By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – A convincing Soo Thunderbirds victory, combined with the Powassan Voodoos first loss of the 2015-16 campaign was enough to produce a new No. 1 team in Tom’s Top 12 NOJHL power rankings.
The Thunderbirds (16, 15-1-0-0, 30), who sit atop the NOJHL’s West Division standings, and the Voodoos (15, 14-1-0-0, 28), who lead the East Division standings, have nearly identical records.
The only blemish on the Thunderbirds’ record is a 4-2 setback at the hands of the Crunch in Cochrane back on Sept. 25, while the lone loss for the Voodoos, by a 3-1 score, came at the hands of the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake Sunday night.
Given that the Thunderbirds and the Voodoos have yet to face off against each other this season, an argument could be made for either squad holding down the No. 1 position in Tom’s Top 12 NOJHL power rankings.
The first meeting between the two clubs will be on Dec. 12 when the Voodoos visit the Thunderbirds at the Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Thunderbirds and the Voodoos have both scored 80 goals so far this season, although the former has played one more game.
It is defence, however, where we see the biggest difference as the Thunderbirds (26) have allowed nearly half as many goals as the Voodoos (43).
Following are Tom’s Top 12 NOJHL power rankings for this week, with last week’s rankings in brackets:
• No. 1 (2). Soo Thunderbirds (16, 15-1-0-0, 30) — The Thunderbirds lone game this past week saw them blank the Elliot Lake Wildcats 6-0. Nathan Warren (660:00, 10-1-0-0, 2, 1.64, .934) made 20 saves while recording his second shutout of the season. Darian Pilon (15, 8-11-19, 16) scored two goals and added an assist, while Matt Pinder (16, 11-11-22, 2) had a goal and an assist.
The week ahead: A three-game weekend road trip will see the Thunderbirds take on the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake Friday night, the Rock in Timmins Saturday night and the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour Sunday night.
• No. 2 (1). Powassan Voodoos (15, 14-1-0-0, 28) — The Voodoos split a pair of games this week, knocking off the visiting Blind River Beavers 8-3 Friday night before falling 3-1 to the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake Sunday night. Steve Harland (15, 10-18-28, 2) had two goals and two assists to pace the attack against the Beavers, while Alexi Rivet (12, 2-1-3, 4) added a pair of goals and Nathaniel McLeod (15, 12-11-23, 4) and Tyler Peters(15, 14-16-30, 16) each chipped in with a goal and two assists.
The week ahead: The Voodoos lone game of the week will see them attempt to end their lengthy one-game losing streak against the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour Saturday night.
• No. 3 (3). Cochrane Crunch (18, 13-3-1-1, 28) — The lone game for the Crunch during the past week saw them battle the visiting Kirkland Lake Gold Miners to a 3-3 tie Thursday night. A Hunter Atchison (17, 19-27-46, 18) power-play goal with 12 seconds remaining in regulation, his second of the game, forced overtime. Tyler Minoletti (17, 5-9-14, 27) had the other Crunch goal. Goalie Brett Young (849:00, 8-4-1-0, 1, 3.04, .913) made 39 saves to help the Crunch earn the single point.
The week ahead: The Crunch will host the Iroquois Falls Eskis at the Tim Horton Event Centre Thursday night and the French River Rapids Friday night and then travel to Kirkland Lake for a game with the Gold Miners Sunday night.
• No. 4 (5). Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (17, 11-4-1-1, 24) — The Gold Miners pick up three of a possible four points and continued their march up the rankings. Brayden Stortz (17, 14-18-32, 14) scored twice and added an assist to lead the Gold Miners to Thursday’s 3-3 tie with the Crunch in Cochrane. Goalie Tyler Mazzocato (310:00, 4-0-1-0, 0, 1.94, .928) made 43 saves to help his team claim the single point. Jamey Lauzon (11, 3-6-9, 42), Stortz and Dalton Anderson (17, 3-4-7, 4) each had a goal as the Gold Miners handed the visiting Powassan Voodoos their first loss of the season, 3-1, Sunday night.
The week ahead: The Gold Miners will continue their current home stand when they host the Timmins Rock at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Thursday night, the Soo Thunderbirds Friday night and the Cochrane Crunch Sunday night.
• No. 5 (4). Elliot Lake Wildcats (17, 10-4-3-0, 23) — The Wildcats split a pair of games this past week. Cole Hepler (9, 3-5-8, 8) had a goal and two assists to lead the Wildcats to a 6-2 win over the visiting Iroquois Falls Eskis Friday night. Alec MacKenzie (17, 10-10-20, 2) added a goal and an assist, while defenceman Nathan Campbell (17, 2-12-14, 30) chipped in with a pair of helpers. The Wildcats were unable to find the back of the net Saturday night during a 6-0 loss to the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie.
The week ahead: The Wildcats will host the Rayside-Balfour Canadians at the Centennial Arena Friday night, travel to Sault, Mich., for a game with the Eagles Saturday night and then return home to host the Espanola Express Sunday night.
• No. 6 (6). Timmins Rock (17, 10-6-0-1, 21) — Despite missing two-thirds of their second line and one third of their first line, the Timmins Rock managed to split a pair of weekend games. Cole Gilligan (8, 1-2-3, 2) and defenceman Joe Olson (11, 2-4-6, 6) each scored their first goals of the season in a 5-1 win over the Express in Espanola Friday night. Olson and Tyler Romain (17, 4-5-9, 7) each had a goal and an assist during Saturday night’s 7-4 loss to the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour.
The week ahead: The Rock will travel to Kirkland Lake to take on the Gold Miners Thursday night and then return home to host the Soo Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
• No. 7 (7). Rayside-Balfour Canadians (16, 9-7-0-0, 18) — The Canadians split a pair of games this past week. Wednesday night they dropped a 6-1 decision to the Eagles in Sault, Mich. Makenzie MacMillan (8, 1-1-2, 6) had the lone Rayside-Balfour goal. Saturday night, newcomer Otis Goldman (1, 2-2-4, 0) had two goals and two assists as the Canadians dumped the Timmins Rock 7-4. Captain Ryan Erickson (13, 6-14-20, 19) added a goal and two assists.
The week ahead: A busy weekend will see the Canadians travel to Elliot Lake for a game with the Wildcats Friday night then return home to host the Powassan Voodoos at the Chelmsford Arena Saturday night and the Soo Thunderbirds Sunday night.
• No. 8 (8). Soo Eagles (16, 6-9-0-1, 13) — The Eagles’ lone game of the week saw them skate to a 6-1 win over the Canadians on home ice Wednesday. Nate Harris (15, 8-4-12, 8) netted and pair of goals for the Eagles. Chris Skinner (9, 2-2-4, 0), Jake Saxton (12, 3-2-5, 6) and defenceman Alex DiBacco (16, 3-4-7, 6) each added a goal and an assist. Jack Hickey (590:00, 2-7-1-0, 0, 3.56, .911) made 38 saves in the Eagles net to earn the victory.
The week ahead: The Eagles will host the Blind River Beavers at Pullar Stadium Friday night and the Elliot Lake Wildcats Saturday night.
• No. 9 (9). Iroquois Falls Eskis (18, 5-13-0-0, 10) — The Eskis split a pair of games on the road this past weekend. David Osborne (18, 10-12-22, 29) and defenceman Jack Speer (13, 1-3-4, 10) each had a goal in the Eskis 6-2 loss to the Wildcats in Elliot Lake Friday night. Josh Horner 694:00, 2-10-0-0, 0, 5.88, .881) made 44 saves in a losing cause. Marco Luciani (10, 3-1-4, 4) had a pair of goals in Saturday night’s 6-1 win over the Beavers in Blind River. Garry Mindus (18, 3-5-8, 30) added a goal and an assist.
The week ahead: The Eskis will travel to Cochrane to take on the Crunch Thursday night and then return home to host the French River Rapids at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night.
• No. 10 (10). Blind River Beavers (20, 3-16-1-0, 7) — Two more games, two more one-sided losses for the Beavers who have digressed after getting off to a respectable start to the 2015-16 season. Cole Murray (20, 5-2-7, 4), Austin Hickner (18, 5-1-6, 14) and Nathan Hans (16, 3-7-10, 6) had goals in the Beavers 8-3 loss to the Voodoos in Powassan Friday night. Max Khull (20, 5-5-10, 12) had the lone Blind River goal in Saturday night’s 6-1 home-ice loss to the Iroquois Falls Eskimos.
The week ahead: The Beavers’ lone game this week will see them travel to Sault, Mich., to take on the Eagles Friday night.
• No. 11 (11). Espanola Express (17, 2-14-1-0, 5) — Mitchal Payette (16, 1-2-3, 23) had the lone goal as the Express dropped a 5-1 home-ice decision to a shorthanded Timmins Rock squad Friday night. Goalie Aaron Callan (304:00, 0-4-0-0, 0, 5.13, .867) made 29 saves, but it was not enough.
The week ahead: After hosting the French River Rapids Wednesday night at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex, the Express travel to Elliot Lake for a game with the Wildcats Sunday night.
• No. 12 (12). French River Rapids (15, 1-14-0-0, 0) — The Rapids did not add to their loss total in the past week … mainly because they did not play any games.
The week ahead: After travelling to Espanola for a game with the Express on Wednesday, the Rapids will travel to Cochrane for a game with the Crunch on Friday night and to Iroquois Falls for a game with the Eskis Saturday night.