There is a logjam in the East Division of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League that has the fifth-seeded Hearst Lumberjacks within range of the first-place, co-occupant, Timmins Rock and Cochrane Crunch.
With a record of 5-0-2 in its last seven outings, Hearst now has a mark of 16-12-5 on the season.
And while still in fifth place in the NOJHL East, Hearst is only nine points behind the division leaders with three games in hand on Timmins and a whopping five in the bank on Cochrane.
Standings in the East show Timmins with 46 points from 36 games and Cochrane with 46 points from 38 outings. Next are the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners with 45 points in 33 games with a division-best winning percentage of .682.
Powassan Voodoos hold down fourth place with 40 points from 35 games and then it is Hearst in the fifth spot with 37 points in 33 games.
Lumberjacks coach/general manager Marc Lafleur gave me his take on the recent success that Hearst has enjoyed.
“First off, the coaching staff is very happy with the team not having lost a regulation time game in the past seven and earning 12 of a possible 14 points in that time frame,” Lafleur began.
“Some of the bigger reasons are our improved defensive zone coverage and being better at getting in the shot lanes as well as creating scrums in the offensive zone through a strong fore check and winning those puck battles.
“Our division is so close in terms of standings that if we can continue our win streak in the near future, it could lead to a huge battle at the top,” Lafleur added.
The youthful French River Rapids are in last place in the East, having earned 27 points from 37 games.
PHOTO: Hearst Lumberjacks forward Dawson Waddell moves the puck up ice in recent NOJHL action against the French River Rapids.