points in regular season play while sporting a more than impressive 51-3-0-2 overall record.

Fort Frances, who wraps up regular season play in the SIJHL tonight in Thunder Bay, currently has a 35-17-1-2 mark to their credit.

It was the Wilderness and Lakers who met in last year’s SIJHL Bill Salonen Cup final with the Wilderness coming away with their second consecutive playoff crown in a seventh and deciding game.

You can learn more on the Dudley-Hewitt Cup by visiting the official DHC website at

NOJHL 3 STARS: There may be just a pair of regular season games remaining on the NOJHL calendar, but that didn’t stop three first-timers from cracking the “NOJHL Three Stars of the Week” for the period ending March 10.

JUSTIN HOLLIDAY – ABITIBI ESKIMOS: After picking up just three points in his first 13 games with the Eskimos, 19-year-old forward Justin Holliday has found the net with the playoffs right around the corner, picking up six points in his past four games, including five goals.

The native of Stow, Ohio exploded with a three-goal performance in a 7-4 win over the Elliot Lake Bobcats, adding two more points in a loss to Blind River later in the week.

The Eskimos will enter the postseason in tough, drawing the second place Soo Thunderbirds in one of three first round quarter-final affairs.

DALLAS MCLAUGHLIN – SOO THUNDERBIRDS: The defending league champs looked every bit a playoff-ready team, racking up three convincing wins in early March.

The balanced attack, which has been a mainstay throughout the year, was in fine form as Dallas McLaughlin showed the way with a six-point week.

A member of the Soo Eagles on year ago, the 19-year-old native of Marquette, Mich., has compiled 35 points in 29 games, good for 6th place in the team scoring ladder.

McLaughlin had already made a name for himself in the NOJHL, amassing 73 points in 2011-2012 regular season and postseason play.

STEVE GAUL – ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS: One of just four players to appear in each and every one of Elliot Lake’s 48 games this year, Steve Gaul has closed with a bang.

The team’s leading scorer and native of Downers Grove, Ill., Gaul enjoyed multi-point games in each of his team’s last five outings.

The 5’8”, 19-year-old forward picked up 12 points in those five contests.

His efforts gave him an end of regular season line score that would include 18 goals and 23 assists for 41 points in 48 encounters.


ABITIBI ESKIMOS – The Eskimos wrapped up regular season play with a 14-31-0-3 record, which left them seventh in the NOJHL standings. … They’ll take on the No. 2 Soo Thunderbirds in opening round playoff action. … Abitibi’s Peter Poulin-Roy finished up as the club’s leading point producer with 42 in just 35 games. … Another early season acquisition in Ryan Wildman was second on the squad ending up with 41 points in 31 outings. …Aaron Kerr’s 22 tallies topped the Eskis in that department. That is currently a tie for the fifth most in the entire NOJHL.

BLIND RIVER BEAVERS – The Beavers wrap up regular season play at home this evening at the Blind River Community Centre against the Soo Thunderbirds, who they have gone 3-4 against so far during the campaign. Heading into the finale the Beavers have already shown a 16-point improvement from a year ago. … Forward Samuel Wilbur leads the team offensively and also sits fifth in NOJHL scoring with 55 points, including 21 goals. … Corey McEwen is next on the squad and also shares seventh overall in the league with 48 points with 20 tallies and 28 helpers. … Brandon Bazinet is knotted for 11th in the NOJHL having picked up 44 points. He also has an active four-game point streak.

ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS – A late-season charge allowed the first-year Bobcats to claim sixth overall in the league’s overall standings. … They wrapped up regular season play with a 15-31-0-2 record. … The club went 11-9-2 when scoring first in a game so far this season, but only 4-22 when the opposition struck first. … Steve Gaul finished up as the team’s leading scorer with 41 points, much in part due to a five-game point streak to conclude regular season play where he racked up seven goals and five assists. Henry Berger was next on the club with 36 points while Brian Hennessey had 35 in just 20 games. He had a seven-game point streak (7g-10a-17pts) heading into the playoffs.

KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS – Winners of three in a row, the Gold Miners can capture the No. 3 seed heading into the playoffs with a win regulation time at Sudbury tonight. … The club is 5-2 so far vs. the Nickel Barons on the year. … Captain Connor McNally, Steven Babin and Dustin Jesseau sit first, second and third respectively in team scoring with 40, 39 and 30 points to their credit. … McNally and Jesseau both have four-game point streaks on the go. … Babin’s 15 power play goals this season lead the NOJHL. … Chris Komma sits fourth in goals-against average in the NOJHL at 2.54. His three shutouts tie him for the league lead. He has also played the most minutes in the NOJHL at 2,211:43. Komma’s 19 victories are the second most in the league.

NORTH BAY TRAPPERS – North Bay, who finished up 15th nationally in the final CJHL top 20 rankings, will have a first round playoff bye after capturing the league’s regular season crown.  … The Trappers went 13-1-0-1 in their final 15 games. …They boasted the best winning percentage in the league as .781. … Greg Dodds leads all NOJHL goalkeepers in wins (28), goals-against-average (2.25) and save percentage. (.928). Sits tied for league lead in shutouts with three. … Brennen Dubchak is sixth overall in league scoring and also leads the team with 51 points. … Trevor Hunt is second on the club and shares seventh in the NOJHL with 47 points. … Cole Klippenstein tops all NOJHL D-men in goals (18) and points (37). … North Bay is 12-0-2 when Graham Pickard picks up at least one point in a game.

SOO THUNDERBIRDS – The Thunderbirds conclude their portion of the regular season with a visit to Blind River tonight. … The T-Birds have gone 7-1 in the past eight. … The final CJHL Top 20 rankings saw the Soo earn Honourable Mention status. … Darcy Casola leads the squad offensively and remains third in NOJHL scoring with 65 points. … Adam Ritchie is next on the team and also sits fourth in league offensive production with 60 points while Brandon Warmington is tied for eighth and Anthony Miller sits 10th respectively with 48 and 45 points. … Joel Horodziejczyk is second in league average at 2.39 and save percentage at .918. Steven Dombrowski, who has won his last 13 decisions, sits third in NOJHL GAA at 2.52 and save percentage at .914. The Soo meets Abitibi in the first round of the playoffs.

SUDBURY NICKEL BARONS – Heading into their regular season final tonight vs. Kirkland Lake, Sudbury needs a win or a point in overtime to secure the No. 3 in the playoffs … Should they do that they’ll meet Elliot Lake in round one of the postseason. … A Gold Miners victory in regulation means the Nickel Barons will take on the Blind River Beavers. … NOJHL leading scorer Sebastien Leroux is out indefinitely with a broken right wrist. … Leroux still leads teammate Darcy Haines by four points for the league scoring lead with 82. … Haines meanwhile tops the NOJHL in goals with 38. His nine power play markers tie him for the third most in the league. … Martin Jolicoeur is also among the top 20 scorers in the league with 41 points. That ties him for 16th overall. … Michael Muzyka is fifth in the NOJHL in goals-against average at 3.42. … Alex Laino sits sixth overall in GAA at 3.72. … Brett Dusick sits second in points among NOJHL D-men with 32.