TIMMINS - The Christmas break has come and gone and all NOJHL teams returned to action this past weekend, some with more success than others.
For example, Santa Claus brought the Mattawa Blackhawks a two-game winning streak — even more impressive when you consider one of those two victories came over the league-leading Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie.
And the Abitibi Eskimos found a new goaltender under their tree, a big reason why they were able to end their three-game losing streak on home ice Saturday night.
Sadly, all the Blind River Beavers found in their Christmas stocking was a lump of coal.
After being doubled 6-3 by the Blackhawks Saturday night, the Beavers losing streak has now reached 32-straight games — only 22-straight games if you just count regulation losses.
The Beavers can’t go an entire season without winning at least one game, can they?
With only an handful of games on the weekend and no team playing more than a pair of games, there is no change in Tom’s Top 9 NOJHL power rankings this week.
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 (24-4-0-4) — Even though they were upset by the Blackhawks Friday night, the Thunderbirds still managed to force overtime and secure a point in the loss — the mark of a great team. Matt Pinder (27, 12-11-23, 15) had a goal and an assist in the loss. Anthony Miller (28, 14-16-30, 38) had three goals in Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Elliot Lake Wildcats. Nathan Herbert (30, 12-16-28, 10) added two goals and an assist in the victory. Transactions: None. The week ahead will see the Thunderbirds host the Sudbury Nickel Barons at the John Rhodes Community Centre Saturday night and the Abitibi Eskimos Sunday afternoon.
2. (2-3) Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (25-6-0-1) — Connor Thie (25, 18-27-45, 14) and Ryan Aubertin (18, 15-19-34, 6) each had a goal and an assist as the Gold Miners defeated the Crunch 3-1 in Cochrane Saturday night. Steady Josh Erickson (903:58, 1, 2.46, .914) made 27 saves in the Kirkland Lake net to secure the victory for the East Division-leading Gold Miners. Transactions: None. After hosting the Eskimos at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Tuesday night, the Gold Miners travel to Powassan for a game against the Voodoos on Friday night and to Mattawa to take on the suddenly red-hot Blackhawks Saturday night.
3. (3-8) Elliot Lake Wildcats (21-9-1-1) — Shane Woolsey (31, 15-19-34, 12) had a pair of goals to lead the Wildcats to a 5-3 win over the Nickel Barons Friday night. Spencer MacLean (32, 21-28-49, 14) added a goal and two assists in that victory. Adam Baxter (28, 15-26-41, 14) had both Wildcats goals in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie. Transactions: None. The Wildcats lone game this week will see them host the Eskimos at the Centennial Arena Friday night.
4. (4-1) Cochrane Crunch (20-11-0-2) — NOJHL scoring leader Cody Gratton (31, 39-29-68, 24) had two goals and an assist in Cochrane’s 5-3 win over the Voodoos Friday night. Dustin Cordeiro (28, 29-14-43, 25) added a goal and an assist in that victory. Gratton also had the only goal for the Crunch in Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to the Gold Miners. Brett Young (480:00, 0, 3.12, .921) was solid for the Crunch in both games, making 34 saves in each. Transactions: None. The lone game for the Crunch this week will see them travel to Powassan Saturday night to take on the Voodoos.
5. (5-6) Sudbury Nickel Barons (18-9-1-2) — Joel Lemay (29, 6-11-17, 16) had a goal and an assist in the Nickel Barons 5-3 loss to the Wildcats in Elliot Lake Friday night, their lone game of the weekend. Ryan Theriault (13, 7-2-9, 4) and Jimmy Roy (24, 12-9-21, 24) also scored for Sudbury in that loss. The Nickel Barons have now lost three of their past four games. Transactions: None. Sudbury will host the Beavers at the McClelland Arena Wednesday night before travelling to Sault Ste. Marie for a game with the Thunderbirds Saturday night.
6. (6-4) Abitibi Eskimos (17-14-0-3) — New goalie Logan Ferrington (60:00, 0, 1.00, .967) was solid in his debut in an Eskimos uniform during Saturday night’s 6-1 win over the visiting Voodoos. Brenden Locke (28, 24-19-43, 13) had two goals and three assists to pace the attack, while Jake Holland (16, 12-22-34, 16) added two goals and two assists. Transactions: Ferrington acquired from London, of the GOJHL. The Eskimos will begin a stretch of five-straight road games Tuesday night in Kirkland Lake. They will also visit Elliot Lake to play the Wildcats Friday night, Blind River to play the Beavers Saturday night and Sault Ste. Marie to play the Thunderbirds Sunday afternoon.
7. (7-7) Powassan Voodoos (11-15-0-5) — After fighting so hard to get back to the .500 level, a pair of weekend losses dropped Powassan back to four games under. The Voodoos leading scorer Steve Harland (31, 27-24-51,4) had a goal and an assist in their 5-3 loss to the Crunch in Cochrane Friday night. Brendan D’Agostino (31, 12-19-31, 6) added a pair of assists in that game. Harland had the Voodoos lone goal in their 6-1 loss to the Eskimos in Iroquois Falls Saturday night. Veteran goalie Matt Young (1164:22, 2, 3.45, .907) was solid in both losses, making 44 saves against the Crunch and 30 against the Eskimos. Transactions: None. The Voodoos will host the Gold Miners at the Powassan Sportsplex Friday night and the Eskimos on Saturday night.
8. (8-5) Mattawa Blackhawks (7-23-0-2) — C.J. Nicholson (30, 11-13-24, 36) had the game-winning goal in the first overtime period as the Blackhawks beat the Thunderbirds Friday night. Defenceman Nick Grosse (32, 2-21-23, 22) picked up his first two goals of the season in that contest. Tanner Bowditch (23, 8-10-18, 18) scored twice to lead the Blackhawks past the Beavers the following night. Grosse added three assists in that game. Transactions: None. The Blackhawks lone game this week will see them host the Gold Miners at the Mike Rodden Arena.
9. (9-9) Blind River Beavers (0-31-0-1) — Another game, another loss for the winless Beavers. Tough guy Cody Nicoll (29, 0-6-6, 60), the Beavers captain, had a pair of assists during their 6-3 loss to the Blackhawks. Chris Ordoobadi (22, 4-5-9, 29), Nathan Johnson (29, 8-12-20, 21) and Chandler Dorbin (12, 1-1-2, 16) had the Blind River goals. Transactions: None. The Beavers will travel to Sudbury for a game with the Nickel Barons Wednesday night and then return home to host the Eskimos at the Blind River Community Centre Saturday night.