By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Local hockey fans will get their first look at the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s No. 1-ranked team this weekend as the Powassan Voodoos make a strafing run through the North.
The Voodoos, with 10-straight wins under their belt, are the NOJHL’s only undefeated team — which has seen them climb to top spot in the CJHL rankings.
The Voodoos will open their three-game trip through the North against the Crunch (12-3-0-0) at the Tim Horton Event Centre in Cochrane Friday night.
Saturday night the Timmins Rock (8-4-0-1) will play host to the Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena.
Powassan will close out the trip with a game against the Eskis at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls (4-9-0-0) Sunday afternoon.
The Voodoos have played four of their first 10 games on the road but those contests — against the Rapids (0-12-0-0) in French River, against the Wildcats (8-2-3-0) in Elliot Lake, against the Beavers (3-11-1-0) in Blind River and the Express (1-12-0-0) in Espanola — did not involve the kind of travel this trip will require.
And, other than the Wildcats, none of those squads have been burning up the NOJHL early in the 2015-16 campaign.
Still, you have to give the Voodoos full marks for taking care of business getting the job done — regardless of the opposition.
Heading into Friday night’s game, the Voodoos — despite their undefeated record — trail the West Division-leading Soo Thunderbirds (12-1-0-0) and the East Division-leading Crunch for the most points in the NOJHL, 24.
The Voodoos have three games in hand on the Thunderbirds and five games in hand on the Crunch, however.
In terms of offence, the Voodoos’ 54 goals ranks them fourth in that category among the NOJHL’s 12 teams — behind the Crunch (94), the Thunderbirds (62) and the Rock (62).
Given the difference in the number of games the four teams have played, however, it might be more appropriate to break it down to goals per game.
That adjustment still has the Crunch (6.26) ranked No. 1, but the Voodoos (5.40) leapfrog both the Thunderbirds (4.77) and the Rock (4.77) into second place.
The NOJHL’s lowest-scoring team, in case you were wondering, is the Express with just 24 goals on the season, for an average of 1.85 per game.
It is not surprising to see that 2014-15 NOJHL scoring champion Steve Harland (10, 6-14-20, 2) again leads the Voodoos in scoring.
Nor is it shocking to see such a balanced attack from the Voodoos’ offence, with forwards Tyler Peters (10, 8-11-19, 14), Nathaniel McLeod (10, 11-4-15, 0), Jake Staples (10, 7-8-15, 0), Nicholas Siracuse (10, 2-8-10, 0) and Eric Champagne (10, 3-6-9, 6) all making regular contributions.
Even the loss of Michael Silveri (7, 2-12-14, 6), who signed with the Gatineau Olympiques, of the QMJHL, on Oct. 9, has not slowed the Voodoos’ roll.
Powassan blue-liners Nicky Grose (10, 3-8-11, 4), acquired from the Eskis back in August in a deal that has worked out well for both squads, and Christian Whitcomb (10, 2-7-9, 2) have also chipped in on offence.
No team gets off to a 10-0-0-0 start without solid goaltending and the Voodoos duo of Mario Cavaliere (305:00, 5-0-0-0, 0, 2.36, .914) and Garrett Forrest (300:00, 5-0-0-0, 0, 2.80, .907) have given their team a chance to win every night.
It remains to be seen if coach Scott Wray’s Voodoos will still be be undefeated after this weekend’s tough road trip, but even if they lose all three games, they have demonstrated they are going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Given that the Voodoos are ranked No. 1 in the CJHL, they are obviously the top squad in Tom’s Top 12 NOJHL power rankings, as well.
Here is a look at where the other 11 squads sit this week, with the number in brackets after the ranking representing how the teams were ranked in my previous column on Sept 24:
• No. 2 (2) 1. Soo Thunderbirds (13, 12-1-0-0, 24) — The Thunderbirds, who are ranked No. 8 in the CJHL, have not played since Oct. 14 when they beat the Beavers 9-1 in Blind River. Darian Pilon (12, 5-9-14, 10) had two goals and two assists to pace the attack for the Thunderbirds, while Joey Miller (11, 5-3-8, 11) had two goals and an assist. Goalie Brendon Gordon (300:00, 5-0-0-0, 1, 1.60, .924 ) made 21 saves to pick up the victory.
The week ahead: After hosting the Beavers Wednesday night, the Thunderbirds will entertain the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Essar Centre Sunday afternoon.
• No. 3 (1). Cochrane Crunch (15, 12-3-0-0, 24) — Cochrane’s fall from No. 1 to No. 3 has more to do with the success of the two teams above them in the rankings than any shortcomings they may have displayed. They earned a pair of wins and suffered a tough one-goal loss in the past week. Jaren Knorr (15, 11-15-26, 6) had three goals and an assist as the Crunch scored a 9-5 win over the visiting Express on Oct. 15. Dustin Cordeiro (15, 19-11-30, 15) had two goals and two assists, while NOJHL scoring leader Hunter Atchison (14, 14-27-41, 12) had a goal and three asissts. Seamus Maguire (15, 15-21-36, 28) netted a pair of goals, including the overtime winner, as the Crunch edged the visiting Elliot Lake Wildcats 6-5. John Stevenson (13, 6-6-12, 4) also had a pair of goals. Knorr had a pair of goals and two assists as the Crunch dropped a 6-5 decision to the Rock in Timmins Sunday afternoon.
The week ahead: The Crunch will host the Voodoos — who handed Cochrane its first loss of the season — at the Tim Horton Event Centre Friday night and they will then travel down Highway 11 for a meeting with the Eskis at the Jus Jordan Centre in Iroquois Falls Saturday night.
• No. 4 (6). Elliot Lake Wildcats (13, 8-2-3-0, 19) — The Wildcats picked up a pair of wins during their three-game swing through the North last weekend. Shane Woolsey (12, 5-6-11, 4) had two goals and two assists in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Crunch in Cochrane on Oct. 15. Alec MacKenzie (13, 7-8-15, 2) added a goal and two assists. Liam Blais (7, 4-3-7, 2) had two goals and MacKenzie another goal and two assists one night later as the Wildcats got past the Eskis 6-4 in Iroquois Falls. Spencer Allen (12, 2-5-7, 11) netted the game-winning goal as the Wildcats edged the Gold Miners 2-1 in double overtime in Kirkland Lake on Sunday.
The week ahead: The Wildcats will host the Gold Miners at the Centennial Arena Friday night and then travel to French River for a game with the Rapids Saturday night.
• No. 5 (7). Timmins Rock (13, 8-4-0-1, 17) — The Rock extended their winning streak to five games with a 4-2 win over the Express Friday night and a 6-5 win over the Crunch on Sunday. Bain Cunningham (12, 5-4-9, 6) scored a pair of goals and Zachary Kercz (13, 10-15-25, 22) picked up three assists in Friday night’s win. Kercz added two goals and two assists in Sunday afternoon’s victory, while linemate Tristan Salesse (12, 10-12-22, 2) had a goal and two assists and Ryan Theriault (7, 7-5-12, 2) had a goal and an assist. Goalie Logan Ferrington (530:00, 5-3-1-0, 0, 2.94, .927) made 42 saves while earning the win Sunday.
The week ahead: After hosting the Eskimos Wednesday night, the Rock will welcome the Voodoos to McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
• No. 6 (5). Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (12, 8-3-1-0, 17) — The Gold Miners split a pair of games on home ice last week, beating the Express 5-1 Saturday night and dropping a 2-1 double overtime decision to the Wildcats on Sunday. Brandon Wolfe (12, 9-9-18, 6) had three assists to pace the attack against the Express. Goalie Tyler Mazzocato (240:00, 4-0-0-0, 0, 1.75, .924) made 25 saves to earn the victory. Wolfe had the lone goal for the Gold Miners in Sunday’s loss.
The week ahead: The Gold Miners three game road trip will see them play the Wildcats in Elliot Lake Friday night, the Eagles in Sault, Mich., Saturday night and the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie Sunday afternoon.
• No. 7 (4). Rayside Balfour Canadians (12, 6-6-0-0, 12) — The Canadians, who had been struggling after winning their first four games of the season, may be beginning to turn the corner. They split a pair of games on home ice this past week, beating the Rapids 10-3 and falling 4-3 to the Soo Eagles. Kyle Patterson (12, 3-1-4, 6) had three goals to pace the attack against the Rapids. Brody Brunet (4, 3-3-6, 2) added a pair of goals and two assists. Captain Ryan Erickson (10, 4-10-14, 19), Kyle Fransen (9, 5-7-12, 18) and Bradley Chenier (12, 6-7-13, 14) each had a goal and an assist in the one-goal loss to the Eagles.
The week ahead: The Canadians will play a home-and-home series against the Beavers, in Blind River Saturday night and at the Chelmsford Arena Sunday night, before travelling to Sault, Mich., for a game with the Eagles on Wednesday night.
• No. 8 (8). Soo Eagles (13, 4-8-0-1, 9) — The Eagles won two out of three games on last weekend’s road trip. Evan Ketner (13, 5-7-12, 10) had two goals and an assist in Friday night’s come-from-behind 5-3 win over the Rapids in French River. Nate Harris (12, 6-3-9, 0) had a pair of goals in Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to the Voodoos in Powassan. Sam Rappaport (11, 1-5-6, 8) had a goal and two assists in Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour.
The week ahead: The Eagles will host the Gold Miners at Pullar Stadium Saturday night, travel to Espanola to take on the Express Sunday and then return home to host the Canadians on Wednesday night.
• No. 9 (10). Iroquois Falls Eskis (13, 4-9-0-0, 8) — The Eskis suffered a tough 6-4 loss to a very good Wildcats team on home ice Saturday night. Brett Ouderkirk (13, 8-11-19, 4) and David Osborne (13, 8-9-17, 27) each had a goal and an assist in that contest. Garry Mindus (13, 2-4-6, 20) added a pair of assists.
The week ahead: After travelling to Timmins to take on Rock Wednesday night, the Eskis will host the Crunch at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night and the Voodoos Sunday afternoon.
• No. 10 (9). Blind River Beavers (15, 3-11-1-0, 7) — The Beavers last game was on Oct 14 when they were hammered 9-1 on home ice by the Thunderbirds — causing some fans to have flashbacks to 2014-15’s winless season. Thankfully there were just 84 fans on hand to witness the one-sided loss. Nathan Hans (11, 2-5-7, 2) had the lone Beavers tally. The Beavers have actually been competitive in most of their games this season, they are only ninth in most goals scored and 10th in most goals allowed. Most importantly, they have three more wins already this season than they had in all of 2014-15.
The week ahead: After travelling to Sault Ste. Marie for a rematch with the Thunderbirds Wednesday night, the Beavers will play a home-and-home series against the Canadians — hosting their West Division rivals at the Blind River Community Centre Saturday night and then travelling to Rayside-Balfour for the return engagement Sunday night.
• No. 11 (12). Espanola Express (13, 1-12-0-0, 2) — At this stage of the season, the Express are their own worst enemy. They are capable of playing solid hockey, but their confidence level is as fragile as fragile can get. Veteran coach Tom McCarthy just needs to get his players to believe in themselves and trust in their abilities. A three-game road trip through the North last weekend resulted in three more losses. MacKenzie Aiken (13, 4-1-5, 6) scored twice in a 9-5 loss to the Crunch in Cochrane Thursday night. Ian Thompson (13, 3-3-6, 2) and defenceman Aaron Beauchamp (6, 2-1-3, 8) each had a goal during Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Rock in Timmins. Cameron Anklewich had the lone Express goal in Saturday night’s 5-1 loss to the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake.
The week ahead: After travelling to French River for a game with the Rapids Wednesday night, the Express will host the Rapids at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex Friday night and the Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
• No. 12 (11). French River Rapids (12, 0-12-0-0, 0) — Could the Rapids play an entire season without recording a single point? Not likely. Even the winless Beavers were able to register a single point during the 2014-15 campaign. The Rapids added to their futility streak with two more losses last weekend. Chris Atanas (12, 4-2-6, 18) had all three French River tallies in a 5-3 home-ice setback against the Eagles Friday night. Goalie Alec St. Georges (346:00, 0-5-0-0, 0, 5.03, .892) made 44 saves. Brennan Kelly (12, 6-5-11, 2) had a goal and two assists in Sunday’s 10-3 loss to the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour. Goalies Zach Mills (120:00, 0-2-0-0, 0, 7.50, .850) and Chad Mosley (231:00, 0-4-0-0, 0, 6.76, .838) combined to make 40 saves in that contest.
The week ahead: After hosting the Express Wednesday night, the Rapids travelled to Espanola for the rematch Friday night and then returned home to entertain the Wildcats at the Noelville Arena Saturday night.