Playoff series preview: Kirkland Lake Gold Miners vs. Cochrane Crunch

SUDBURY, Ont. – The East Division of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League will kick off their portion of the playoffs tonight at 7 p.m. at the Tim Horton Events Centre as the Cochrane Crunch host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in Game 1 of their best-of-three quarter-final match-up.

EARLIER MEETINGS: During the 2019-20 campaign, Cochrane and Kirkland Lake met on eight occasions with the Crunch coming away victorious in five of them.

Two of those triumphs came in overtime though as Cochrane collected 10 points as part of their season total while Kirkland Lake picked up eight.

In all, the Crunch outscored the Gold Miners 27-25 with most of those match-ups being closely contested, including three decided by just one goal.

SCORING: Leading Cochrane offensively this season was rookie forward Matthew Minichiello.

The 18-year-old from Toronto paced his side in tallies (26), assists (33) and points (59). He also led the way in power play markers (11) and shared the club lead in game-winning goals (4).

After Minichiello were fellow forwards Owen Perala and team captain Hunter Buzzi and they had 49 and 42 points respectively.

The trio of Max Newnam, Connor Van Weelie and Cameron Neaylon combined for over 100 points with Kirkland Lake with Van Weelie leading the way in tallies with 22.

A young squad, the Gold Miners sport 10 rookies on their roster that begins the playoffs.

BETWEEN THE PIPES: In net, veteran 20-year-old netminder Zach Wickson saw most of the work during the year with Cochrane.

The Calgary, Alta., product appeared in 32 games and had just under 1,800 minutes of game action, while getting 12 wins and one shutout for his side.

Meanwhile, the Kirkland Lake duo of Kohl Reddy and Kyle McNair both saw plenty of the time in goal for the Gold Miners and combined for 18 victories on the year.

Reddy was solid to close out the regular season, posting a 5-1 record while McNair went 3-2 in his last five starts.

WHAT’S NEXT: The winner of this series will move on to meet the No. 1 seeded Powassan Voodoos in a best-of-seven East Division semifinal.

NUMBERS GAME: Cochrane finished fourth in the NOJHL East at 26-25-3-2 while Kirkland Lake was fifth at 18-32-5-1, but went 8-3 in their last 11 outings. … On the year, the Crunch scored 166 times and the Gold Miners notched 154 markers. … Matthew Minichiello finished eighth in NOJHL scoring with 59 points, in 53 games played. … Cochrane`s Hunter Buzzi tied for the league-lead in shorthanded goals with five. … Minichiello also led the NOJHL with four shorthanded assists and he was third in rookie scoring with his 59 points. His 11-man advantage markers paced all NOJHL rookies. … Connor Van Weelie shared 13th in rookie scoring and was third in power play goals with nine. … Goaltender Kohl Reddy of Kirkland Lake finished fourth in the league in saves with 1,040. … Cochrane`s Jordan Fielding tied for third in game-winning goals among defencemen with three. … Taking his club`s only penalty shot this season, Kirkland Lake`s Casey Gerstein scored on his opportunity back on Feb. 7 vs. French River. … Gerstein also averaged a point-per-game in his last eight regular season outings. … When scoring first in a game, the Crunch went 19-6-0-1 while the Gold Miners were 11-4-3-0. … Special teams saw Kirkland Lake finish 10th on the power play at 15.3% with Cochrane sitting 11th at 14.7%. … On the penalty kill, the Crunch were eighth at 79.3% and the Miners ninth at 78.3%. … Cochrane was second in the NOJHL with a dozen shorthanded tallies to their credit while K-L shared fifth with seven. … When leading after two periods of play, the Crunch were a solid 19-1-1-0 and the Gold Miners were 9-1-2-0.

ONLINE VIEWING: All NOJHL playoff games can be watched online, via a pay-per-view basis, at

East Division quarter-final series
No. 4 Cochrane Crunch vs. No. 5 Kirkland Lake Gold Miners
Best-of-three series
Game 1: Thursday, March 5 @ Cochrane 7 p.m. (Tim Horton Events Centre)
Game 2: Friday, March 6 @ Kirkland Lake 7:30 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac Community Complex)
Game 3*: Sunday, March 8 @ Cochrane 4 p.m. (THEC)
*- if necessary

With files from NOJHL Historian, David Harrison