Pigeon named MVP, Rock dominate NOJHL awards

Timmins Rock captain Nicolas Pigeon, shown here in action against the Cochrane Crunch at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls on March 10, has been names the NOJHL’s most valuable player, won the scoring championship and been selected to the first all-star team. Pigeon would gladly trade his hat-trick of individual accolades for an NOJHL championship, however, with the French River Rapids providing the first obstacle his Rock must overcome to realize that goal. FILE PHOTO/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD

Given the Timmins Rock finished atop the NOJHL’s overall standings this season it should come as no surprise the team dominated the NOJHL’s annual awards and all-star teams announced on Wednesday.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

TIMMINS – Given the Timmins Rock finished atop the NOJHL’s overall standings this season it should come as no surprise the team dominated the NOJHL’s annual awards and all-star teams announced on Wednesday.

Nicolas Pigeon

Leading the way is Rock captain Nicolas Pigeon, who captured both the Carlo Cattarello Trophy as the NOJHL’s Most Valuable Player and the Jimmy Connors Memorial Trophy as its leading scorer.

And the 20-year-old Aylmer, Que., product was named to the NOJHL’s first all-star team, as well.

That’s a pretty impressive hat-trick for a gifted offensive player who six times scored a pair of goals in a game this season, but unselfishly collected assists rather than third goals in five of those contests.

That’s not surprising given the NOJHL’s scoring champion earned nearly four times as many assists (81) as he had goals (26).

“It’s definitely an honour but there is not one (of the accolades) in particular (that stands out more than the others,” he said.

“We are focused on the playoffs and it will definitely mean nothing if we don’t get a championship.”

There is little doubt in the minds of anyone who knows Pigeon that he would gladly trade all three of his individual accolades for an NOJHL championship.

“Definitely, any time,” he confirmed.

Pigeon feels the secret to his success this season has to do with his support system, on and off the ice.

“It’s the people around me, starting with my billet family,” he said.

“They are amazing, awesome. They care so much and they do so much for me, helping me get ready for games and whatnot.

“Definitely my parents, my dad, and definitely the boys (teammates), (Brady) Harroun is amazing. Every time I pass the puck to him, he scores a goal.

“Yeah, it’s the people I surround myself with.”

Pigeon joined the Rock prior to the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 campaign and has been part of some pretty good teams during that time, but feels this just might be the best of them all.

“Hopefully, we will have a few rounds of playoffs to prove that,” he said.

Even though this year’s edition of the Rock had the best record in the NOJHL and they are ranked among the Top 10 Junior ‘A’ squads in the country, Pigeon isn’t taking anything for granted as they begin what will hopefully be a lengthy playoff run.

“What happened during the (regular) season is all behind us,” he said.

“We have home-ice advantage but we have to take advantage of that. Playoffs are definitely different than the regular season.

“It is shift by shift and you have to win every battle.”

Pigeon is, of course, not the only member of the Rock organization to be recognized for their accomplishments this season.

Jacob Brown

Goalie Jacob Brown took home the Wayne Chase Memorial Award for posting the best goals against average in the NOJHL and he also shares the NOJHL Team Goaltending Award with creasemate Patrick Boivin for allowing the fewest goals in the league this season.

“I am super happy,” he said.

“Obviously this has been a great way to start my Junior career. I had no idea at the start of the season this would be possible, especially being a 16 year old.

“I had hoped we were going to have a good team, but I couldn’t have dreamed of having the season I have had so far, with such a good team playing in front of me.”

Brown, a fourth round (80th overall) selection of the Flint Firebirds in the 2022 OHL Priority Selection, led all NOJHL goalies in goals against average (1.49) and shutouts (seven) this season, while posting the second-best save percentage (.925), all while suffering just one regulation loss in his 23 games.

“I have just tried to take everything in this year and enjoy my time in Timmins,” he said.

“We have such a close group and that’s been really special. I think that’s what has really stuck out for me.”

Brown, a Yarker, Ont., product, has really enjoyed having a chance to share the Rock crease this season with Boivin.

“It has been great, he is a great mentor and great teammate, always sticking up for me, helping me,” he said.

“If he sees something he can correct, he will tell me. He is a real competitor in practice and in games.

“I always strive to do just as good as him and it has been really good for me to have someone to compete with.”

Brown is hopeful the on-ice success the Rock enjoyed during the regular season will continue during the playoffs, as well.

“Everybody is super excited and super dialed in,” he said.

In addition to sharing the award for the fewest goals allowed with Brown, Boivin joined Pigeon, Rock forward Brady Harroun and blue-liner Kenyon Nyman on the NOJHL’s first all-star team.

Patrick Boivin

Acquired from his hometown Blind River Beavers prior to the season, Boivin had some pretty impressive stats of his own — first in wins (27), second in goals against average (1.98), tied for sixth in save percentage (.920) and tied for second in shutouts (six).

“It has been a great year,” he said.

The 19 year old enjoyed getting the chance to share a crease with Brown this season.

“Everybody always says he is too mature for his age, but he is a great kid and he has a big future ahead of him,” Boivin said.

The goalie, who played the second-most minutes of all puck stoppers in the NOJHL, enjoyed playing behind a solid D corps and a group of defensively responsible forwards this season, as well.

“It has been unreal this year,” Boivin said.

“Even if me or Brownie have an off night, they score seven goals and all that matters is the win.”

Statistically speaking, there is only one that really matters to Boivin.

“It’s the 27 wins, I really like to win and I couldn’t do that all the boys,” he said.

“So, yeah, the 27 wins, for sure.”

As good as Boivin’s stat line was this season, he still has one more year of Junior ‘A’ eligibility left but right now his focus is 100 per cent on the playoffs.

“Next year is next year, right now the only thing on my mind is the playoffs,” he said.

“We have a great, solid group of boys and everybody is ready to do what they have to do.”

As a team, the Rock earned both the James Aspin Trophy as the NOJHL’s regular season champions and the Gary Hall Memorial Award as the East Division’s top team.

And Rock president Ted Gooch captured the Joe Drago Trophy as the NOJHL’s Director of the Year.

Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was naturally impressed with his squad’s haul of hardware on the eve of the playoff, especially the trio of honours collected by his captain.

“Those are some pretty impressive accomplishments for Pigeon and he deserves all of the success he has gotten,” he said.

“He works extremely hard and he shows up every day, does things the right way and he is a great, great teammate, great leader.

“He is extremely important to our organization and on top of that he is great in our community.

“He is a tremendously talented player and he takes his game very seriously.

“He has had an outstanding season.”

The duo of Brown and Boivin gave their coach plenty of reason to smile, as well.

“Both of those guys have been fantastic all season long,” Perry said.

“They gave us a chance to win every single night. Even when we weren’t at our best, they gave us the stops until we got our feet going.

“I just can’t say enough about how good of a duo they have been. They are two great young men.

“They have great chemistry and a great connection between them, which is always nice to see.”

The coach was also pleased to see the all-star recognition earned by two of the players the Rock acquired from the SIJHL’s Red Lake Miners prior to the start of the season.

Brady Harroun

“Four of the six (first all-star selections) is pretty good and you could have put Babs (Harroun) and Kenny (Nyman) in the MVP talks along with Pigeon,” Perry said.

“They just had incredible seasons, with 50 goals in 57 games for Babs and Kenny leading all D-men in scoring with 60 points in 58 games.

Kenyon Nyman

“He was the best D in the league in my books. I don’t want to take anything away from the Alex Little kid in Powassan, he had a fantastic season, but Kenyon Nyman is the real deal.

“What an incredible person, what an incredible teammate and obviously the skill set, his edges, how long he is, how well he defends, he has such a great, active stick, it’s hard to beat him wide.

“He is strong, he has such great offensive instincts, he is well deserving of being a first team all-star.”

The coach was happy to see Gooch earn recognition, for a second-straight season, as well.

“He has been so good to me, allowing me to do what I need to do to be successful in my position,” Perry said.

“I don’t think everybody understands what goes into the day-to-day here and what makes this organization so great and he is the leader of all of it.

“We have a lot of great people on our board of directors and the stuff Ted does for this team, how well we are looked after, just from the details, from our jerseys to our game-day operations, he runs this like a Major Junior organization, like an OHL team.

“It shows when you come to The Mac and watch Timmins Rock hockey.

“Ted does such a great job and he is so deserving of this award.”

Perry is, of course, proud his squad captured both the James Aspin Trophy as the NOJHL’s regular season champions and the Gary Hall Memorial Award as the East Division’s top team, but hopes the accolades don’t end there.

“They are nice feathers in our cap, but we are playing to win an (NOJHL) championship, not just a regular season championship,” he said.

“They certainly show the commitment from our group and the dedication we have shown all season long.

“Our guys are so deserving of that first place finish because I don’t think there is a group that works harder on and off the ice or in the community.

“We have such an incredible group and it is amazing how tight they are this year. It is just really special to be a part of it.”

Following is the complete list of the 2022-23 NOJHL winners:

CARLO CATTARELLO TROPHY (NOJHL MVP) — Pigeon. The play-making centre led all league skaters in both assists and points with 81 and 107 respectively, while also contributing 26 goals along the way.

Of his helper totals, 16 of them came on game-winning tallies for his club, while Pigeon also notched a NOJHL-high 39 power play assists, along with 44-man advantage points.

He also provided consecutive game point streaks of 21 and 19 games during the season, while only being held off the gamesheet twice in his final 45 outings and just six times in 58 overall appearances.

NOJHL TROPHY (BEST DEFENCEMAN) — Alex Little, Powassan Voodoos. The smooth-skating blue-liner, who turned 20 earlier this month, topped all league defensemen in goals with 21 and point-per-game average at 1.07.

The Powassan captain also finished second in points among rearguards with 58, in 54 games played, marking a 30-point improvement over last season, while establishing personal single-season bests in goals, assists and points.

Hailing from Minden, Ont., Little has appeared in 104 NOJHL contests while scoring 30 times and setting up 56 others for 86 points.

JOHN GRIGNON TROPHY (ROOKIE OF THE YEAR) — Blue-liner Kyloe Ellis, Greater Sudbury Cubs. Ellis was a solid contributor at both ends of the ice for the West Division-winning Cubs.

The 18-year-old D-man from Brantford, Ont., scored eight times and assisted on 35 others for a 43-point initial campaign in the league, while also helping Greater Sudbury allow the third-fewest goals-against in the NOJHL at 138.

Ellis also paced all rookie D-men in power play points with 21.

GILLES LAPERRIERE TROPHY (MOST IMPROVED PLAYER) — Forward Caleb Minns, Blind River Beavers. Finishing third in NOJHL scoring this season, Minns provided 84 points in 58 games for the Beavers on the year.

The skilled forward from Baxter, Ont., who is finishing up his final campaign of Junior ‘A’ hockey, had a 37-point improvement from 2021-22, in setting personal season bests in tallies, assists and points with 31, 53 and 84 respectively.

MITCH TETREAULT MEMORIAL TROPHY (TOP DEFENSIVE FORWARD) — Dharan Cap, Soo Thunderbirds. As a quality player, who was relied on in many areas on the ice, Cap was called upon to go head-to-head against many of the other clubs’ top players throughout the season.

While solid defensively, the 20-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C., also scored 30 times for Sault Ste. Marie, and drew assists on 38 others, to finish ninth in league scoring with 68 points, in 55 match-ups.

WAYNE CHASE MEMORIAL AWARD (BEST GOALS-AGAINST AVERAGE) — Brown. The first-year netminder was nearly unbeatable for the Rock when called after getting the starting nod.

Boasting a NOJHL-low goals-against average of 1.49, he went 18-1-1-2, while leading all goaltenders in shutouts with seven and being second in save percentage at .925.

NOJHL TEAM GOALTENDING AWARD (FEWEST GOALS ALLOWED) —Boivin and Jacob Brown. The Timmins tandem combined to give up just 111 goals on the season, including posting 13 shutouts between them.

JIMMY CONNORS MEMORIAL TROPHY (NOJHL SCORING CHAMPION) — Pigeon. The 20-year-old play-making centre led all league skaters in both assists and points with 81 and 107 respectively, while also contributing 26 goals along the way.

DAVID HARRISON TROPHY (MOST GENTLEMANLY PLAYER) — Forward Mathieu Comeau, Hearst Lumberjacks. Competing at nearly a point-per-game clip for Hearst, Comeau completed his second consecutive season without incurring a penalty.

In 57 games this season, while skating for his hometown Hearst side, the 17-year-old forward notched 15 markers and picked up assists on 39 others, for 54 points.

Through his initial 105 NOJHL outings, Comeau has 95 points to his credit, and as mentioned, has yet to be penalized in his league career.

NOJHL TROPHY (BEST OVERALL TEAM PLAYER) — Forward Lucas Signoretti, Espanola Paper Kings – A major contributor to the improved success of the Espanola franchise this season was the play of Signoretti.

The 18-year-old from Kinborn, Ont., sported an NOJHL-best point-per-game average of 1.98 while scoring 39 times and assisting on 40 others in 40 games for the Paper Kings.

Signoretti’s efforts included 23 multi-point performances and getting his name on the game sheet offensively in each of his final 15 outings, as well as in 23 of his last 24 contests.

MIRL ‘RED’ McCARTHY MEMORIAL AWARD (NOJHL COACH OF THE YEAR) — Peter Goulet, Powassan Voodoos. Taking over the reins of the Voodoos in early July, he made an immediate impact in joining the Powassan organization and the NOJHL.

In stepping behind the bench, Goulet led the Voodoos to 37 victories this season, despite having a later start in helping prepare his line-up. This was a seven-win improvement for the club in his first year with the squad.

The team discipline for the veteran Junior ‘A’ head coach saw Powassan register the fewest penalty minutes in the league, at just 486, with none of his players picking up a suspension throughout the regular season.

To date, Goulet’s efforts has also already helped four of his players earn scholastic and hockey-related opportunities, at the next level, for next season.

THE JOE DRAGO TROPHY (NOJHL DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR) — Gooch. Garnering the laurels for a second consecutive year, his efforts saw Timmins continue to provide solid showings both on and off the ice.

The Rock finished first overall in the regular season standings and topped the league in attendance for yet another campaign in guiding what is a model Junior ‘A’ franchise.

JAMES ASPIN TROPHY (NOJHL REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONS) — Rock. The Rock finished No. 1 among the 12-member NOJHL teams with 95 points and an overall record of 45-8-3-2.

GARY HALL MEMORIAL AWARD (NOJHL EAST CHAMPION) — Rock. Pacing the NOJHL East, Timmins registered their 95 points, which was seven more than second place Hearst.

WILLIAM SIDNEY JONES MEMORIAL TROPHY (NOJHL WEST CHAMPION) — Greater Sudbury Cubs. In finishing on top in the NOJHL West, Greater Sudbury boasted a solid record of 46-10-2-0, with their 94 points putting them five clear of Blind River in the divisional race.

The NOJHL also announced its first and second all-star team recipients with the players and team staff members being recognized for their achievements, efforts and contributions with their respective clubs during the 2022-23 campaign.

• FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM — Forwards Pigeon, Signoretti and Harroun; blue-liners Little and Nyman; goalie Boivin; general manager Marc Gagnon, Espanola Paper Kings; coach Goulet; trainer/equipment manager Matt MacDougall, Powassan Voodoos.

• SECOND ALL-STAR t — Forwards Zachary Demers, Hearst Lumberjacks, Pierson Sobush, Greater Sudbury Cubs, and Tucker Shields, Powassan Voodoos; blue-liners Ethan Pegg, Blind River Beavers, and Mitch Wilkie, Powassan Voodoos; goalie Noah Metivier, Greater Sudbury Cubs; general manager Jonathan Blier, Hearst Lumberjacks; coach Darryl Moxam, Greater Sudbury Cubs; trainer/equipment manager Kayla Lauzon, French River Rapids.