SUDBURY, Ont. – The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s regular season is now complete and the playoffs will commence Friday evening as the Blind River Beavers host the visiting Elliot Lake Wildcats in Game 1 of their best-of-three West Division match-up at the Blind River Community Centre at 7:30 p.m.
Here’s a look at this series:
HOW THEY ARRIVED: Blind River finished fourth in a tightly-contested West Division race while Elliot Lake was fifth.
Fresh off a franchise-record 33 victories this season, the Beavers will look to achieve another successful postseason run like last year’s playoffs where they advanced all the way to the NOJHL finals before falling to the eventual champion Powassan Voodoos.
Elliot Lake meanwhile went 25-27-4-0 in league play in 2017-18. Last year saw them edged in three games by the Soo Eagles in their opening playoff series.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The two sides met 10 times during the course of the regular season with Blind River coming away with six wins. They did originally come out on top as well in the final meeting, only to forfeit to the Wildcats for the use of an inadvertent ineligible player.
POINT PRODUCERS: Max Khull was the leading point getter for Blind River in action against Elliot Lake during the campaign as he collected 15 points, including a team-high 10 tallies.
Caleb Serre was next with 13 points as he scored six times and helped set-up seven others while CCM Hockey second team NOJHL all-star Owen Robinson was third with 11 points to his credit.
Pacing the Wildcats offensively vs. the Beavers was duo of league Most Improved Player Jacob Kelly and William Bucsis.
The pair picked up a dozen points apiece in action with Blind River while Nick Long was third on the squad with eight points, including three goals.
Throughout the entire season, Kelly led all scorers in this series with 70 points, which was the fifth-best total in the league.
Teammate Bucsis was 10th in the NOJHL with 65 points to his credit.
Max Khull, Serre and Robinson were the top three in terms of offensive production for the Beavers with 64, 57 and 56 points respectively.
THE TENDERS: The Beavers’ Cam Burggrabe had a 1-1 record in two appearances against Elliot Lake with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.
Garret Boyonoski meanwhile went 3-2 in five starts against the Wildcats boasting a 2.94 AVG. along with a .954 save mark.
As for Elliot Lake, Logan Sawka saw the bulk of the work in games vs. Blind River during the year.
He got the nod in seven outings as he won twice and suffered five defeats with a 3.35 goals-against and a respectable .924 save percentage.
SPECIAL TEAMS: While on the power play, Blind River went 10 for 39 on the power play in match-ups with Elliot Lake while the Wildcats scored six times in 39-man advantage opportunities.
WHAT’S NEXT: The winner of this series will take on the West Division-winning Rayside-Balfour Canadians in a best-of-seven divisional semifinal.
West Division Quarter-final
No. 4 Blind River Beavers vs. No. 5 Elliot Lake Wildcats
Game 1: Friday, March 9 @ Blind River 7:30 p.m. (Community Centre)
Game 2: Sunday, March 11 @ Elliot Lake 7:30 p.m. (Centennial Arena)
Game 3*: Wednesday, March 14 @ Blind River 7:30 p.m. (Community Centre)
All NOJHL playoff games are streamed online at HockeyTV.com.
With files from NOJHL Statistician & Historian David Harrison