Keaston ‘n Kobe in Cochrane

November 30, 2020
Keaston Blais

They both hail from the resilient northeastern Ontario town of Iroquois Falls.

Having both been born in the latter months of 2002, they played minor hockey together in their hometown and surrounding area as childhood friends.

Graduates of different programs from the Great North Under 18 Hockey League, they are now teammates again with the Cochrane Crunch of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

Kobe Barrette

Separated for a couple of seasons, defenseman Keaston Blais and forward Kobe Barrette took different roads to get to the NOJHL in Cochrane, which is located about 30 miles from Iroquois Falls along rugged Highway 11.

As this is a rookie NOJHL season for Blais in Cochrane, Barrette is now in his second year with the Crunch, having tallied seven goals, 10 assists, 17 points in 54 outings in 2019-2020.

In fact, the plan wasn’t even for the two to be teammates this season.

After two years as an ever-improving defender while skating for coach Brandon Perry and the Timmins Majors of the under-18 Great North loop, Blais signed with the NOJHL’s Hearst Lumberjacks during this past summer.

But after suiting up for Hearst during the exhibition season and being told he was its seventh defenseman, Blais ended up being traded to Cochrane via the behind-the-scenes work of family advisor Kevin Cain of Cain Hockey Management.

Thus, Blais and Barrette are now teammates again for the first time since their bantam days with the Cochrane Blues.

A stay at home defenseman, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Blais has quickly found an NOJHL home in Cochrane after being moved from its cohort rivals in Hearst. He has earned the trust of first-year coach and general manager Tom Nickolau and is taking a regular turn on the Cochrane blueline.

As for Barrette, the 5-foot-10, 170 pound forward certainly has the tools to be an above average producer in his second NOJHL season. He was able to score with regularity in two seasons in the under-18 Great North, totaling 33 goals in 72 games in time divided between the Timmins Majors and Kapuskasing Flyers.

At any rate, Blais and Barrette are currently part of a new NOJHL chapter in Cochrane with the aforementioned Tom Nickolau having taken over operation of the franchise during the recent off season.

The 54-year old Nickolau played three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League as a forward with the Guelph Platers, eventually being part of a Memorial Cup championship team under future National Hockey League coach Jacques Martin.

Nickolau also became an NHL draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings and played at the Canadian university hockey level with the Ryerson Rams.

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