TIMMINS - It is a rare week when one of the Top 2 ranked teams in the NOJHL loses a game in regulation, but this past week saw both the Thunderbirds and the Gold Miners suffer similar setbacks two days apart.
Wednesday night the Thunderbirds were handed a 3-0 defeat at the John Rhodes Community Centre by the visiting Elliot Lake Wildcats.
Thursday night the road woes of the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners continued, as they were thumped 8-5 by the Abitibi Eskimos at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls.
The outcome of those two games have had a significant impact on Tom’s Top 9 NOJHL power rankings (the first number in the brackets represents the team’s ranking last week, while the second refers to their ranking before the start of the season):
1. (1-2) Soo Thunderbirds (19-3-0-2) — Despite being shutout by the Wildcats on home ice, the Thunderbirds were able to earn a split this week, as they dumped the hapless Beavers 10-1 in Blind River Saturday night. Joey Miller (18, 5-14-19, 30) picked up five assists in that contest, while Joey Ogden (11, 6-9-15, 6) and Matt Caruso (16, 7-8-15, 14) each scored a pair of goals. Brian Kment (675:32, 0, 2.58, .909) was in net and picked up the win. Transactions: None. The Thunderbirds lone game this week will be a tough one, as they host the Cochrane Crunch at the John Rhodes Community Centre Friday night.
2. (4-8) Elliot Lake Wildcats (16-6-1-1) — The Wildcats played four games in five nights this week and won them all, to jump two spots in the rankings. The hot streak follows a four-game stretch that saw them suffer three losses, while earn a tie in the fourth. A.J. Smith (944:01, 2, 2.54, .925) earned his second shutout of the season in the 3-0 win over the Thunderbirds on Wednesday. Shane Woolsey (23, 12-16-28, 10) netted the game-winning goal late in the third period in Friday night’s 2-1 victory over the Sudbury Nickel Barons at the Centennial Arena. Adam Baxter (20, 10-19-29, 10) and Woolsey each had a pair of goals in Saturday night’s 8-1 win over the Blackhawks in Mattawa, while Trayvon Henry (7, 5-2-7, 0) and Nate Sepeda (19, 2-5-7, 14) each had a pair of goals in Sunday’s 8-1 win over the Beavers in Blind River. Transactions: None. The Wildcats will entertain the Beavers at the Centennial Arena Friday night and the Crunch Sunday night.
3. (2-3) Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (19-5-0-1) — The Gold Miners hold an eight-point lead atop the NOJHL’s East Division and have a game in hand on the second-place Eskimos, but they certainly didn’t look like a top-ranked team during an 8-5 loss to the Eskimos Friday night. Defenceman Ethan Strong (21, 7-8-15, 10) and forward Connor Thie (16, 9-14-23, 12) each had a goal and an assist in the loss. All five of the Gold Miners regulation losses this season have come on the road, where they look more vulnerable than they do on home ice. Thie also had a goal and an assist in Saturday night’s 5-4 win over the Eskimos at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex, while defenceman Jeremy Picard-Fiset (23, 3-25-28, 10) added a pair of assists. Transactions: None. The Gold Miners will travel to Powassan for a game with the Voodoos Friday night and to Mattawa for a game with the Blackhawks Saturday night.
4. (3-6) Sudbury Nickel Barons (14-6-1-2) — Brad Sutton (23, 5-9-14, 6) had a goal and three assists to lead the Nickel Barons to a 7-1 win over the Beavers at the McClelland Arena Wednesday night. Ryan Theriault (8, 4-0-4, 2) had a pair of goals in that game. New Liskeard native Jessie Morin (625:16, 0, 2.97, .917) made 43 saves in Friday night’s 2-1 loss in Elliot Lake. Danny Lepage (21, 8-2-10, 2) had the Nickel Barons lone goal in that game. Transactions: None. The Nickel Barons will host the Beavers at the McClelland Arena Wednesday night, in their lone game of the week.
5. (6-4) Abitibi Eskimos (14-9-0-3) — The Eskimos have won six of their last nine games, with two of their three losses in that span coming by one-goal margins. Defenceman Brennan Roy (22, 10-15-25, 24) had a goal and three assists in Friday night’s 8-5 win over the Gold Miners, while forward Brady Clouthier (20, 16-20-36, 25) added four assists. Former Fort Frances Lakers Jake Holland (7, 5-10-15, 4) and Tristan Salesse (6, 2-9-11, 4) each had three points in the victory. Holland added three more points in Saturday night’s 5-4 loss in Kirkland Lake, while Salesse added a pair of points to his totals. The Eskimos will travel to Powassan for a game with the Voodoos Saturday night and then to Mattawa for a game with the Blackhawks Sunday afternoon.
6. (5-1) Cochrane Crunch (13-8-1-2) — The Crunch have not played since Nov. 22, so their drop in the rankings has more to do with the performance of other teams than their own. Transactions: Reed Gregory traded to Mattawa Blackhawks; Alex Dajia acquired from Mattawa Blackhawks. Given the number of times the Blackhawks have visited Cochrane already this season, Crunch fans should be quite familiar with Dajia (19, 4-11-15, 24). A three-game road trip will see the Crunch take on the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie Friday night, the Beavers in Blind River Saturday night and the Wildcats in Elliot Lake Sunday night. The first visit of the former Bobcats to Elliot Lake should have emotions riding hight on both sides of the ice.
7. (7-7) Powassan Voodoos (9-10-0-3) — The Voodoos ran their current win streak to three games with a 5-3 win over the Blackhawks in Mattawa on Sunday. That victory moves the Voodoos to within one game of the magical .500 mark. Jacob Erwin (23, 10-4-14, 14), formerly of the Crunch, scored a pair of goals to pace the attack for the visitors. Steve Harland (19, 14-12-26, 0), one of the Voodoos’ more consistent players all season, added a goal and an assist. Transactions: None. The Voodoos will host the Eskimos at the Powassan Sportsplex Friday night and the Gold Miners Saturday night.
8. (8-5) Mattawa Blackhawks (2-20-1-1) — Two more games, two more losses for the struggling Blackhawks at the Mike Rodden Arena in Mattawa this week. Hayden Hickey (2, 1-1-2, 0) had the lone goal for the Blackhawks in their 8-1 loss to the Wildcats Saturday night. Andy Williams (9, 3-3-6, 6) and Marco Luciani (2, 1-1-2, 0), acquired from the Crunch, each had a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks 5-3 loss to Powassan on Sunday. Transactions: Alex Dajia traded to Cochrane Crunch; Reed Gregory acquired from Cochrane Crunch. The week ahead sees the Blackhawks host the Gold Miners at the Mike Rodden Arena Saturday night and the Eskimos on Sunday afternoon.
9. (9-9) Blind River Beavers (0-23-0-1) — Two losses, outscored by a total of 18-2, adds up to a typical week for the Beavers. Austin Lamont (11, 2-4-6, 6) had the lone goal for the Beavers as they were hammered 10-1 by the Thunderbirds on home ice Saturday night. Trent Linklater (5, 3-1-4, 0) had Blind River’s lone goal in Sunday’s 8-1 loss to the Wildcats. Transactions: Alex Hulford traded to Cambridge Winter Hawks Jr. B (GOJHL). The Beavers traded the only player on their team with more than five goals out of the NOJHL and did not get a player, or players back. They only dressed 13 skaters for Sunday’s game — five short of the limit. Have things sunk this low in Blind River? At least in the Harold Ballard era Maple Leaf fans could wear paper bags over their heads. They don’t make paper bags any more, do they? The 200 or so loyal fans who have been coming out to games at the Centennial Arena deserve better. The Beavers will travel to Sudbury for a game against the Nickel Barons on Wednesday night and to Elliot Lake for a game agains the Wildcats Friday night before returning home to host the Crunch at the Centennial Arena Saturday night. Hard to see them finding their first victory of the season in that stretch of games.