Thunderbirds, Gold Miners stellar in fewest goals allowed per game


Release Date: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013
Thunderbirds, Gold Miners stellar in fewest goals allowed per game

SUDBURY – If the old adage that offence wins games, but defence wins championships holds true then the Soo Thunderbirds and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners are well on their way in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

The two frontrunners in the NOJHL standings have done a remarkable job of keeping the puck out of their own net so far this season.

Entering play this week Sault Ste. Marie has been very stingy in tallies allowed having only given up a league-low 64 against in 34 outings.

That’s an impressive 1.88 goals-against per game average, which is tops in the NOJHL.

Second place Kirkland Lake is No. 2 in this category with only 2.30 goals-against as opposing shooters have only found the mark 69 times in 30 games vs. the Gold Miners.

It’s a bit of a discrepancy after that among the other clubs in the league in goals allowed.

Espanola (3.50) is third overall in the NOJHL followed by Elliot Lake (3.57) and North Bay. (3.79)

Rounding out the list is Abitibi (3.97), Sudbury (4.38) and Blind River. (5.09)


Sault Ste. Marie 34 64 1.88
Kirkland Lake 30 69 2.30
Espanola 32 112 3.50
Elliot Lake 30 107 3.57
North Bay 33 125 3.79
Abitibi 32 127 3.97
Sudbury 32 140 4.38
Blind River 33 168 5.09

The solid defensive numbers put up by the T-Birds and Gold Miners also puts them in distinguished company across the entire 128-team Canadian Junior Hockey League as well.

On the national scale no other team in the CJHL has a better percentage in this category than Sault Ste. Marie.

Their 1.88 goals-against per game total is just slightly better than the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL) who sit at 1.89.

As for Kirkland Lake they rank seventh-best in the CJHL at the moment in the rankings at 2.30 against per contest.

Eight of the top 12 squads in this category are from Western Canadian leagues.


1     Soo                NOJHL  34     64   1.88
2     Fort McMurray AJHL    35     66   1.89
3     Humboldt        SJHL    34      72     2.12
T-4   Spruce Grove  AJHL    37     81     2.19
T-4   Yorkton          SJHL    32     70     2.19
6     Steinbach       MJHL    33     74     2.24
7     Kirkland Lake  NOJHL  30     69     2.30
8     Kindersley      SJHL     34     79     2.32
9     Aurora            OJHL     33     77     2.33
10     Cobourg      OJHL      32     77     2.41
T-11     Selkirk      MJHL     31     75     2.42
T-11     Flin Flon      SJHL   31     75     2.42

GAME TIME: The final week of NOJHL play before the Christmas holiday break has a total of eight games on the slate.

Weekly competition began Monday in thrilling fashion with the North Bay Trappers getting a Jake Ibbitson goal in double overtime to lift them to a come from behind 3-2 victory over the Sudbury Nickel Barons at West Ferris Arena.

Sudbury is right back at it tonight in Wednesday’s lone contest as they host the Elliot Lake Bobcats in a 7:30 p.m. start at McClelland Arena.

A trio of tilts are on the docket Friday with the surging Soo Thunderbirds at home to Blind River while Kirkland Lake heads to Elliot Lake and North Bay takes on Espanola. All three match-ups go at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday will feature another neutral site affair as Blind River entertains the Thunderbirds at the Thessalon Community Centre at 7:30 p.m.

Two other contests also go Saturday with North Bay welcoming Kirkland Lake to West Ferris Arena at 7 p.m. and Abitibi entertains Sudbury at Jus Jordan Arena to round out the 2013 portion of the NOJHL schedule.

WINNING WAYS: Already half way through the 2013-14 regular season, teams continue to find ways to win.

Entering play Wednesday there has still yet to be a tie game in regular season action with the squads playing four skaters aside in the five-minute overtime session and three skaters each in the second five-minute OT, if required.

The last time there was a tie game in league competition was just over a year ago when the Soo Thunderbirds and North Bay Trappers skated to a 4-4 draw back on December 16, 2012.

STREAKS ABOUND: There are a number of significant streaks being produced as league play in 2013 winds down.

Team wise, the Soo Thunderbirds remain red-hot having won 10 consecutive games as they have not tasted defeat since back on Nov. 10 when they were edged 3-2 in North Bay.

Overall they have yet to lose on Essar Centre ice this season having gone a team record 18-0 on the campaign. Dating back to the 2012-13 campaign that streak sits at 21 games with their last home defeat coming on Feb. 23 vs. Sudbury.

The friendly confines of Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls have been kind to the Abitibi Eskimos of late too. They have won nine in succession there.

Thunderbirds netminder Joel Horodziejczyk has been a big reason for his club’s success as he has an impressive streak of his own on the go.

The 18-year-old Sudbury product has come away victorious in his past 15 starts for the Sault having not suffered a setback in over two and a half months when he dropped a 5-3 decision at Elliot Lake on Sept. 27.

Remarkably he has also only allowed two or fewer goals against in 14 of those outings having posted two shutouts and seven 1-goal contests.

Offensively the NOJHL’s leading scorer in Espanola’s Brennen Dubchak has reeled off points in 15 straight contests.

The league’s Gongshow Gear player of the month for November has amassed 33 points in that span on eight goals and 25 assists.

Nearly as impressive has been the 11-game run Sault Ste. Marie’s Darcy Haines has been on since joining the Thunderbirds in a deal with the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the CCHL.

The veteran forward has piled up 25 points during his streak scoring seven times and setting up 18 others.

Elliot Lake’s Brett Wagner has points in nine straight outings for the Bobcats as well as 15 of his past 16.

Then there is the NOJHL’s third-leading point getter in Steven Babin who has put him name on the score sheet seven games in a row as does his teammate Samuel Wilbur.

Meanwhile Anthony Miller of the T-Birds has points in five straight.   

3 STARS: The latest NOJHL “3 Stars” of the week honours went to forwards Gavin Burbach of the Soo Thunderbirds and Kyle Bishop of the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners along with Elliot Lake Bobcats defenceman James Vuillemot.

GAVIN BURBACH, (F) SOO THUNDERBIRDS – While the league-leading Thunderbirds only played in one game last week, Burbach put in an incredible performance in that contest.

The 20-year-old native of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., tallied twice, including notching the game-winner, and dished out four assists as the surging T-Birds won for a 10th straight time and sank the Espanola Rivermen 8-2 Friday.

On the season Burbach currently leads all NOJHL skaters in goals with 26, is tied for third in assists with 27 and holds down second spot in overall offensive production with 53 points.

He is already only seven points shy from setting a new single season total of 70 and has already surpassed his personal best in goals in a campaign.

Impressively Burbach has also registered at least one point in 25 of the Thunderbirds 28 victories so far this season.

KYLE BISHOP, (F) KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS – The 20-year-old Bishop averaged two points-per-game in three outings last week helping Kirkland Lake secure four points in the NOJHL standings keeping them within striking distance of first place Sault Ste. Marie.

He began with an assist in a late 4-3 setback on the road to Abitibi Wednesday and from there supplied three helpers in a 6-1 triumph over Blind River Saturday.

Bishop then finished up his solid weekly contribution by potting the deciding goal and setting up another to help lead his side to a 6-0 shutout of the Eskimos Sunday.

Of the nine goals the Richmond Hill, Ont., product has collected to date; five have been game-winners, which tie him for the third most in the entire league.

Also the Gold Miners have posted a 12-1 record in games he picks up at least one point.

JAMES VUILLEMOT, (D) ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS – A stay-at-home blueliner used mainly to stabilize the Elliot Lake defensive corps, Vuillemot chipped in offensively during the week that was to help the Bobcats pick-up a big two points Friday night.

The 19-year-old Bristow, Virginia product had a NOJHL personal-best two assists that included teeing up the game-winner Friday evening as Elliot Lake dropped the Sudbury Nickel Barons 5-1.

His rare offensive outburst saw Vuillemot double his season point total to four in 27 games played.

Interestingly he has only picked up one minor penalty so far this season while his team has gone 2-0-1 in the three games he has got on the score sheet.

CJHL TOP 20: The latest Canadian Junior Hockey League top 20 rankings announced earlier this week had the Soo Thunderbirds and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners still sitting among the nation’s Jr. A elite.

As leaders of the NOJHL standings the Thunderbirds remained fourth overall nationally while the Gold Miners were tabbed 14th in the CJHL in the ratings, which are compiled each week in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting.

Presently a 10-game winning streak Sault Ste. Marie tops the NOJHL in points with 58 and an overall record of 28-4-0-2.

Second place Kirkland Lake has 50 points, but also hold four games in hand on the T-Birds. They enter the week with a 24-4-0-2 mark having gone 13-2-0-1 in their past 16 outings.

In terms of winning percentage the Thunderbirds are at .853 compared to the Gold Miners .833.

There was no change this week among the top three teams in the CJHL rankings with Spruce Grove, (AJHL) Carleton Place, (CCHL) and Fort McMurray, (AJHL) holding down the top three spots respectively.

1. Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) (1)
2. Carleton Place Canadiens (CCHL) (2)
3. Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL) (3)
4. Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) (4)
5. Fort Frances Lakers (SIHL) (6)
6. Steinbach Pistons (MJHL) (9)
7. Penticton Vees (BCHL) (18)
8. Portage Terriers (MJHL) (10)
9. Humboldt Broncos (SJHL) (HM)
10. Toronto Lakeshore Patriots (OJHL) (8)
11. Selkirk Steelers (MJHL) (14)
12. Yorkton Terriers (SJHL) (7)
13. Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) (15)
14. Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (NOHL) (13)
15. Pembroke Lumber Kings (CCHL) (11)
16. Powell River Kings (BCHL) (5)
17. Weeks Crushers (MHL) (12)    
18. Aurora Tigers (OJHL) (16)
19. Truro Bearcats (MHL) (NR)
20. Les Pantheres de Saint Jerome (LHJAAAQ) (20)

Honourable Mention: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL), Brooks Bandits (AJHL), Okotoks Oilers (AJHL), Melville Millionaires (SJHL), Minnesota Iron Rangers (SIJHL)


The CJHL Top 20 weekly rankings are based upon a variety of factors, including the league in which the team plays, winning percentage, win-loss record, total points accumulated, goals-for versus goals-against ratio, etc.


The Canadian Junior Hockey League is a national organization comprised of all 10 Junior A hockey leagues in Canada.  

The CJHL represents 128 teams and over 2,500 players and has over 2,800 alumni furthering their hockey careers at the professional, major junior and college level across North America.  

For latest CJHL news and features, visit and follow us on Twitter at or @cjhlhockey.

CENTRAL CANADA CUP CHALLENGE: We are just nine days away from the NOJHL select squad takes to the ice in Terrebonne, Que., in their first game of the Central Canada Cup Challenge.

The three-day event will feature the NOJHL taking on competing clubs from the Ontario Junior Hockey League, the Central Canada Hockey League and the Quebec AAA Jr. A loop taking part.

Each of the six participating clubs will play a five-game round robin with the length of games being two 20-minute periods.
After round robin competition the top two squads in the standings will compete in the Central Canada Cup Challenge championship contest on Dec. 29.

The NOJHL will open up competition Friday, Dec. 27 at 1 p.m. against one of the two LHJAAAQ squads that will be taking part.

Their second game of the day goes at 5 p.m. as they square off vs. the CCHL.

Saturday, Dec. 28 sees two more tilts on tap for the NOJHL as they’ll meet the second LHJAAAQ side at 1 p.m., which will be followed by a 5 p.m. face-off with the OJHL North East.

Round robin play for the NOJHL then concludes Sunday, Dec. 29 at 11 a.m. when they square off with OJHL South West.

The top two teams will then met in the championship game later that same day at 5:30 p.m.

There will be a total of six teams taking part with one apiece from both the NOJHL and CCHL along with two from Quebec and the OJHL.

ONLINE ACTION: Each and every NOJHL game this season is available online on a pay-per-view basis via FASTHockey.

Fans can view the games through the FASTHockey link on the league website at

NOJHL SHOWCASE: The NOJHL is slated to host a league Showcase Weekend Jan. 10-11 in Espanola.

A total of four league regular season games, which will count in the NOJHL standings, will be played at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex.

The goal is to further showcase the players of the NOJHL in one location to further assist NCAA, CIS, CHL and NHL scouts allowing them access to all league members clubs in one venue.


Friday, Jan. 10
Elliot Lake vs. Espanola 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 12
Kirkland Lake vs. Blind River 1:30 p.m.
Abitibi vs. Soo 4:15 p.m.
Sudbury vs. North Bay 7:15 p.m.

DUDLEY-HEWITT CUP: The NOJHL champion will move on to represent the league at the 2014 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A Championship.

That four-team event will be hosted by the OJHL’s Wellington Dukes and will run April 29 – May 3 at the Essroc Arena in the Wellington and District Community Centre.

ROYAL BANK CUP: The DHC title holder will then move on to represent the region at the 2014 RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A Championship with that tournament being hosted by the BCHL’s Vernon Lakers May 10-18 in Vernon, B.C.


ABITIBI ESKIMOS – Abitibi nears the holiday break sitting in fourth spot in the league standings with a 17-13-0-2 record. … The club’s lone game before Christmas goes Saturday vs. Sudbury at Jus Jordan Arena. They have won nine in a row on home ice in Iroquois Falls. … After being shut out by Kirkland Lake in their last outing it marked the first time this season Abitibi has been blanked in a game. That put an end to a run of 44 straight games where they scored at least one goal in a game. … Brady Clouthier remains the Eskimos leading point getter with 44, which is the sixth best total in the NOJHL. Clouthier is tied for fourth overall in goals with 22, including a NOJHL-leading seven game-winners. … Ryan Tront, who is second on the team offensively, is tied for 11th in league scoring with 31 points. … Netminder Brody Wagner is fifth in the league in save percentage at .909. … Goaltender Sylvain Miron has played the third most minutes (1085:21) and has faced the third highest shot total (687) in the NOJHL.

BLIND RIVER BEAVERS – Blind River sits eighth in the league standings with a 5-27-0-1 record. … The Beavers have scored the fewest goals for and allowed the most against in the league at 72 and 168 respectively. The club has gone winless in six straight and will have a tough test in their final two outings before the break as they take on the league-leading Soo Thunderbirds, Friday in Sault Ste. Marie and Saturday in Thessalon. … Tyson MacLeod leads the club in points with 22 while Scott Marshall is next with 19. … Marshall is tied for second in offensive production among NOJHL defencemen with his 19 points.

ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS – One more victory by the Bobcats this season will surpass the franchise-record 15 they won last season in their first year in the NOJHL. They’ll look to set that new mark tonight in Sudbury as the take on the Nickel Barons in a 7:30 p.m. start at McClelland Arena. … Elliot Lake then returns home to host Kirkland Lake Friday in their final game before the holiday break. … They enter play this week fifth in the NOJHL standings with a 15-12-0-3 record. … The club has gone a solid 9-6-1-0 in their past 16 outings. … Brett Wagner‘s 43 points still paces the squad offensively. He is currently riding a nine-game point streak and has moved into a tie for seventh in NOJHL scoring. Wagner also shares second in the league in goals with 23, is tops in shorthanded tallies with five and is knotted for fifth in game-winning markers with four. The Bobcats have an impressive 10-1-1-0 record in games in which Wagner registers at least two points. … Dustin Cordeiro is second on the squad in points with 27 followed by Andrew Palushaj with 23.

ESPANOLA RIVERMEN – Surging Brennen Dubchak remains the league’s leading point producer with 55. He has also picked up points in 15 consecutive games. … Dubchak is tied for second in the NOJHL in goals with 23, is second in assists with 32, tied for second in power plays tallies with seven and shorthanded markers with three. …The Rivermen also boast two other skaters in the top five in scoring. Corbin Bean is fourth and Brandon Janke fifth with 49 and 46 points respectively. Bean is tied for second in both game-winning markers (6) and shorthanded efforts (3) as well as fourth in goals (22) and shares third in assists (27) … As for Janke he is fifth in helpers with 25. … Espanola is third overall in the NOJHL with a 19-13 record. … They remain the only NOJHL team without a loss in overtime to date. … The Rivermen are at home to North Bay for their final game of 2013.

KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS – Kirkland Lake remained in CJHL national rankings once again this week after being tabbed 14th overall. … The Gold Miners have won four of their past five games. … The Gold Miners boast the second best winning percentage in the league at .833 and also sit second in the overall standings with a 24-4-0-2 record. They do hold four games in hand on first place Sault Ste. Marie. The Gold Miners are just victory shy of matching a franchise record for wins in a season. They’ll look to do that this weekend as they visit Elliot Lake Friday and North Bay Saturday. … Steven Babin’s 51 points leads the team and puts him third overall in the NOJHL. He is riding a seven-game point streak. … His 35 assists are the most of any player in the league. …Babin’s six power play markers have him fifth in the NOJHL. … Mathieu Lecompte is also tied for fourth in shorthanded goals with two and knotted for fifth in game-winning tallies with four. … Kenny Fitzgerald is third in goals-against average (2.20). Kirkland Lake sports a league-best six skaters with 25 or more points so far this season. … They are seventh in the entire CJHL in fewest goals allowed per game at 2.30.

NORTH BAY TRAPPERS – After winning in double OT Monday against Sudbury the Trappers will look to wrap-up their December schedule with solid outings at Espanola Friday and at home to Kirkland Lake Saturday. .… North Bay will be without the services of head coach Zane Neily for four games and goaltender Dustin Hummel for 10 games as the pair will serving suspensions incurred during a pre-game incident vs. Sudbury on Monday. The club is sixth in the NOJHL at 12-16-0-5. … Ryan Demyen’s 11 man advantage markers lead the league. Demyen, who has points in four straight, is also pacing the Trappers offensively with 36 points in 31 games, including a team-high 20 tallies. … Eric Champagne, who sits second on the squad in scoring with 28 points, has picked up points in eight of his previous nine outings. … Duane Wainman has points in four straight since returning to North Bat in a deal with Espanola scoring once and doling out eight assists. … Rookie netminder Evan Cormier is third in the NOJHL in save percentage at .919.

SOO THUNDERBIRDS – Remaining one of the hottest teams in the 128-team CJHL, Sault Ste. Marie has 10 straight wins to their credit. … They remained fourth overall in the CJHL weekly top 20 rankings again this week. … The T-Birds have the best goals allowed per game average in the CJHL at 1.88. … Sault Ste. Marie still have not lost on home ice so far in the 2013-13 campaign, having gone 18-0 to date and 21-0 dating back to last season. The 18 home wins in a row to start a season is a team record.  … The club leads the NOJHL in points with 58 and winning percentage at .853. … After racking up 26 points in his past 13 games Gavin Burbach sits second spot in NOJHL scoring with 53 points, including six in his last game. Burbach also tops the league in goals with 26 and is tied for third in assists with 27. … The Thunderbirds are 15-0 in games he records at least two points. … Anthony Miller, who is second on the squad offensively with 43 points, is tied for seventh overall in the league. His five game-winners tie him for third most in the NOJHL. … The club has five skaters with 25 or more points so far this season, the second most in the league. … Netminder Joel Horodziejczyk tops all goaltenders in both goals-against average and save percentage at 1.80 and .931 respectively while winning his last 15 starts in the Soo net. He also leads the way in shutouts with two. … Sault Ste. Marie closes out their 2013 portion of the schedule at home Friday vs. Blind River before meeting the Beavers again Saturday in a neutral site match-up in Thessalon.

SUDBURY NICKEL BARONS – The Nickel Barons remain seventh in the league standings with 19 points with an 8-19-0-5 record. … After picking up three points in as many games last week Sudbury will look to continue on positive note as they host Elliot Lake this evening in a 7:30 p.m. start at McClelland Arena. … They then head to Iroquois Falls Saturday to meet the Abitibi Eskimos.… August Jarecki is averaging nearly a point-per-game for the Nickel Barons with 26 in 27 contests. His offensive totals lead the team. … Ryan Punkari is tied with Giovanni Foschia for second on the squad in points with 20. … Brody Brunet and Khadyn Butterfly are next with 19. … Butterfly is tied for second in points among NOJHL defencemen. He leads all NOJHL defencemen in power play tallies with five. … Josh Moore has goals and points in four straight for the Nickel Barons. … Michael Muzyka has played the second most minutes in net among NOJHL goalkeepers at 1,133:26 and has faced the most shots of any stopper in the league at 768, including an amazing 111 in his just his last two starts.