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NOJHL Notebook: Playoff seedings yet to be determined

03/06/2013, 5:00pm EST
By NOJHL Communications

NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE

NOJHL COMMUNICATIONS
MEDIA RELEASE

Release Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NOJHL NOTEBOOK: Playoff seedings yet to be determined

SUDBURY -- With just eight days and 10 games remaining in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s regular season it has still yet to be decided who the respective opponents will be in the upcoming playoffs.

While much is to be determined there should be a much clearer idea on things by the end of the weekend as all seven NOJHL clubs jockey for position heading into postseason play.

Weekly action will commence tonight at McClelland Arena in Copper Cliff as the Sudbury Nickel Barons host the visiting Soo Thunderbirds at 7:30 p.m.

After the T-Birds won the first two meetings of the season between the two sides, Sudbury stormed back to win the last four outings.

Both Brandon Warmington and Derek Battagin have been the leading producers for Sault Ste. Marie to date vs. the Nickel Barons with seven points apiece.

Sebastien Leroux has been the offensive catalyst for Sudbury so far with eight points to his credit followed by Darcy Haines with six.

A trio of tilts are on the NOJHL docket Friday with North Bay entertaining Blind River, Abitibi visiting Elliot Lake and Kirkland Lake at home to Sudbury.

The Trappers are 5-1-1 against the Beavers so far with Brennen Dubchak topping the table offensively for North Bay registering 10 points vs. Blind River. Corey McEwen’s eight points leads the way for his club.

Abitibi has won four of the seven times they have played Elliot Lake on the season with Ryan Wildman racking up 10 points for the Eskimos against the Bobcats to pace his side while Stephen Gaul’s eight points leads his squad.

Kirkland Lake has come away victorious in four of the six times they have met Sudbury so far. Steven Babin leads the Gold Miners in scoring with nine points and Leroux has been the man for the Nickel Barons with 12.

Saturday’s lone contest sees Abitibi visiting Sault Ste. Marie as they look to win for the second time in eight meetings.

Sunday the Eskimos travel to Blind River having won four of seven against the Beavers while Elliot Lake heads to North Bay and the Thunderbirds take on the Nickel Barons. The Trappers have taken six of seven vs. the Bobcats so far.

PLAYOFF FORMAT: All seven NOJHL member clubs will qualify for the postseason with the first place finisher earning themselves the regular season title along with a first-round bye. Each playoff series will be best-of-seven affairs.

Opening round action will run from March 15-27 with the No. 2 seed meeting the No. 7 squad, No. 3 taking on No. 6 and No. 4 vs. 5.

The game schedules first round of the NOJHL playoffs will be announced once it is determined who will be playing each other as well as when the dates and times are finalized.

Each of the playoff opponents in the opening round will be decided once the regular season concludes next Wednesday.

From the three remaining clubs along with the first place finisher will square-off in semifinal play from March 29 through April 10.

The regular season title holder will take on the lowest remaining seed in one series with the other two squads meeting in the other.

From there the two surviving teams will vie for the NOJHL crown April 12-24.

Should the Dudley-Hewitt Cup host North Bay Trappers advance to the league final, then the other club in the final will also represent the NOJHL at the Dudley-Hewitt. The DHC winner then moves on to the Royal Bank Cup Canadian Jr. A championship in Summerside, P.E.I.

NOJHL playoff format (All series best-of-seven)

Round 1 Quarter-finals (March 15-27)

Series A: Second place vs. Seventh place
Series B: Third place vs. Sixth place
Series C: Fourth place vs. Fifth place
Bye: Regular season winner

Round 2 Semifinals (March 29 – April 10)
Series D:
First place vs. Lowest remaining seed
Series E: Winner of round one with highest standing vs. the other winner

Round 3 NOJHL Final (April 12-24)
Series F:
Semifinals winners meet for the NOJHL championship

Dudley-Hewitt Cup @ North Bay (April 30 – May 4)
North Bay Trappers; NOJHL champion or finalist; OJHL champion; SIJHL champion

Royal Bank Cup @ Summerside, P.E.I. (May 11-19)
Summerside Western Capitals (Host)
Dudley-Hewitt Cup winner, Fred Page Cup winner, Western Canada Cup winner and finalist.

2013 DUDLEY-HEWITT CUP: The 2013 Dudley-Hewitt Cup is now less than two months away with the NOJHL’s North Bay Trappers will serve as the host team for the five-day event.

Joining them will be the NOJHL champion or finalist along with the title holders from the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League.

Dudley-Hewitt Cup tickets packages for all eight games remain on sale at the Trapper's Box Office daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Adult packages are $95 while students and seniors go $75 and children just $50 and you can reserve your seat by calling by calling 705-474-3770.

Taking a quick glance as to who might be joining the Trappers and the other NOJHL representative at this year’s Dudley-Hewitt, one thing already known is that the top team in the OJHL, during the course of their regular season, won’t be making the trip to North Bay.

That’s because the front-running Trenton Golden Hawks were stunned in the opening round of OJHL postseason action and were swept in four consecutive games by the Cobourg Cougars.

Cobourg was the lowest seed in the OJHL’s North East conference finishing 31 points behind Trenton on the year, but turned it on at the right time to sweep the No. 1 rated Golden Hawks.

The No. 2 seed in that conference is also on the ropes as the Aurora Tigers trail the No. 7 Lindsay Muskies 3-2 in that best-of-seven affair.

Over the OJHL South West the top ranked Buffalo Jr. Sabres made easy work of the Burlington Cougars winning four games to none.

Meanwhile the No. 2 St. Michael’s Buzzers are in tough against the rival Toronto Jr. Canadiens, but are up 3-2 in that series heading into game No. 6 this evening.

Up in the SIJHL, their regular season still has a week remaining, but the top two teams in the standings have been decided for quite some time.

The Minnesota Wilderness rolled to their third consecutive regular season crown in convincing style as they look for a three-peat as SIJHL playoff champions as well.

They finished up in the final Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings tabbed No. 2 overall for a 13th consecutive week, largely in part to an impressive regular season record of 51-3-0-2.

The Wilderness have been all business for most of the season having not lost in regulation time since all the way on Oct. 24.

Since that last defeat they posted an amazing record of 39-0-0-2 with only a pair of two shootout setbacks as blemishes on that remarkable run.

The Fort Frances Lakers are on a roll as of late in the SIJHL as well having won 10 straight contests, including a 4-3 victory, in a shootout, against the Wilderness putting an end to their 17-game winning streak in the process.

You can learn more on the event by visiting the official DHC website at www.dudleyhewittcup.com.

CJHL TOP 20: The final Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 rankings of the 2012-13 season were released earlier this week with the two leading teams in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League standings both garnering recognition.

Wrapping up the rankings, which were compiled each week in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting, saw the NOJHL-leading North Bay Trappers, move up one place from a week ago while the Soo Thunderbirds finished by earning Honourable Mention laurels.

North Bay paces the NOJHL with 71 points on a 32-7-3-4 record with Sault Ste. Marie sitting on 64 points on a 29-9-3-3 overall mark.

With the Trappers having two games remaining and the T-Birds four, one more victory by North Bay, or a loss by the Soo, will give them their first regular season title since the 2008-09 campaign.

The rankings conclude with one change among the top five teams in the CJHL.

Finishing up first and second were the Brooks Bandits (AJHL) and Minnesota Wilderness (SIJHL) respectively while the Dauphin Kings (MJHL) moved to third nationally with the Royal Bank Cup host Summerside Western Capitals (MHL) slipping to fourth.

Rounding out that list in fifth were the Trenton Golden Hawks who went on to be unceremoniously dumped in the first round of the OJHL playoffs.

The following are the final CJHL Top 20 ranked clubs and Honourable Mention squads for the 2012-13 season. Included in the listings are their final overall ranking, their position last week, as well as the league in which they are a member of.

1. Brooks Bandits (AJHL) (1)
2. Minnesota Wilderness (SIJHL) (2)
3. Dauphin Kings (MJHL) (4)
4. Summerside Western Capitals (MHL) (3)
5. Trenton Golden Hawks (OJHL) (5)
6. Humboldt Broncos (SJHL) (6)
7. Yorkton Terriers (SJHL) (7)
8. Winnipeg Blues (MJHL) (8)
9. Yarmouth Jr. ‘A’ Mariners (MHL) (9)
10. Penticton Vees (BCHL) (15)
11. Melville Millionaires (SJHL) (11)
12. Buffalo Jr. Sabres (OJHL) (12)
13. Surrey Eagles (BCHL) (14)
14. Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) (10)
15. North Bay Trappers (NOJHL) (16)
16. Truro Bearcats (MHL) (13)
17. Kingston Voyageurs (OJHL) (17)
18. Okotoks Oilers (AJHL) (18) 
19. Ottawa Jr. A Senators (CCHL) (19)
20. Saint-Jerome Pantheres (LHJAAAQ) (HM)

Honourable Mention: Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL); Nanaimo Clippers (BCHL); Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL); OCN Blizzard (MJHL); Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL)

The CJHL Top 20 weekly rankings are based upon a variety of factors, including the league in which the team plays, winning percentage, win-loss record, and total points accumulated along with goals-for versus goals-against ratio, etc.

The CJHL is an amalgamation of 10 Jr. A hockey leagues across Canada. The CJHL can be found at www.cjhlhockey.com.

TEAM-BY-TEAM NOTEBOOK

ABITIBI ESKIMOS – Having put a double digit winless drought behind them the Eskimos will try and build on that as they wrap-up regular season play with a three-game road swing this weekend. … They’ll visit Elliot Lake Friday, a possible first round playoff opponent in Sault Ste. Marie Saturday and Blind River Sunday. … Abitibi went winless in February, but bounced in their first game in March by defeating league-leading North Bay last Saturday at home… Peter Poulin-Roy leads the club offensively with 41 points and has a modest three-game point streak on the go.

BLIND RIVER BEAVERS – The Beavers are tied for fifth in the NOJHL standings with Elliot Lake. …The club has three games left on the regular season slate including two this weekend. They visit North Bay Friday before returning home to host Abitibi Sunday afternoon. … A trio of Blind River skaters sit among the top 15 scorers in the NOJHL. Samuel Wilbur remains fifth overall on 49 points, including 30 assists. He is followed by Corey McEwen, who shares sixth overall in the league with 47 points with 20 of those being a team-high in goals. Brandon Bazinet rounds out the group tied for 13th in the NOJHL having picked up 40 points on 12 tallies and 28 helpers.

ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS – Continuing to play good hockey the vastly improved Bobcats have moved into a tie for fifth in the league standings with Blind River. … Elliot Lake is riding a three-game winning streak with two games left in regular season play for the club. They are at home to Abitibi Friday and visit North Bay Sunday… The club is 11-8-2 when scoring first in a game so far this season, but only 4-21 when the opposition strikes first. … Henry Berger and Steve Gaul currently share the team scoring lead with 35 points apiece. Berger has a club-best 18 goals along with 17 assists while Gaul has scored 15 times and added 20 helpers. … Brian Hennessey (4g-7a) has points in five straight.

KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS – After being idle from game action since Feb. 22 the Gold Miners return to the ice Friday at home vs. Sudbury. They then wrap-up the regular season next Wednesday against the same Nickel Barons in a make-up contest that was postponed Jan. 30 due to weather. They trail Sudbury by four points in the race for third in the NOJHL standings. … Kirkland Lake has won two straight and three of four. … Captain Connor McNally and Steven Babin share the team scoring lead with 37 points apiece. … Of the team-high 21 goals Babin has scored, 14 have come on the power play, which leads the NOJHL. … McNally has a three-game point streak going. … Chris Komma sits third in goals-against average in the NOJHL at 2.59. His three shutouts tie him for the league lead. He has also played the most minutes in the NOJHL at 2,181:43. Komma’s 19 victories are the second most in the league.

NORTH BAY TRAPPERS – North Bay finished up 15th nationally in the final CJHL top 20 rankings.  … The Trappers have gone 11-1-0-1 in their last 13 games. …They boast the best winning percentage in the league as .772. … Their final two regular season games are at home as they host Blind River Friday and Elliot Lake Sunday at the Gardens. … Greg Dodds leads all NOJHL goalkeepers in wins (27), goals-against-average (2.27) and save percentage. (.928). … Brennen Dubchak is tied for sixth overall in league scoring and also leads the team with 47 points. … Trevor Hunt is second on the club and knotted for eighth in the NOJHL with 45 points. … Cole Klippenstein tops all NOJHL D-men in goals (17) and points (35). … North Bay is 12-0-2 when Graham Pickard picks up at least one point in a game.

SOO THUNDERBIRDS – The Thunderbirds play tonight for the first time since Feb. 24. They sit second overall in the NOJHL. … They are 4-1 in their past five. … The final CJHL Top 20 rankings saw the Soo earn Honourable Mention. … Darcy Casola still leads the squad offensively and remains third in NOJHL scoring with 63 points. … Teammate Adam Ritchie is next on the team and also sits fourth in league offensive production with 56 points while Brandon Warmington is tied for eighth and Anthony Miller sits 10th respectively with 45 and 42 points. … Joel Horodziejczyk is second in league average at 2.44 and save percentage at .917. Steven Dombrowski has won his last 11 starts in net.

SUDBURY NICKEL BARONS – Sudbury will attempt to pull within five points of the Soo in the standings as the host the Thunderbirds tonight. … They’ll also try and put a little breathing room between them and fourth place Kirkland Lake, who sit four points in arrears. … Sebastien Leroux and Darcy Haines remain first and second in league scoring with 82 and 76 points respectively. … Leroux tops all skaters in the league in point-per-game average at 1.91. … Haines leads all skaters in the league in goals with 37 and sits second point-per-game prowess at 1.81. … He is also tied for third overall in power play markers with nine. … Martin Jolicoeur is tied for 15th in NOJHL scoring with 39 points. … Michael Muzyka is fifth in the NOJHL in goals-against average at 3.28. … Partner Alex Laino sits sixth overall in GAA at 3.61. … Laino has gone 10-2 in his last dozen decisions. … Brett Dusick sits second in points among NOJHL defencemen with 32.

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