Nicholls boards the Express

February 25, 2021

He has served a full two year apprenticeship in the Great North Under 18 Hockey League. And now, 2003 birth year goalie Evan Nicholls has been granted the liberty to tend twine in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

Hockey News North has confirmed that the 6-foot-5, 220 pound Nicholls has signed with the Espanola Express of the NOJHL.

With play having just begun in the 2021 portion of the NOJHL season, Espanola was looking for a second goalie to partner with Owen Willis, a 2002 birth year stopper and an Ontario Hockey League draft pick of the London Knights.

The Express had an opening in that a pair of 2002 birth year goalies who saw action with Espanola in the 2020 portion of the schedule did not return to the NOJHL team in 2021.

The Canada-United States border contention prompted Michigan born goalie Luke Beally to remain on the American side instead of returning to Espanola. And the Express came to a mutual parting of ways with Iroquois Falls, Ontario product Carson Boutin.

Enter Nicholls, who hails from the Sudbury area town of Chelmsford, as the new goalie partner for the aforementioned Owen Willis.

Nicholls departed Timmins of the currently inactive Great North under 18 loop with the blessing of Majors coach Brandon Perry to move up to the NOJHL with Espanola.

“We don’t know when or if we will be playing again in Timmins … right now we are just practicing … and this is a good opportunity for Evan to get a chance to play in the NOJHL,” Perry told Hockey News North. “He is a good kid and a good competitor and we are happy for him.”

Before starting the since halted 2020-2021 season with the Majors, Nicholls spent the full 2019-2020 campaign in Timmins, where he got into 1,078 minutes of action and had a 3.72 goals against average on a below .500 team.

Evan Nicholls, in action for the under 18 Timmins Majors.

The previous season, the 2018-2019 campaign, Nicholls played for the erstwhile Soo minor midgets of the Great North loop where he impressed coach Jamie Henderson with his work ethic and ability.

“I am really excited to see Evan get an opportunity in the NOJHL with a good organization like Espanola,” relayed Henderson, who now heads up the under 18 Soo Jr. Greyhounds program. “Evan is a great kid who has worked hard for this.”

Meanwhile, on the look for a capable second goalie, Espanola general manager Jason Rapcewicz — acting on a suggestion and recommendation with regards to Nicholls — subsequently signed the young puck-stopper after going through the clearing process and approval and getting all of the necessary paper work completed.

Espanola has played 12 games thus far this season and has a record of 5-4-3. The Express began the 2021 portion of the schedule this week and thus far has split a pair of games with the French River Rapids, losing 6-5 in a shootout before rebounding with a 4-2 triumph.

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