NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release Date: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014
The drive to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup – Volume No. 2
SUDBURY – With 19 games remaining until the end of regular season play in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, the member clubs continue to jockey for positions and playoff seedings in the initial step to see which club will represent the NOJHL at the 2014 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. “A” championship in Wellington, Ont.
The NOJHL champion will head to the Dudley-Hewitt to take on the winners of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League along with the host Wellington Dukes to see who will move on and represent the region at the RBC Cup this May in Vernon, B.C.
Here’s a quick look on how the NOJHL teams are looking in terms of where sit presently sit in the overall standings and what Wellington along with the top clubs in the OJHL and SIJHL have done of late.
1ST – SOO THUNDERBIRDS: The No. 1 ranked side in all of the Canadian Junior Hockey League lead the NOJHL with 93 points in their first 53 outings.
The Thunderbirds magic number to clinch the regular season title is just two meaning any points gained by Sault Ste. Marie or points lost by the second place Kirkland Lake Gold Miners totally two will give the Thunderbirds the crown.
If that scenario played out and the two teams finished ibn a tie for first overall, the Thunderbirds would finish on top by virtue of a better head-to-head record against the Gold Miners in regular season play.
Sault Ste. Marie has registered an impressive 40-3-1-2 record since the end of September in earning their No 1 ranking among the 128 teams that comprise the CJHL.
Backstopping the Thunderbirds has been Joel Horodziejczyk who is unbeaten in his past 26 starts going 25-0-1-0 in that span. He leads all NOJHL netminders in goals-against average and save percentage at 1.77 and .933 respectively.
Captain Gavin Burbach leads all shooters in the NOJHL in goals with 46 and is also in overall offensive production with 83 points.
2ND – KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS: The 13th CJHL-ranked Gold Miners are guaranteed to finish no lower than second in the NOJHL standings having already won a franchise record 39 games to date in 50 outings.
Much of Kirkland Lake’s success has been due to their special teams as they lead the league in both power play proficiency at 26.7% and penalty kill prowess at 90.7%.
Samuel Wilbur has been impressive for the Gold Miners having picked up points in 13 straight contests.
His efforts have him second in league scoring lead 80 points. He is also leads the way in man advantage efforts with 18.
3RD – ABITIBI ESKIMOS: The Eskimos have gone 5-2-0-2 in February so far largely in part due to the goaltending of Sylvain Miron, who has gone 4-0-0-2 in his past six starts.
A big loss to the Abitibi line-up offensively is Brady Clouthier, who is out indefinitely with an upper body injury sustained in Monday’s 8-1 victory over North Bay.
Clouthier leads the NOJHL in game-winning goals with nine.
4TH – ESPANOLA RIVERMEN: Espanola has won three straight as they try to catch and surpass Abitibi for third place in the overall standings.
They trail the Eskimos by one point and also hold two games in hand on them.
Espanola is led by their big three in forwards Brennen Dubchak, Corbin Bean and Brandon Janke, who all sit in the top 10 in league scoring. Dubchak has 75 points while Janke and Bean both had 67.
Espanola goaltender William King posted his first NOJHL shutout in his last start, a 4-0 triumph over Blind River Sunday.
5TH -ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS: The Bobcats still have an outside chance of catching either Abitibi or Espanola to secure home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but will need to go on a run and hope either the Eskimos or Rivermen faulter.
Continuing to pace Elliot Lake offensively has been Brett Wagner.
He is fifth in the league in points with 72 while sitting second in goals scored with 39.
Wagner also leads all skaters in the NOJHL in shorthanded tallies with nine.
6TH – SUDBURY NICKEL BARONS: Sudbury continues to hold off North Bay in the race for sixth in the league standings as they currently sit four points ahead of the Trappers. They have gone 3-2 in their past five games.
The trio of August Jarecki, Givanni Foschia and Ryan Punkari lead the Nickel Barons in scoring with Jarecki having 37 points and the other two 31.
Defenceman Khadyn Butterfly’s 10 tallies are the second most among blueliners in the league behind Ethan Strong of Kirkland Lake, who has 11.
7TH -NORTH BAY TRAPPERS: North Bay has struggled as the regular season winds down having only two wins, seven losses and an overtime setback in their past 10 games.
They’ll need some victories in their final five contests if they hope to catch Sudbury for sixth place in the standings.
Ryan Demyen is averaging just over a point-per-game to lead to lead North Bay in scoring with 49 points in 48 times played. He also sits second in the league in power play markers with 12.
Rookie goaltender Evan Cormier has faced more shots than any stopper in the NOJHL at 1,231. Cormier is fifth in save percentage at .911.
8TH -BLIND RIVER BEAVERS: The Beavers know they’ll end up in eighth place once the regular season concludes and will face either the Thunderbirds or Gold Miners in the opening round of the playoffs.
Tyson MacLeod continues to lead Blind River in scoring with 34 points.
D-man Scott Marshall is next with 26.
LOOKING AHEAD: Still to be finalized is which sides will square-off in the first round of the NOJHL playoffs, but either way when it is all said and done there will be one NOJHL team remaining and as the league champion that club will advance to compete in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup April 29 through May 3 at the Essroc Arena within the Welllington and District Community Centre.
We know the Wellington Dukes of the Ontario Junior Hockey League will be there serving as the host team, but like the NOJHL champion, the second OJHL representative along with the winner of the Superior International Junior Hockey League still needs to be determined.
THE OJHL: The OJHL will look to break a DHC-winning drought that has not happened in almost two decades.
They will enter the tournament not having won the Dudley-Hewitt in back-to-back years marking the first time that has happened since 1994 and 1995 when the league from southern Ontario went consecutive campaigns without coming away victorious.
Having concluded regular season play, the OJHL playoffs commence tonight on five fronts.
The Kingston Voyageurs enter the postseason there as the No. 1 seed after finishing in first place overall.
The Aurora Tigers were close only two points behind Kingston while the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots, Whitby Fury and Cobourg Cougars round out the top five teams in the OJHL in terms of points.
Whitby’s Taylor Best topped the OJHL in scoring with 90 points.
The DHC host Dukes finished with 72 points on a 33-14-1-5 record, the sixth-best mark in the 22-team OJHL.
They will meet Cobourg in opening round playoff action.
THE SIJHL: As for the SIJHL, they will enter the Dudley-Hewitt as defending champs as they were the league that won it last year in North Bay.
Looking to be the SIJHL rep in Wellington will be the Fort Frances Lakers who was that league’s finalist in each of the past two seasons before falling in game 7 in 2012 and game 6, in double overtime, in 2013 to the eventual Dudley-Hewitt champion Minnesota Wilderness.
Fort Frances, ranked fifth in the CJHL, wrapped up the SIJHL’s regular season title Tuesday evening with a victory over Wisconsin led by 100-point man Lucas Debenedet, who notched the game-winner to give the Lakers the crown.
Set to earn the No. 2 seed in the SIJHL are the Thunder Bay North Stars, who are rated 15th overall in the CJHL.
Pacing them is a pair of rookie forwards in Daniel Del Paggio and Zach Grzelewski, the two youngest players in the league.
Del Paggio, 17, has reeled of points in 31 straight games and leads the SIJHL in point-per-game average at 2.11.
Grzelewski, 16, has scored the second most goals at 41, including a season-high five in his last outing.
PLAYOFF TIMELINE: The dates of which each NOJHL playoff series will be contested between.
1 vs. 8
2 vs. 7
3 vs. 6
4 vs. 5
March 28-April 9
Highest remaining seed vs. Lowest remaining seed
2nd seed vs. 3rd seed
Best-of-seven series for the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy
Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A Championship
April 29 – May 3
Wellington Dukes (Host – OJHL)
RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A Championship
Dudley-Hewitt Cup champion
Fred Page Cup champion
Western Canada Cup champion
Western Canada Cup finalist
Vernon Vipers (Host – BCHL)