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CJHL Playoff Spotlight: The NOJHL

CALGARY, Alta. – Quarter-final action in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League gets underway Friday.

As one of the 10 members of the Canadian Junior Hockey League, the NOJHL boasts 12 teams, of which eight remain in the hunt for the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy championship.

Here’s a look at the latest CJHL Playoff Spotlight that features the NOJHL.

SEASON: The Powassan Voodoos rolled to a second straight league regular season crown by registering 45-plus wins in back-to-back campaigns.

As defending NOJHL champions, Powassan finished comfortably in top spot in league play with 94 points to their credit.

The Rayside-Balfour Canadians claimed the NOJHL’s West Division title putting an end to the Soo Thunderbirds’ four-year run as the top team there.

TOP SCORERS: It was a tightly contested battle in the quest to see who would finish first in league scoring.

In the end, Kyle Herbster of the Cochrane Crunch prevailed as his 86 points was one more than Nick Techel of the Soo Eagles.

They were followed by Powassan’s Tyson Gilmour with 78 points while the Eagles’ Christian Bardarson was fourth with 72, which featured a NOJHL-best 41 goals.

League MVP and Top Defenceman award winner Connor Lovie of Cochrane topped all defencemen in scoring with 49 points, featuring 15 goals.

TOP GOALKEEPERS: First-year netminder Carter McPhail of the Soo Eagles led all goaltenders in average and shutouts at 2.27 and four. He was also second in save percentage at .930 and wins with 22. Brandon Gordon of the Soo Thunderbirds went 22-11-1-1 and had the second-best average in the league at 2.31. His .926 save percentage tied him with his teammate, rookie Eric Schuch, for third in the NOJHL.

PLAYOFFS: Here’s a look at the league’s four quarter-final match-ups:

EAST SEMIFINALS

No. 1 Powassan vs. No. 5 Timmins: The Voodoos enter Game 1 vs. the Rock riding a 12-game unbeaten streak in the NOJHL playoffs as they ran the table last year with a dozen consecutive victories en route to their first league title. … Powassan went 7-0-1 vs. Timmins this season. … The Voodoos and Rock also met in last year’s East Division Final. … Tyson Gilmour led Powassan offensively with 78 points. … Jordan Pickard paced the Rock with 41 points. … Voodoos’ goalkeeper Christian Cicigoi had a NOJHL-best 23 wins. … Timmins advanced after taking a best-of-three first round series vs. the Hearst Lumberjacks.

No. 2 Cochrane vs. No. 3 Kirkland Lake: Cochrane boasts the NOJHL’s leading scorer Kyle Herbster as well as league MVP and Top Defenceman Connor Lovie. … Kirkland Lake’s Tyler Fyfe led his side with 69 points. He ended the season on a 10-game point streak. … Crunch goaltenders Taylor Unruh and Shayne Battler had 36 wins between them on the year.

WEST SEMIFINALS

No. 1 Rayside-Balfour vs. No. 4 Blind River: Rayside-Balfour had a first round bye while Blind River swept a first round best-of-three set against the Elliot Lake Wildcats to advance. … Kyle Liinamaa and Evan Krassey led the Canadians with 51 points apiece. … Max Khull paced his team with 64. … The Canadians’ Brayden Lachance was 14-6-3 record to go with a 2.65 average a .934 save percentage and a shutout. … In the series win over Elliot Lake, Garret Boyonoski picked up a pair of victories, including a Game 1 shutout. … He was 15-9-1 with a 2.86 average, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts on the year.

No. 2 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 3 Soo Eagles: The Thunderbirds won the season-set by a 6-3-1 count with Nick Smith’s 69 total points leading the club. He was sixth in NOJHL scoring. … The Eagles’ Nick Techel was second in the league with 85 points, including a NOJHL-best 56 assists. … The Eagles’ Bardarson led the league in goals with 41. … Carter McPhail of the Eagles was first in average (2.27) and shutouts. (4) … Brandon Gordon of the Thunderbirds was second in average at 2.31.

DID YOU KNOW: The Cochrane Crunch were recently named the host for the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup. … Powassan Voodoos standout forward Tyson Gilmour is the son of former NHLer and Hockey Hall of Fame Honoured Member Doug Gilmour. … The younger Gilmour ended the regular season with points in 10 straight outings and 15 of 17. … Blind River’s rookie forward Owen Robinson was selected by NHL Central Scouting to compete in the CJHL Prospects Game in Mississauga, Ont. … In the past nine seasons, the Soo Thunderbirds have won four league championships as well as a pair of Dudley-Hewitt Cup crowns.

CJHL RANKINGS: The final CJHL Top 20 Rankings for 2017-18 saw the NOJHL-leading Powassan Voodoos slotted fourth overall in the 132-team CJHL.

Earning Honourable Mention status was the Cochrane Crunch.

The NOJHL
Commissioner: Robert Mazzuca
Historian/Statistician: David Harrison
Defending champion: Powassan Voodoos
Website: nojhl.com
Twitter: @NOJHL
Facebook: /northernontariojuniorhockeyleague