Tom’s NOJHL power rankings Dec-23

TIMMINS - The Christmas break has arrived in the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League and all the players are back home for the holidays, tucked in their beds awaiting the arrival St. Nick, Father Christmas, the Jolly Old Elf, or Santa Claus.

While the majority of the players in the NOJHL come from communities in Northern Ontario, or those in the southern part of the province, it is interesting to note that many of them venture quite far to entertain local fans.

For example, the Cochrane Crunch have a couple of players from Canada’s east coast in their lineup.

Defenceman Jackson Atkinson hails from Stratford, P.E.I., while forward Ian Skinner comes from Corner Brook, N.L.

There are also players from the west coast, such as forward Jake Holland, of the Abitibi Eskimos, who is from Maple Ridge, B.C., and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners defenceman Jackson Robinson, from Nanaimo, B.C.

Check out the roster of any of the nine NOJHL squads and you will find at least one player from the United States, as well, and not just from the traditional states you would expect to produce hockey players, such as Minnesota.

Here are some of the states you will find represented on the rosters of NOJHL squads:

• Alaska — Mattawa Blackhawks forward Henry Yawit (Anchorage); Sudbury Nickel Barons defenceman Eliot Herz (Eagle River);

• California — Cochrane Crunch forward Henry Berger (Claremont); Soo Thunderbirds defenceman David Radke (Orinda);

• Colorado — Mattawa Blackhawks forward Reed Gregory (Franktown); Cochrane Crunch forward Josh Racek (Colorado Springs);

• Connecticut — Blind River Beavers goalie Daniel Potter (Lebanon);

• District of Columbia — Blind River Beavers forward Chris Ordoobadi (Washington);

• Florida — Cochrane Crunch forward Blake Peavey (St. Petersburg);

• Illinois — Mattawa Blackhawks forward Jimmy Philbin (Glenview); Cochrane Crunch defenceman Joy Mavrin (Lockpor);

• Indiana — Blind River Beavers defenceman Chandler Dorbin (Granger);

• Maine — Blind River Beavers defenceman Zachary Huggins (Westfield);

• Michigan — Gold Miners defenceman Dylan Rosen (Clarkston); Powassan Voodoos defenceman Kyle Hauswirth (Hancock); Cochrane Crunch goalie Brett Young (Livonia); Soo Thunderbirds forward Eric Hillock (Sault Ste. Marie);

• Minnesota — Gold Miners foward Connor (Minnetonka); Gold Miners forward Tristen Hazlett (Lakeville); Gold Miners goalie Josh Erickson (Woodbury); Mattawa Blackhawks forward Tyler Broderson (St. Louis Park);

• New Jersey — Gold Miners forward Ryan Swain, (Jackson); Eskimos goalie Chet Tooker (Rumson);

• North Carolina — Powassan Voodoos forward Kyle Moore (Indian Trail);

• Ohio — Powassan Voodoos forward Dante Juris (Pickerington); Powassan Voodoos forward Jack Zanville (Toledo);

• Pennsylvania — Elliot Lake Wildcats defenceman Josef Kittelberger (Pittsburgh); Elliot Lake Wildcats forward Aaron Carmichael (Broomall); Elliot Lake Wildcats forward Cole Hepler (Pittsburgh);

• Texas — Mattawa Blackhawks forward Andy Williams (Dallas); Mattawa Blackhawks goalie Joe Sheppard (Austin); Cochrane Crunch defenceman Max Glashauser (Flower Mount); Elliot Lake Wildcats forward Nate Sepeda (Keller); Elliot Lake Wildcats goalie A.J. Smith (Southlake); Soo Thunderbirds forward Joey Ogden (Detroit);

• Virginia — Powassan Voodoos defenceman James Vuillemot (Bristow); Mattawa Blackhawks defenceman Nick Grose (Fairfax).

What, no Hawaii?

With 16 states and the District of Columbia represented, you would think some NOJHL team would have at least explored the possibility, maybe made a few scouting trips to the big island to check out the local rinks.

They do have ice in Hawaii, don’t they?

Before we get into Tom’s Top 9 NOJHL power rankings for this week, I should point out that with the Christmas break there will be no column next week. NOJHL Notes will return the first week of January.

As with previous columns, 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 (23-4-0-3) — The Thunderbirds rolled up three more wins this past week and they enjoy a comfortable seven-point lead over the second place Wildcats in the NOJHL’s West Division standings. Jaren Bellini (30, 19-18-37, 10) had two goals and two assists to lead the Soo past the Beavers on Tuesday night. Nicolas Sicoly (29, 13-18-31, 12) had a goal and three assists to pace the attack in Friday night’s 7-1 win over the Blackhawks. Goalie Mario Culina (1016:22, 1, 1.95, .930) made 24 saves as the Soo doubled the Wildcats 4-2 on Sunday night. Transactions: None. The Thunderbirds will return to action on Friday, Jan. 2, when they host the Blackhawks at the John Rhodes Community Centre. They will then visit the Wildcats in Elliot Lake on Sunday, Jan. 4.

2. (3-3) Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (24-6-0-1) — The Gold Miners jump back into second place in the rankings this week thanks to a pair of convincing victories over East Division opponents. Leading scorer Steven Babin (31, 16-41-57, 10) had two goals and three assist in Kirkland Lake’s 9-2 win over the Voodoos Friday night. The following night Luc Soares (28, 19-18-37, 22) had two goals and four assists in the Gold Miners’ 8-3 road win over the Eskimos. Ryan Swain (30, 12-22-34, 28) had five assists in that game, while Tristen Hazlett (28, 16-17-33, 8) scored three goals and added an assist. Transactions: Vincent Currao traded to Richmond Generals (USPHL); Bryan Lubin acquired from Castlegar Rebels Jr B (KIJHL). The Gold Miners will return to action on Saturday, Jan. 3, when they travel to Cochrane for a game against the Crunch.

3. (2-8) Elliot Lake Wildcats (20-8-1-1) — The Wildcats slipped one spot in this week’s rankings, but they are still playing pretty good hockey. Big forward Alec MacKenzine (29, 9-21-30, 24) had two goals to lead the Wildcats to a 6-3 win over the Nickel Barons in Sudbury Wednesday night. Two nights later, it was Spencer MacLean (30, 20-25-45, 14) who led the way, with three goals and an assist, as the Wildcats took the second half of the home-and-home series 6-1. Sunday night’s 4-2 loss to the division-leading Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie saw Smith (1124:01, 2, 2.83, .916) make 34 saves. Transactions: None. The Wildcats will return to action on Friday, Jan. 2, when they host the Nickel Barons at the Centennial Arena. Sunday night, the Thunderbirds will visit Elliot Lake.

4. (6-1) Cochrane Crunch (19-10-0-2) — The Crunch swept both ends of a home-and-home series with the Abitibi Eskimos this past week to move up in the rankings. Racek (31, 16-28-44, 19) scored three goals to key the attack in Tuesday’s 7-5 victory. Dustin Cordeiro (26, 28-13-41, 25), with two goals and two assists, and NOJHL scoring leader Cody Gratton (29, 36-28-64, 24), with four assists, both had four-point games. Racek added three more goals and an assist in Friday night’s 9-2 win over the Eskimos, while Gratton had two goals and three assists. Transactions: None. Coming out of the break, the Crunch will host the Voodoos at the Tim Horton Event Centre on Friday, Jan. 2, and the Gold Miners on Saturday, Jan. 3.

5. (4-6) Sudbury Nickel Barons (18-8-1-2) — The Nickel Barons might have fallen further in the rankings, but after losing both ends of their home-and-home series with the Nickel Barons they rebounded to edge the Blackhawks in Mattawa. Jimmy Roy (23, 11-9-20, 20) had two goals in the Nickel Barons 6-3 loss to the Wildcats on home ice Wednesday. Two nights later, Christopher Rossi (28, 8-15-23, 0) had their lone goal in the 6-1 loss to the Wildcats in Elliot Lake. August Jarecki (26, 8-17-25, 27) scored twice in the 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks, while Danny Lepage (26, 9-2-11, 14) had the game-winning goal in overtime. Transactions: None. Coming out of the break, the Nickel Barons will travel to Elliot Lake for a game with the Wildcats on Friday, Jan. 2.

6. (5-4) Abitibi Eskimos (16-14-0-3) — The Eskimos did not fare well in their three games against the East Division’s top two teams this past week. Tristan Salesse (14, 7-15-22, 6) scored twice against the Crunch Tuesday night, but it was not enough to keep the team from dropping a 7-5 decision to the visitors. Brenden Locke (27, 22-16-38, 13) had a goal and an assist as the Eskimos dropped the second half of the home-and-home series 9-2 Friday night in Cochrane. Brady Clouthier (30, 28-30-58, 37) had two goals and an assist in Saturday night’s 8-3 home ice loss to the Gold Miners. Transactions: None. The Eskimos will return to action Saturday, Jan. 3, when they host the Voodoos at the Jus Jordan Arena.

7. (7-7) Powassan Voodoos (11-13-0-5) — The Voodoos were gunned out of the sky 9-2 by the Gold Miners when they visited Kirkland Lake for their only game of the week. Colton Point (60:00, 0, 9.00, .791) was called up from the North Bay Trappers, of the Great North Midget League, to make his first start in goal. The rookie made 34 saves in the loss. Steve Harland (29, 25-23-48, 4), one of the Voodoos’ more reliable forwards, got another goal against the Gold Miners and also picked up his first four penalty minutes on the season. Transactions: None. The Voodoos will return to action with another road trip up Highway 11 for stops in Cochrane on Friday, Jan. 2, and Iroquois Falls on Saturday, Jan. 3.

8. (8-5) Mattawa Blackhawks (5-23-0-2) — The Blackhawks split their three games this week, suffering a 7-1 loss to the Thunderbirds Friday night, edging the Beavers 6-5 Saturday night and then picking up a point in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Nickel Barons. Williams (29, 10-11-21, 25) had the lone goal against the Thunderbirds. Brett Ouderkirk (19, 6-6-12, 4) had two goals and an assist in the win over the Beavers. Goalie Joe Sheppard (1282:45, 0, 6.55, .864) made 47 saves in the 3-2 loss to the Nickel Barons. Transactions: None. Coming out of their break, the Blackhawks will travel to Sault Ste. Marie for a game with the Thunderbirds on Friday, Jan. 2, and to Blind River for a meeting with the Beavers on Saturday, Jan. 3

9. (9-9) Blind River Beavers (0-30-0-1) — Two games and two more losses for the winless Beavers this week. Nathan Hans (30, 5-8-13, 28) had both goals in the 10-2 loss to the Thunderbirds. Back home, during Saturday night’s 6-5 loss to the Blackhawks, Nathan Johnson (28, 7-12-19, 21) had two goals and an assist. Defenceman Chris Hrabec (20, 1-9-10, 40) added a goal and two assists. Transactions: None. The Beavers will return to action on Saturday, Jan. 3, when they host the Blackhawks at the Blind River Community Centre.