April 14th match-up features Game 1 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy Championship Series between the Powassan Voodoos and the Blind River Beavers.
Both clubs are making their first-ever appearance in the league finals and it also marks the initial meeting between the teams in league postseason play.
Powassan enters as the No. 1 seed after finishing first overall in the 12-team NOJHL during the course of the regular season with a league-best 95 points on a 46-7-2-1 record. They were also slotted ninth in the final CJHL Top 20 rankings.
Blind River meanwhile was fifth overall in the standings and second in the NOJHL West boasting a 32-20-4-0 mark and 68 points.
Each team also set franchise records for wins in a season with the Voodoos registering 46 and the Beavers recording 32.
Game 2 of this best-of-seven affair goes Saturday at 7 p.m. back in Powassan before the series shifts to the Blind River Community Centre for Games 3 & 4 next Thursday and Friday in another pair of 7 p.m. starts.
Tonight’s Officials: The officials for tonight’s contest, as assigned by the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, are referees Paul Charette and Max Kallio, while the linesmen will be Kyle Lekun and Scott MacDonald.
How They Got There: Powassan has steamrolled the competition so far in the postseason having racked up eight victories in as many games to secure their initial East Division playoff title.
The Voodoos began with a four-game sweep of the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in divisional semifinal action and then proceeded to do likewise to the Timmins Rock in the East final.
As for Blind River, they had a stiff test vs. the Rayside-Balfour Canadians in their opening playoff series that required a full seven games before the Beavers prevailed in the decider on home ice. They then captured their first-ever West Division postseason crown after clipping the Soo Eagles in five games.
SEASON SET: The two league finalists met only twice in regular season play throughout the 2016-17 campaign with each side winning once at home.
Their initial encounter saw Nate McDonald make 28 saves to post his first shutout of the season as the Voodoos blanked the Beavers 6-0 back on Sept. 24 at the Powassan Sportsplex.
Voodoos’ defenceman Dayton Murray notched a hat trick in that contest, including the game-winner, to pace the Powassan attack while Cade Herd, Ryan Theriault and Eric Nagy chipped in with two assists apiece.
Blind River then held serve by defeating the Voodoos 3-1 at home in their last meeting, which was back on Jan. 15. The score in that one was tied at 1-1 until midway through the third when Yianni Liarakos notched one of his league-high 11 game-winning goals to secure the triumph. Myles Hektor made 20 stops to record the win in net for the Beavers.
Team vs Team Leaders: In the two games between the Voodoos and Beavers, it was Dayton Murray and Cade Herd who paced Powassan in scoring with three points each.
Murray supplied his trio of tallies while Herd scored once and dished out a couple of helpers.
As for Blind River, it was defenceman Jordan Kreller who led his side with a goal and an assist to his credit in the win over the Voodoos back in mid-January.
Powassan netminder and NOJHL most valuable player Nate McDonald was 1-0 vs. the Beavers with the 28-save shutout.
Andrew Suriano of the Voodoos was 0-1 stopping 34 of the 36 shots he faced in defeat at Blind River.
Myles Hektor started both regular season contests against the Voodoos and had a 1-1 record.
The Beavers other goaltender, Aidan Doak, enters the 2017 NOJHL final having yet to see game action against the Voodoos so far this season.
Head to Head: Regular season games in 2016-17 between Powassan and Blind River.
Saturday, Sept. 24 @ Powassan: Voodoos 6 Beavers 0
Sunday, Jan. 15 @ Blind River: Beavers 3 Voodoos 1
What’s Next: The NOJHL winner will advance to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. ‘A’ Championship, May 2-6, in Trenton, Ontario.
Whichever team prevails, it will mark their first time representing the league at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup.
At that four-team event, the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy title holder will meet the champion of the Superior International Junior Hockey League as well as both the Trenton Golden Hawks and Georgetown Raiders from the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
The SIJHL’s Bill Salonen Cup Final features the Dryden GM Ice Dogs taking on the English River Miners in a best-of-seven affair that also begins tonight. They will also meet Saturday back in Dryden.
Dryden finished first in the SIJHL standings and was tabbed 12th in the final CJHL Top 20 Rankings of the season while English River ended up in third place in league play.
Meanwhile Trenton and Georgetown began the OJHL’s Buckland Trophy best-of-seven final Thursday with the Raiders skating to a 3-1 victory on home ice to begin that best-of-seven series. Game 2 goes Saturday in Trenton.
Georgetown claimed the OJHL’s regular season crown and were also slotted second overall in the final CJHL rankings.
Trenton meanwhile was second in the OJHL standings and nabbed the No. 10 spot in the national year-end CJHL listings.
As the Golden Hawks are also hosting the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Georgetown will be the second OJHL representative at the DHC, regardless of the outcome of that league championship series.
The Dudley-Hewitt winner will then advance to represent the region at the RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A Championship, May 13th – 21st, in Cobourg, Ont.
The RBC Cup-host Cobourg Cougars were swept by the Golden Hawks in OJHL semifinal action and will have lengthy wait before returning to game action in mid-May.
(Record: Regular Season: 46-7-2-1 • Playoffs 8-0)
Point Men: Leading Powassan offensively so far in the playoffs has been forward Gary Mantz.
The 19-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario has produced 16 points to date in eight games, including a league-best nine goals.
He’s also second overall in NOJHL postseason scoring. He finished ninth in the league in regular season play with 69 points.
First-year forward Parker Bowman is right behind him with 15 points as he’s notched eight markers and helped set-up seven more. The 17-year-old from Bracebridge, Ontario also leads the league in playoff game-winning goals with three.
Another rookie, in Tyson Gilmour, sits third on the squad in offensive production with 13 points, including seven tallies.
Bo Peltier leads the club in points among defencemen with seven, followed by Eric Nagy’s six.
The Tenders: NOJHL MVP Nate McDonald has started all eight games for Powassan so far in the playoffs and has yet to lose. He leads the league in goals-against average at 1.76 and sits third in save percentage at .935.
Special Teams: The Voodoos currently sit second overall in postseason power play proficiency at 30.4% having scored 14 times in 46 opportunities.
They lead the league in penalty kill success at 93% allowing only three man advantage markers in 43 times shorthanded.
Behind the Bench: Guiding Powassan to their impressive run behind the bench this season is Scott Wray.
Award Winners: The Voodoos boasted a number of award recipients throughout the 2016-17 campaign.
Along with capturing their initial league regular season crown as well as the East Division title, they saw plenty of individual success as well.
Powassan netminder Nate Donald earned NOJHL MVP honours by leading all league netminders in goals-against average at 2.159 and wins with 30. He was also third in save percentage at .923 and finished tied for second in shutouts with three. He has also committed to attend Niagara University and play NCAA D-I hockey on scholarship for the Purple Eagles in the fall.
You also had first-year player Parker Bowman picking up Top Defensive Forward accolades.
Earning CCM Hockey first team all-star laurels was McDonald, centre Andy Baker, who led all skaters in goals with 45, and Gary Mantz at right wing as did general manager Chris Dawson and trainer/equipment manager J.J. Johnston.
Securing CCM second team honours was Voodoos’ head coach Scott Wray, who guided his club to their best-ever finish during the course of the regular season.
Blind River Beavers
(Record: Regular Season: 32-20-4-0 • Playoffs 8-4)
Point Men: Currently leading not only the Beavers, but all NOJHL skaters, in playoff scoring heading into the league final is Yianni Liarakos.
The Blind River forward tops the table with 19 points in 12 outings with eight goals and 11 assists. Liarakos also leads the league in power play points with 11 and sits tied for second in game-winning goals with two.
The duo of defenceman Cole Peck and forward Max Khull are next on the squad with 14 points each.
Among Peck’s totals, which leads all NOJHL defensemen, have been four tallies and 10 helpers.
Khull meanwhile paces all skaters in playoff assists with 12.
The Tenders: Netminders Aidan Doak and Myles Hektor have both played pivotal roles in the club’s success to date.
Each goaltender has four playoff victories to their credit with Hektor sitting second overall in average at 2.07 and first in save percentage at .952. Doak’s 2.17 GAA is third overall and his .944 save mark sits him second in the league.
Special Teams: The Beavers lead the NOJHL in power play success at 33.3% and are sixth on the P.K. at 76.5%.
Behind the Bench: Serving as the bench boss for the Blind River Beavers is NOJHL Coach of the Year Kyle Brick.
Award Winners: Helping lead the impressive turnaround of the Beavers’ on the ice was CCM Hockey first team left wing all-star Yianni Liarakos. The 20-year-old from Toronto paced Blind River offensively and also finished tied for second in league scoring with 78 points. His 39 tallies were the second most among the 12 teams.
Liarakos led both the NOJHL and Canadian Junior Hockey League in game-winning goals with 11 while his 29 power play points topped all NOJHL skaters. … He also contributed to 36% of Blind River’s offensive numbers during the regular season.
Also garnering CCM first team all-star laurels at head coach was Kyle Brick, who has impressed in his first year with the club.
He led the Beavers to a franchise record for wins in a season at 32. Under Brick’s guidance the Beavers posted 22 more victories and 44 more points than the club compiled in 2015-16.
By anchoring the Blind River defensive corps, Cole Peck earned himself a CCM second team all-star nod. The 20-year-old Ottawa, Ontario native led the Beavers in scoring among D-men with 31 in 49 games by scoring four times, including one game-winner, and assisting on 27 others. Peck was also sixth in points among all league rearguards.
NOJHL Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy League Championship Series
Game 1: Friday, April 14 @ Powassan 7 p.m. (Sportsplex)
Game 2: Saturday, April 15 @ Powassan 7 p.m. (Sportsplex)
Game 3: Thursday, April 20 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Community Centre)
Game 4: Friday, April 21 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Community Centre)
Game 5*: Sunday, April 23 @ Powassan 7 p.m. (Sportsplex)
Game 6*: Tuesday, April 25 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Community Centre)
Game 7*: Thursday, April 27 @ Powassan 7 p.m. (Sportsplex)