First place advantage

February 17, 2023

Barring an improbable slump, the Timmins Rock will finish atop the East Division of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and draw a sub-par opponent in the first round of the playoffs.

With the 2022-2023 regular season schedule winding down, Timmins has a healthy lead on its two nearest challengers, the Hearst Lumberjacks and Powassan Voodoos. How much of an advantage will it be to finish first in the East Division? Well, there are three teams chasing the fourth and final playoff spot in the East — French River Rapids, Cochrane Crunch and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners. And as Timmins currently has a league-best record of 37-6-5, French River, Cochrane and Kirkland Lake have a combined mark of 18-113-5.

Yes, one of French River, Cochrane and Kirkland Lake will make the playoffs in the East Division with a much, much, much worse record than the two teams that will miss the playoffs in the West Division — the Elliot Lake Red Wings and either the Espanola Paper Kings or Soo Eagles.

At any rate, while Timmins is on the verge of a virtual first round playoff cakewalk, the other opening round matchups figure to be rather hotly contested. As it stands now in the East Division, Hearst and Powassan will face off in the other first round series. Meanwhile, in the West, the Sudbury Cubs are poised to play either Espanola or the Michigan Soo in one playoff set with the evenly matched Soo Thunderbirds and Blind River Beavers squaring off in the other.

Which means that come the second round of the playoffs, there will be three pretty good teams that will be out of the championship quest.

Right now, looking ahead, Timmins is in the best position of any of the worthy contenders for title glory. But, to be clear, there is a lot to like about Hearst, Powassan, Sudbury, Blind River and the reigning champion Thunderbirds. And whichever one of Espanola or the Michigan Soo makes the playoffs, neither can be taken lightly.

What you think about “First place advantage”

  1. you can count anybody out in this league when the plaoffs start but one thing is certain were in for some awesome hockey , im a Timmins fan so ill be cheering them on GO ROCK

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