By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Powassan Voodoos are now just 39 victories away from a perfect season after they pushed their NOJHL season-opening winning streak to 13 games this past weekend.
I know, I know, the chances of the Voodoos winning all 52 games they play in the regular season are even slimmer than the Blind River Beavers failing to record a single victory during the 2014-15 campaign.
Even a team with as much skill as the Voodoos, that works as hard as this Powassan squad would need a lifetime of luck to pull off such as accomplishment, but …
Friday night in Cochrane, the Voodoos were able to force overtime on Tyler Peters’ second goal of the game and 10th of the season with just 52 seconds remaining on the clock and goalie Garrett Forrest on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
Defenceman Eric Nagy scored the eventual game-winning goal, his second of the season, with 55 seconds remaining in the second overtime period as the Voodoos edged the Crunch 5-4.
Skill and talent aside, it takes more than a little bit of luck to net a last-minute goal to force overtime and a last-minute goal to win it in double overtime in the same hockey game.
One night later, Jake Staples’ power-play marker — his 11th goal on the season — with less than a second remaining in the third period, lifted the Voodoos to a 5-4 win over a stunned Rock squad in Timmins.
Coming off two such emotional victories, it would have been easy for the Voodoos to experience a letdown as they closed out their three-game road trip through the North with a game against the Eskis in Iroquois Falls Sunday afternoon.
In this case, however, the Voodoos idea of a letdown was spotting the Eskis a 1-0 lead before storming back to post a 7-3 victory, with Peters netting a hat-trick to pace the attack.
The week ahead will see the Voodoos host the Blind River Beavers at the Powassan Sportsplex Friday night and then travel to Kirkland Lake for a game with the Gold Miners Sunday evening.
After getting my first chance to see the Voodoos in person this past weekend, I have to say I am impressed.
Coach Scott Wray claims his duo of Mario Cavaliere (365:00, 6-0-0-0, 0, 2.63, .912) and Garrett Forrest (429:00, 7-0-0-0, 0, 2.93, .915) is the best goaltending tandem in the NOJHL.
Not sure I would go quite that far, but they are pretty good.
Cavaliere ranks sixth in the NOJHL in goals against average and ninth in saves percentage, while Forrest is ninth in goals against average and seventh in saves percentage.
Statistically, it is hard to argue against the Soo Thunderbirds duo of Brendon Gordon (300:00, 5-0-0-0, 1, 1.60, .924) and Nathan Warren (600:00, 9-1-0-0, 1, 1.80, .928) being the best pair in the league.
They rank one-two in terms of goals against average and three-two in saves percentage.
You could even make an argument for Logan Ferrington (590:00, 5-4-0-0, 0, 3.15, .921) and Matthew Nixon (320:00, 4-1-0-0, 0, 2.44, .938) of the Rock ranking ahead of the Voodoos keepers.
Ferrington is 11th in the league in goals against average and fourth in saves percentage, while Nixon is fourth in goals against average and leads the league in saves percentage.
The Voodoos remain the top-ranked team in the Canadian Junior Hockey League and also hold onto top spot in Tom’s Top 12 NOJHL power rankings, as well.
Following is how the league’s other 11 squads stack up heading into this weekend’s games, with last week’s rankings in brackets.
• No. 2 (2). Soo Thunderbirds (15, 14-1-0-0, 28) — The Thunderbirds have moved up one spot to No. 6 in the CJHL rankings. Defenceman Caleb Boman (14, 6-12-18, 10) had two goals and an assist to lead the Thunderbirds to a 9-0 win over the visiting Blind River Beavers last Wednesday. Warren made 15 saves to earn the shutout. Joey Miller (13, 7-6-13, 13) had a goal and an assist as the Thunderbirds edged the visiting Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 3-2 on Sunday.
The week ahead: The Thunderbirds’ lone game this week will see them host the Elliot Lake Wildcats at the Essar Centre Saturday night.
• No. 3 (3). Cochrane Crunch (17, 13-3-1-0, 27) — The Crunch picked up three of a possible four points during the week but saw their stock in the CJHL rankings fall to 20 from 12. John Stevenson (15, 9-8-17, 4) had a goal and an assist in Friday’s 5-4 double overtime loss to the Voodoos. He added two goals and an assist the following night during a 7-1 win over the Eskis in Iroquois Falls. Hunter Atchison (16, 17-27-44, 14) also had two goals, while Evan Akkerman (3, 0-3-3, 4) earned three assists.
The week ahead: The lone game for the Crunch this week will see them host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Tim Horton Event Centre Thursday night.
• No. 4 (4). Elliot Lake Wildcats (15, 9-3-3-0, 21) — Liam Blais (9, 6-4-10, 2) had a goal and an assist as the Wildcats dropped a 4-3 decision to the visiting Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Friday night. Alec MacKenzie (15, 9-9-18, 2) had a goal and an assist the following night, as the Wildcats doubled the Rapids 4-2 in French River.
The week ahead: The Wildcats will host the Iroquois Falls Eskis at the Centennial Arena Friday night and then travel to Sault Ste. Marie for a game with the Thunderbirds Saturday night.
• No. 5 (6). Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (15, 10-4-1-0, 21) — The Gold Miners enjoyed a relatively productive three-game road trip that saw them pick up a pair of wins and suffer a one-goal loss. Marc-Antoine Arseneau (15, 9-12-21, 16) had a pair of goals as the Gold Miners started off the trip with a 4-3 win over the Wildcats in Elliot Lake Friday night. He added two more goals in Saturday night’s 6-3 win over the Eagles in Sault, Mich. Goalie Victor-Olivier Courchesne (180:00, 2-1-0-0, 0, 3.00, .906), who earned the wins in the first two games of the road trip, stopped 33 shots in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie.
The week ahead: The Gold Miners will travel to Cochrane to take on the Crunch Thursday night, then return home to entertain the Powassan Voodoos at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Sunday night.
• No. 6 (5). Timmins Rock (15, 9-5-0-1, 19) — The Rock came within less than a second of collecting three of a possible four points from their two games this week. The week started off on a positive note note, as both Tristan Salesse (14, 13-16-29, 4) and Jordan Rendle (15, 10-9-19, 12) recorded hat-tricks in a 10-2 home ice win against the Iroquois Falls Eskis that pushed their winning streak to six games. Nixon made 36 saves to earn the victory. Things did not go quite so well Saturday night, as Staples’ last-second goal robbed the Rock of at least a point and they lost Rendle to an injury. While nothing is official yet, it looks like Rendle’s injury may not be as serious as had been first feared. Ryan Theriault (9, 9-8-17, 2) had a pair of goals to pace the attack for the Rock against the Voodoos.
The week ahead: The Rock head out on a mini-two-game road trip this weekend as they travel to Espanola for a date with the Express Friday night and then to Rayside-Balfour to take on the Canadians Saturday night.
• No. 7 (7). Rayside Balfour Canadians (14, 8-6-0-0, 16) — The Canadians are coming off a solid weekend that saw them sweep the Beavers 9-2 in Blind River Saturday night and 7-2 at home on Sunday. Joel Lemay (14, 6-8-14, 12) had two goals and three assists to pace the attack Saturday night, while defenceman Ryan Mooney (13, 5-13-18, 17) had a goal and three assists. Blue-liner Kyle Fransen (11, 7-11-18, 20) had two goals and two assists to lead the way on Sunday.
The week ahead: Things will get a little tougher for the Canadians this week, as they travel to Sault, Mich., to take on the Eagles Thursday night and then return home to host the Timmins Rock at the Chelmsford Arena Saturday night. They will no doubt be looking to avenge the 8-2 loss they suffered at the hands of the Rock earlier this month.
• No. 8 (8). Soo Eagles (15, 5-9-0-1, 11) — The Eagles split a pair of games this week, dropping a 6-3 decision to the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners on Saturday night and edging the Express 2-1 in Espanola on Sunday. Jake Saxton (11, 2-1-3, 4), Dayton Honkanen (15, 2-5-7, 24) and Chris Hazen (7, 1-1-2, 4) each had a goal for the home side. Bradley Hofelich (4, 1-0-1, 2) scored his first goal of the season to lead the Eagles to Sunday’s victory in Espanola. Jack Deines (380:00, 4-2-0-0, 0, 2.68, .921) made 42 saves to earn the win.
The week ahead: The Eagles lone game this week will see them play host to the Rayside-Balfour Canadians at Pullar Stadium Thursday night.
• No. 9 (9). Iroquois Falls Eskis (16, 4-12-0-0, 8) — The Eskis losing streak was extended to five games, as they dropped three games this past week. Jacob Erwin (16, 8-10-18, 6) and Shadow Reuben (14, 4-1-5, 6) had goals in a 10-2 loss to the Rock in Timmins on Wednesday. David Osborne (16, 9-10-19, 29) had the lone Eskis goal in a 7-1 home-ice loss to the Cochrane Crunch Saturday night. Defenceman Nathan Avery (14, 3-7-10, 32), Dillan Bruce (16, 3-3-6, 10) and Reuben had goals in Sunday’s 7-3 home-ice loss to the Powassan Voodoos.
The week ahead: The Eskis will travel to Elliot Lake to take on the Wildcats Friday night and then visit Blind River to take on the Beavers Saturday night.
• No. 10 (10). Blind River Beavers (18, 3-14-1-0, 7) — The Beavers have now lost 10-straight games after suffering three more setbacks this past week. The week started with a 9-0 loss to the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday night. Jay Sidhu (6, 1-1-2, 0) had a goal in Saturday night’s 9-2 home-ice setback against the Canadians. Max Khull (18, 4-4-8, 12) scored a goal in Sunday’s 7-2 loss to the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour.
The week ahead: The Beavers will travel to Powassan for a game with the Voodoos Friday night and then return home to host the Iroquois Falls Eskis at the Blind River Community Centre Saturday.
• No. 11 (11). Espanola Express (16, 2-13-1-0, 5) — The Express picked up three points in three games this past week. J.P. Sabourin (501:00, 2-9-0-0, 1, 4.19, .881) made 31 saves to earn the shutout as the Express blanked the Rapids 1-0 in French River Wednesday night. Cameron Anklewich (16, 3-6-9, 14) had the game-winning goal. Ian Thompson (16, 4-3-7, 2) and Charlie Venedam (4, 1-0-1, 2) had the goals as the Express dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Rapids back home Friday night. Riley Tilot (16, 1-4-5, 2) had the lone goal as the Express dropped a 2-1 home-ice decision to the Soo Eagles on Saturday night.
The week ahead: The lone game for the Express this week will be on Friday night when they host the Timmins Rock at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex.
• No. 12 (12). French River Rapids (15, 1-14-0-0, 0) — The Rapids earned their first victory of the season this week, but also dropped two more games. Alec St. Georges (406:00, 0-6-0-0, 0, 4.44, .901) made 33 saves in a 1-0 home-ice loss to the Espanola Express Wednesday night. Ian Robbie (14, 3-0-3, 2) scored a pair of goals as the Rapids edged the Express 3-2 in overtime in Espanola Friday night. Zach Mills (243:00, 1-3-0-0, 0, 5.19, .881) made 38 saves in a 4-2 home-ice loss to the Elliot Lake Wildcats Saturday night.
The week ahead: The Rapids are off this week and do not return to action until Wednesday, Nov. 4, when travel to Espanola for a game with the Express.