NOJHL playoff perspectives

March 17, 2016

Eight teams — seven of which finished the regular season with winning records well above the .500 mark — are in position to win the 2015-2016 Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League playoff championship.

In the West Division, the first-place Soo Thunderbirds play the fourth-place Soo Eagles in a cross-border showdown while the second-place Elliot Lake Wildcats meet up with the third-place Rayside-Balfour Canadians.

In the East Division, the first-place Cochrane Crunch takes on the fourth-place Timmins Rock while the second-place Powassan Voodoos face off against the third-place Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.

All series are best-of-seven sets.


The Thunderbirds finished first overall during the regular season while the Eagles are the only team with a record below .500 still in the NOJHL playoff picture.

As we noted in an earlier story this week, the Thunderbirds — who finished 50 points ahead of the Eagles during the regular season — have an edge on their Michigan Soo counterparts in every area worth comparing except the home crowd.

Are the Eagles capable of beating the Thunderbirds?


But I don’t think the Eagles can take four games and win the series even though co-coach/general manager Bruno Bragagnolo told me that his team is “really looking forward to playing the Thunderbirds.”

When all is said and done between two teams who have an intense dislike for one another, this series should go to the Thunderbirds in five games.


Goal-tending could well be the determining factor in this series between two teams that are evenly-matched in terms of forwards who can score.

There is also the intangible factor dealing with the future operation of Rayside-Balfour, which will undergo an ownership change to Adrian Gedye once the season is over. Gedye has not committed to the Canadians coaching staff for next season and has indicated that he may change the direction of the team and gear it more towards younger players and Ontario Hockey League prospects.

Meanwhile, Elliot Lake is a well-prepared, analytical team led by head coach Nathan Hewitt.

Rayside-Balfour, save for youngsters such as forwards Bradley Chenier and Cayse Ton, is flush with older players who are already well into university.

If focus is a factor, give the edge to Elliot Lake and a six-game series win.


A study in contrast, this series matches the high-scoring, free-wheeling Crunch against the trapping Rock.

Cochrane coach-general manager Ryan Leonard has recruited and constructed one of the most-exciting teams in the 12-member NOJHL and if the Crunch can be patient and wait for the Timmins trap to crack then this series will be over in six games.

The advantage goes to Cochrane in just about every match-up though it should be noted that because of its emphasis on offense, the Crunch does give up a lot of shots.


What is upsetting is that one of two very good teams will lose this series, though all is not lost for Kirkland Lake if it comes up short as the Gold Miners have automatic entry into May’s Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Central Canada championships as host entry.

Without question, Powassan general manager Chris Dawson has done a peerless job in putting together the Voodoos with a winning mix of area and outside talent.

There is very little to choose from among the two teams and this series is the toughest to call.

So, we’ll flip a coin and give the home-ice advantage edge to Powassan.

What you think about “NOJHL playoff perspectives”

  1. Congrats to former voodoo Mckenzie Gray scoring last night in game 2 …5-1 win of playoffs for Minnesota Rangers. Coming back early with a hairline crack in ankle from blocking a shot late in season.

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