Around the NOJHL

November 9, 2015

Here ‘n there in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League on a sunny November day:


First-place Soo Thunderbirds had their 12-game winning streak snapped on Sunday, losing a 4-2 road decision to the Rayside-Balfour Canadians.

The setback not only halted the Soo string at a dozen victories but prevented the Thunderbirds from completing a tough, three-game road sweep which had started with wins at Kirkland Lake on Friday and Timmins on Saturday.

Thunderbirds coach Jordan Smith, while praising the effort of his players in the loss to Rayside-Balfour, said refereeing was a factor in the defeat.

“We were outstanding. We battled really hard,” Smith told the Sault Star. “It’s just too bad the referee had to make a questionable call in the final two minutes and become a factor in the game.”


Is there a more-exciting, more-feisty, more-skilled pair of rookie forwards in the NOJHL than the Thunderbirds duo of twin brothers Darian Pilon and Drake Pilon?

Well, I haven’t seen all 12 NOJHL teams play yet this season but from who and what I have watched, the twin-terror, Pilon boys are game-changers who play with such energy and steam that opposition skaters often leave the ice in stick-smashing frustration.

A throwback to old-style hockey, the Pilons — who were born in October of 1998 — play hard and with an edge, while keeping their game relatively clean.


Elliot Lake Wildcats have acquired 1995 birth-year defenceman Ned Simpson in a trade with Rayside-Balfour.

“We were looking to add some size and grit to our D core so when Ned became available we acquired his playing rights,” Wildcats general manager Todd Stencill said of the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Simpson, who made his Elliot Lake debut in a 3-2 road win over the Soo Eagles on Saturday night.


Winners of four straight games, Rayside-Balfour has improved its season record to a tidy 12-7-0 to remain a solid third in the West Division, four points back of second-place Elliot Lake.

Impressively, Rayside’s four straight wins have come against upper-echelon teams — Timmins, Elliot Lake, Powassan and the Soo T-Birds.


Soo Eagles continue to lead the NOJHL in attendance with an impressive per-game average of 637 fans.

Then it’s Timmins with an average of 527 followed by Iroquois Falls at 487, Elliot Lake at 440, Cochrane at 369, Kirkland Lake at 334, Powassan at 310, French River at 263, Soo T-Birds at 254, Rayside-Balfour at 243, Blind River at 227 and Espanola at 184.

What you think about “Around the NOJHL”

  1. they are Rocking in Rayside!!!!!!!!!!
    Erickson is leading the charge and we are beating the good teams as RR notes.

  2. Word is that the Cochrane Coach Ryan Leonard got fined 3 Grand by the League for his comments about Dusty Cordero not being chose to play for the NOJHL All Star team.

  3. Funny how when the penalty is called the other way, Jordan Smith doesn’t say Boo! Quit being a sucky baby, Jordan!

  4. Seems to me that there have been more concerns about referring this season than in years past , and it seems to be in all the geographical areas that NOJHL reaches . I myself have witnessed a few games where the results were seriously impacted by questionable and in some instances very blatant bad calls made by the refs . Wondering if whoever is responsible for referring watches game replays or is present at games ? Randy , can you shed any light on what Beavers1 had said regarding Ryan Leonard sticking up for his overlooked player and being fined for it ? I mean it wouldn’t surprise me because we’ve seen this sort of control before but I wouldn’t mind knowing if its factual before commenting on it .

  5. Yep..watching out for Rayside. The additions of over-agers Otis Goldman and Jayme Forslund have really given that team a shot in the arm. Winning against the Soo was no fluke, even if the referee did help them in the victory by having a few shotty calls go the Canadians way. This team is hitting their stride.

    Also, please look out for the Espanola Express. They lost 2-0 to the Wildcats, but got stellar goaltending out of Kevin Labelle..a surprise to see great goaltending for a team like the Express. They got outshot 37-25, but looked better than the shots indicated. What this team needs is scoring…they still need a line you can consistently say will put up 1 or 2 goals a night.

    The additions of Keenan Kennedy, Kevin Labelle, and Dominik Lavergne will help, but the progession of younger players (1997 and younger) such as Joel Grandbois, Mack Aiken, Zack Decontie, Jason Bednarski (injured right now) and Ian Thompson is critical for the future success of the team.

  6. I took in the Rock game on Saturday night, wanted to see what all the fuss was about with this Thunderbirds team from the Soo. And although they didn’t disappoint with their speed and highlight reel goals, I was very disappointed with how undisciplined they played. The refereeing was sub par(out of town officials), but that’s no excuse the spearing and high sticking that seemed to be going on every shift. At one point the Soo had five guys in the box, and lucky for them Timmins’ power play was horrible, because a better team would have buried a couple and been right back in the game.
    Mr. Smith perhaps what happened to your Thunderbirds on Sunday was the hockey gods paying you back for Saturday night. You know talent will only get a team so far, eventually the other stuff catches up to you.
    Then again, in a league this size it doesn’t take long for word to get around, perhaps the hockey gods had nothing to do with it, and just maybe the dozen or so refs that officiate the NOJHL are on to you.

  7. Re:TwinTerrors…Good players yes, well insulated yes. It would be interesting to see four NOJHL young guns (98′ 99′) teams go at it in mini tournament to help lend support to the Pilon pep rally.

  8. Have to agree the Pilons are more tenacious than talented, but it’s still a necessary ingredient to success. Watch out for Elliot lake and Rayside, they’re on the move. Soo success is they don’t make a lot of personnel change, preferring to develop chemistry and cohesion through strong coaching. Still the favourites in the west!

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