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Frappier new Rapids bench boss

Shawn Frappier, head coach of the AAA Sudbury Wolves Minor Midgets, barks out instructions during a hockey game at McClelland arena in Copper Cliff, Ont. on Friday December 23, 2016. John Lappa/Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network


By Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star


“As much as I’m all about development, I’m a sore loser, too.”

With a laugh, Shawn Frappier summed up his priorities as head coach of the French River Rapids, a position the Sudbury native accepted in the last several days.

Conversations with management for the NOJHL club, including owner Paul Frustaglio and hockey operations director Sherry Bassin, as well as the Rapids’ 23-point improvement this past season, only assured Frappier that the team has a similar vision for success.

“I didn’t follow it too closely last year, but I know they did some house-cleaning and got some things on the go,” Frappier said. “We’re going to be moving in the right direction.”

Known to many local fans as a three-year member of the Sudbury Wolves blueline corps in the 1990s, Frappier was part of the highly talented squad that made a conference final in 1995, before he suited up for the Belleville Bulls and Barrie Colts in his final OHL season.

He enjoyed a five-year pro career before returning to the game as a coach, notably with the Sudbury minor midgets from 2015 to 2017.

“I think this will be a good transition,” Frappier said. “I think that group is kind of more in my wheelhouse anyway, minor midget and older, junior and stuff like that. I think I’m going to have a lot of fun, for sure.”

He favours an aggressive, exciting brand of hockey he believes will fit well in the modern NOJHL.

“I played for the Sudbury Cubs before I played for the Sudbury Wolves, and it was a different league back then,” Frappier said. “It was a different league five, 10 years ago. It’s way more respected now, a way more respected league. I want to play high-tempo. I love high-tempo and I’m not sitting back. We want to run and gun, for sure.”

Frappier replaces Ken Strong, who played a key role in the Noelville-based outfit’s rise to respectability during his single season behind the bench.

Frustaglio pointed out that Strong had been invited to return for 2018-19, but the Oakville, Ont.-based coach ultimately decided the travel demands were too much, especially with his business obligations, though he will maintain a relationship with the Rapids and provide advice as needed.

The team took its time in choosing a new head coach, Frustaglio said, and considered some with impressive resumes. They ultimately decided Frappier was the best fit, in large part because of his development record.

“What we’re doing in French River is preparing kids for the next level,” Frustaglio said. “We’re still going to be fairly young and just like Ken Strong is a teacher, who came from the minor-midget ranks and got a lot of young kids drafted, I had that same mentality. If our game plan is going to be to get kids to the next level, then I need to keep with what we started to do with Kenny.”

In just two seasons with the local minor midgets, Frappier saw several players become OHL draft picks, including Billy Moskal, Damien Giroux, Chad Denault, Cameron Lamour, Jordan Spadafore, Brett Jacklin, Chris Clark, Joe Mazur and Jarod Hurley.

“I interviewed him and I liked the interview, Sherry Bassin interviewed him, he passed that interview, and we spoke to several of the young Sudbury kids who have played for Shawn,” Frustaglio said. “I asked a simple question – would you play for Shawn? They were just jumping up and down, saying yes, we love him. You need to listen to the voices of your kids, because they need to be happy to play. With a happy team, you get better results.”

Frappier doesn’t mind coaching a young group, even prefers it in some ways.

“The less they know, the less they have to worry about,” he said. “They can just play the game. Generally, the younger guys are still chasing the dream, and those are the guys I want. I want the guys who want to continue playing.”

French River has not hired any assistant coaches, but will look to move forward with that process following its first rookie camp, to be held at Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex on May 19.

Another session is planned in Toronto, June 16-17. Details are available at www.frenchriverrapids.com.

Frustaglio intends to take another step forward next season.

“Nothing less than the playoffs,” he said. “We were in contention for the playoffs up until mid-February, but it kind of fell apart. It was just one of those things where the hockey gods said you’re not ready. You took a big step this year, went from the laughingstock of junior hockey to a respectable team, you’ve got respectable people running the franchise and the community support has been great, with the fifth-highest attendance in the league.”

The Rapids averaged 296 fans per game this past season, but Frustaglio believes attendance would spike for a post-season run.

“All these great things are happening, so we need to make the playoffs, there is no other choice, and we’re going to make a concerted effort to find the best players and the best people. Without having good people, it doesn’t really matter how good your hockey team is. There’s a lot of teams out there that fumbled this year, because they didn’t have the best people. We’re not about to do that next year.”

Rapids’ Sherry Bassin visits Humboldt

It’s been nearly two weeks since the tragic bus accident occurred in Saskatchewan that took the lives of 16 people and injured 13 others and people from around the world are still coming forward to pay tribute and honour those who lost their lives and help the families affected by it.

On Tuesday afternoon, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Buffalo Sabres’ Ryan O’Reilly and junior hockey executive Sherry Bassin made the trip to Humboldt, Saskatchewan, to visit the Elgar Peterson Arena and talk to local students to help them cope with everything that’s happened in their lives in such a short period of time.

FULL STORY

Siau looking like late-round gem

French River Rapids forward Levi Siau (93) battles for the puck against Timmins Rock forward Jordan Picard (14) during NOJHL action at McIntyre Arena in Timmins, Ont. on Thursday, December 7, 2017. Thomas Perry/Postmedia Network


By Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star


Pursuing a hockey career means embracing travel, a fact to which any Northern Ontarian who has spent hours on a bus to reach a regular-season game, let alone a tournament, will readily attest.

So when Levi Siau’s mother received a job offer in London, Ont., the native of Kakabeka Falls, near Thunder Bay, took the opportunity to join the local minor midget squad, one that included the likes of Ryan Suzuki, Brett Budgell and Aidan Prueter.

“It was unreal,” Siau said. “London is a great city.”

He’d like to return there next season, preferably as a member of the Sudbury Wolves, who drafted Siau with their 12th-round pick, 227th overall, in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection.

“I know nothing is guaranteed,” said the 16-year-old forward, currently playing for the French River Rapids of the NOJHL. “I’ll have to come to main camp and do my best and if they don’t want me, they don’t want me, but I feel really confident that I’ll have a spot on the team.”

The Wolves clearly feel Siau has that potential, too, after signing the the skilled 6-foot-1, 175-pounder earlier this season and even inserting him into the lineup for three games. The taste of major-junior hockey has only been a boost for Siau, who has since emerged as one of the NOJHL’s top rookies.

A three-assist outing last Friday gave him 39 points in 42 games, good for fourth among league freshmen, and first among 16-year-olds.

“I feel good,” Siau said. “I’m in a good position here. The coaches really believe in me and I believe in myself and so do my teammates. Every practice I’m out here getting better, every game, I’m thinking of something new.”

He counts his goal-scoring and playmaking ability as his strengths, adding that his skating and puck-handling have both improved since he started competing against bigger, faster junior players.

“You have to get stronger and you have to get your head up all the time,” Siau said. “Once you get the puck, you’re going to get hit.”

He credited Ken Strong, head coach of the Rapids and a longtime minor hockey bench boss with names such as Connor McDavid, Ryan Strome, Connor Brown and Sam Bennett on his resume, for accelerating his development.

“He’s hard on you,” Siau said. “Every time you come off, he’s got some feedback for you and it’s not aways going to be good, but you got to take it and go out there and fix it.”

Strong had plenty of positive comments, too, when asked about Siau’s progress this season.

“He has played very well, especially with that confidence-builder he got by going up and playing and spending some time with the Wolves,” Strong said. “He certainly learned a lot up there, in terms of what the next level is like and what he’s got to do while he’s down here. He has really become a leader and he’s maturing.

“We have changed his role a bit. He started as a winger, but the Wolves used him as a centre, so we have him at centre and I have tried to give him some wingers to play with and he can really control the game when he’s out there. He’s very dangerous and he is now being a lot more responsible, looking after his own end, playing a 200-foot game, so I’m very happy with him.”

Playing in nearby Noelville, Siau has also been under the watchful eye of Wolves general manager Rob Papineau, who has been high on the youngster since training camp last September.

“We couldn’t have expressed that more than by signing him to a contract,” Papineau said. “When he came up with us, he played well and what’s really excited about what Levi did is he took that opportunity to come up to the OHL and play a few games and be with the team for a week or so and he has brought that back to his team and taken his game to another level. He’s heading in the right direction and that’s what you want to see from a player.”

A player who, based on his current output, may have been better than a 12th-round pick. Siau himself certainly thinks so and he’s anxious for the chance to prove it.

Local fans can get a good look at Siau when the Rapids visit the Rayside-Balfour Canadians, a team that includes former Rapid and Wolves pick Christian Gaudreau, on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.

Rayside also has defenceman Ethan Lavallee, whose rights the Wolves acquired from the Sarnia Sting earlier this month, as well as forwards Evan Krassey and Noah Serre and defencemen Ryan O’Bonsawin and Zach Snow, who have played for the Wolves as affiliates this season.

NOJHL Commitment Tracker

SUDBURY, Ont. – Players in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League from the 2017-18 season continue to make commitments to move on to the next level as well as further their education for the upcoming campaign.

The following is an updated list of those in the league this season who have recently or previously committed or signed with schools or teams for 2018-19:

ELLIOT LAKE WILDCATS

Nick Long, (F) Wilkes University (NCAA D-III)

The 20-year-old Cowansville, Penn., product will be returning to his home state to attend school and play for the Wilkes University Colonels who will be entering their initial season of NCAA D-III play this fall.

Long had a solid campaign for Elliot Lake in 2017 setting personal single-season highs in goals, assists and points with 26, 24 and 50 respectively.

His offensive numbers put him third overall on the Wildcats in scoring while his nine power play tallies ranked him second on the squad and ninth highest in the NOJHL.

In two seasons in Elliot Lake, Long skated in 110 contests where he scored 34 times and helped set-up 37 others for 71 points.

Wilkes University is based in Wilkes-Barre, Penn.

ESPANOLA EXPRESS

Previous commitments

Jackson Heacock, (F) – Anna Maria College (NCAA)

FRENCH RIVER RAPIDS

Previous commitments

Levi Siau, (F) – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS

Tyler Fyfe, (F) Adrian College, (ACHA)

Set to join the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I champion Adrian College Bulldogs in Michigan is Gold Miners standout forward Tyler Fyfe.

In two seasons in Kirkland Lake, the 20-year-old from Cloverdale, B.C., was an offensive force averaging well over a point-per-game with his club.

Fyfe suited up in 112 league match-ups and amassed 137 points as he notched 64 markers and chipped in with 73 assists.

His 16 power play goals in 2017-18 tied for the NOJHL lead in that department and he topped all league skaters in man advantage points with 29.

Marshal Nikitin, (F) Northland College (NCHA)

Heading to Northland College in Ashland, Wis., will be Kirkland Lake’s third-leading scorer this season in Marshal Nikitin.

Skating for his hometown team, Nikitin recorded 50 points for the Gold Miners in 2017-18 by scoring 21 times and setting up 29 others in 47 outings.

In all he dressed for 93 games in his NOJHL career and picked up 83 points, including 32 goals.

The Northland Lumberjacks are a NCAA D-III school and are members of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association.

Connor Evans, (D) Northland College (NCHA)

Joining Nikitin at Northland College will by Gold Miners’ defenceman Connor Evans.

He hails from Uxbridge, Ont., and joined Kirkland Lake back in December and helped stabilize his club’s defensive corps.

The 20-year-old blueliner also chipped in with four goals and 14 assists in 24 games.

Max Cavallini, (F) Lake Forest College (NCHA)

A third member of the Gold Miners that will compete in the NCHA will be forward Max Cavallini.

He will be attending Lake Forest College in Illinois and compete with the Foresters men’s program.

From nearby Barrington, Ill., the 20-year-old Cavallini departs Kirkland Lake after playing two seasons for the squad.

In 68 career NOJHL contests he notched a dozen markers and added 14 helpers for the Gold Miners.

RAYSIDE-BALFOUR CANADIANS

Brayden Lachance, (G) — Laurentian University (OUA)

After a solid campaign helping lead the Canadians to the NOJHL final, Lachance will take the next step in his hockey career as his heads to Laurentian University in Sudbury to join the Voyageurs of the OUA.

Lachance, who turned 21 earlier this month, went 14-6-3-0 in 24 appearances with a 2.65 goals-against average.

Meanwhile his .934 save percentage led all league netminders.

Playoff action saw the Sudbury product start 18 times and produce 10 wins in Rayside-Balfour’s run to the NOJHL final where they fell to the eventual champion Cochrane Crunch.

Postseason play saw him have a 2.55 average along with a .941 save mark.

Scott Bagby, (D) – Ohio Bobcats (ACHA)

After starting the campaign playing in the Maritime Hockey League, Bagby joined the Canadians for the stretch run and into the playoffs.

The 20-year-old from Chicago dressed for 12 games and produced seven assists.

He will now move on to Ohio University where he will attend school and skate with the Bobcats, who are members of the ACHA.

Previous commitments

Jacob Partridge, (F) – Peterborough Petes (OHL)

MacKenzie Savard, (G) – Laurentian University (OUA)

Giordano Finoro, (F) – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)

SOO EAGLES

Gianni Vialli, (F) – Trine University (NCHA)

Eagles’ assistant captain Gianni Vitali has committed to Trine University where he will join teammate Owen Kipke, who also announced earlier that he will be heading to the school in Indiana as they prepare for their inaugural campaign in the NCHA.

Viewed as a strong player with great speed, puck skills and a high compete level, Vitali is also considered a character kid on and off the ice.

Hailing from Grand Rapids, Mich., saw action in 33 NOJHL contests at forward where the 20-year-old scored 12 times and added 18 assists in his time with the Eagles.

Previous commitments

Owen Kipke, (D) – Trine University (NCHA)

SOO THUNDERBIRDS

Previous commitments

Alex Acosta, (F) – Northland College (NCHA)

Camaryn Baber, (F) – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)

 

NOJHL releases statement regarding Humboldt tragedy

SUDBURY, Ont. – The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League announced Saturday the following statement regarding the devastating tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, Friday.

“On behalf of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, our member clubs, team staffs, players, families, billet families and fans, we extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathies to the Humboldt Broncos, the Town of Humboldt and all those associated in this devastating loss,” offered NOJHL Commissioner Robert Mazzuca.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Humboldt Broncos and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, their families and friends, and the entire Humboldt community during this most unimaginable and difficult time,” added Mazzuca.

The NOJHL is offering its full and undivided support and attention to any of those within its own hockey family needing assistance in dealing with this horrific event.

The NOJHL will also be paying homage to the Humboldt Broncos, its’ family members, fans, the Town of Humboldt and the multitude of first responders and those who are providing counselling and support at all upcoming NOJHL playoff games.

Further information will be announced at a later date.

#HumboldtBroncosStrong

NOJHL announces 2017-18 award recipients

SUDBURY, Ont. – The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League announced Thursday its 2017-18 regular season award winners as well as its CCM Hockey first and second all-star team recipients.

Earning the NOJHL’s Carlo Cattarello Trophy as league Most Valuable Player is Cochrane Crunch defenceman Connor Lovie.

The veteran NOJHL blueliner was also named the league’s Top Defenceman for a second consecutive season as well as being selected a CCM Hockey first team all-star.

The following is the list of the 2017-18 NOJHL award winners:

CARLO CATTARELLO TROPHY – NOJHL MVP: CONNOR LOVIE, (D) COCHRANE CRUNCH – Lovie produced a career single-season high 49 points during the course of the regular season, including 15 goals, with both numbers leading all NOJHL defencemen. … His 24 power play points also topped all league rearguards. … Earlier, the 20-year-old London, Ont., product became the 10th player in league history to play 200 games in his career. … Was also named the NOJHL’s Top Defenceman as well as a CCM Hockey 1st Team All-Star.

NOJHL TROPHY – BEST DEFENCEMAN: CONNOR LOVIE, (D) COCHRANE CRUNCH – This marks the second straight season that Lovie has been recognized at the NOJHL’s Top Defenceman award recipient. … He produced a career single-season high 49 points during the course of the regular season, including 15 goals, with both numbers leading all NOJHL defencemen. … His 24 power play points also topped all league rearguards.

JOHN GRIGNON TROPHY – ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (1ST YEAR PLAYING JR. HOCKEY): HARRISON ISRAELS, (F) POWASSAN VOODOOS – Israels produced a tremendous rookie season with the regular season champion Voodoos. … His 69 points paced all first-year skaters in the NOJHL as he scored 38 times and assisted on 31 others. … The 18-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native also finished tied for sixth in league scoring among all players. … His rookie point total is the highest in league play since Bradley Chenier produced 72 back in 2015-16 for Rayside-Balfour.

GILLES LAPERRIERE TROPHY – MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: JACOB KELLY, (F) ELLIOT LAKE WILDCATS – For Kelly, his second year in the NOJHL marked a stellar improvement over his rookie season. … The 17-year-old forward from Barrie, Ont., produced 43 more points for the Wildcats in 2017-18, picking up 70 in total to pace Elliot Lake offensively. … His 34 goals were 20 more than last season while his 36 assists was an improvement of 23 over 2017-18. … Kelly’s 11 power play markers tied him for fourth in league play.

MITCH TETREAULT MEMORIAL TROPHY – TOP DEFENSIVE FORWARD: MATTHEW NEAULT, (F) RAYSIDE-BALFOUR CANADIANS – As captain of Rayside-Balfour, the veteran forward produced a strong two-way game for the Canadians in 2017-18. … The 20-year-old from Lively, Ont., also registered career season highs in goals, assists and points with 21, 28 and 49 respectively. … Neault is also the leader in all-time NOJHL games played at 268.

WAYNE CHASE MEMORIAL AWARD – BEST GOALS-AGAINST AVERAGE: CARTER MCPHAIL, SOO EAGLES – McPhail’s efforts in his first season in the league saw him record a NOJHL-low 2.27 goals-against average. … The 19-year-old from Fenton, Mich., was second overall in wins with 22 and save percentage and he led the all netminders in shutouts with four.

NOJHL TEAM GOALTENDING AWARD (FEWEST GOALS ALLOWED) – BRANDON GORDON; ERIC SCHUCH, SOO THUNDERBIRDS: The Thunderbirds tandem of Gordon and Schuch helped their side give up the fewest goals against during the course of the regular season, allowing just 134 through 56 games, an average of just 2.39 per outing, which was the best in the entire 12-team league.

JIMMY CONNORS MEMORIAL TROPHY – NOJHL SCORING CHAMPION: KYLE HERBSTER, (F) COCHRANE CRUNCH – The 19-year-old from Cary, Ill., takes the honour with his 86 points pacing all NOJHL skaters as he finished one ahead of the Soo Eagles’ Nick Techel. … Herbster scored 36 times and assisted on 50 others in 55 games played for Cochrane. … His eight shorthanded tallies topped the table in that category. … This marks the second straight year a member of the Crunch has won the league’s top scorer award with Braeden Cross racking up a NOJHL-best 82 points in 2016-17.

DAVID HARRISON TROPHY – MOST GENTLEMANLY PLAYER: SHANE BEAULIEU, (F) POWASSAN VOODOOS – In his final season of Jr. A hockey, the native of Whitby, Ont., was well over a point-per-game player for league-leading Powassan as he registered 67 in all on 21 tallies and 46 helpers, which put him ninth in NOJHL offensive numbers. … Beaulieu’s point totals were the highest of any player in the league who had 15 penalty minutes or less.

NOJHL TROPHY – BEST OVERALL TEAM PLAYER: NICK TECHEL, (F), EAGLES – The talented Techel was impressive all season long for the Eagles. … The 19-year-old from Wausau, Wis., led his club in offensive production with 85 points in 56 outings on 29 goals and a league-best 56 assists. … Finishing a close second in overall scoring, Techel produced 27 power play points, six more while shorthanded and a half dozen game-winning markers.

MIRL “RED” MCCARTHY MEMORIAL AWARD – NOJHL COACH OF THE YEAR: JOHN PARCO, SOO THUNDERBIRDS: In his first season behind the bench for the Thunderbirds, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., product guided his club to a 36-16-3-1 record, boasting a line-up that featured 12 rookies on their roster as well as others who were in their first year in the league.

THE JOE DRAGO TROPHY – NOJHL DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR: DARREN SMYL, SOO THUNDERBIRDS – In his first-year at the helm of the Thunderbirds’ organization, Smyl helped stabilize the fortunes of the club on and off the ice.

JAMES ASPIN TROPHY – NOJHL REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONS: POWASSAN VOODOOS – This marks the second straight year Powassan finished first overall in the NOJHL standings. … They boasted a 45-7-1-3 overall record. … They join the Soo Thunderbirds as the only two organizations in league history to produce 45 or more victories in a season. … They racked up 46 wins in 2016-17. … The Voodoos were also tabbed fourth in the final Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 rankings for 2017-18.

GARY HALL MEMORIAL AWARD – NOJHL EAST CHAMPION: POWASSAN VOODOOS – The Voodoos claimed their second consecutive East Division title with an impressive 45-7-1-3 record. … This is the second year in a row the club has claimed the crown in the East.

WILLIAM SIDNEY JONES MEMORIAL TROPHY – NOJHL WEST CHAMPION: RAYSIDE-BALFOUR CANADIANS – The Canadians secured the NOJHL West title with a win in their final regular season contest, a road triumph over the Soo Thunderbirds. … Rayside-Balfour wrapped up the campaign with 37-14-4-1 record. … Their 79 points put an end to the Thunderbirds’ four-year run as divisional title holders.

The NOJHL also announced Thursday its CCM Hockey first and second all-star team recipients with the players and team staff members being recognized for their achievements, efforts and contributions with their respective clubs this season.

CCM HOCKEY 1ST ALL-STAR TEAM

CENTRE: TYSON GILMOUR, POWASSAN VOODOOS – A great year for Gilmour saw him lead the regular season champion Voodoos in offensive production. … Suiting up in 55 contests, the 19-year-old from East York, Ont., was a guiding force for Powassan during the 2017-18 campaign in which he recorded career season highs in goals, assists and points with 25, 53 and 78 along the way. … He wrapped up the regular season on a 10-game point streak and produced 23 multi-point contests. … The son of Hockey Hall of Fame Honoured Member, Doug Gilmour, finished third in league scoring.

LEFT WING: HARRISON ISRAELS, POWASSAN VOODOOS – Israels produced a tremendous rookie season with the regular season champion Voodoos. … His 69 points paced all first-year skaters in the NOJHL as he scored 38 times and assisted on 31 others. … The 18-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native also finished tied for sixth in league scoring among all players. … His rookie point total is the highest in league play since Bradley Chenier produced 72 back in 2015-16 with Rayside-Balfour.

RIGHT WING: NICK TECHEL, SOO EAGLES – The talented Techel was impressive all season long for the Eagles. … The 19-year-old from Wausau, Wis., led his club in offensive production with 85 points in 56 outings on 29 goals and a league-best 56 assists. … Finishing a close second in overall scoring, Techel produced 27 power play points, six more while shorthanded and a half-dozen game-winning markers.

DEFENCE: CONNOR LOVIE, COCHRANE CRUNCH – Lovie produced a career single-season high 49 points during the course of the regular season, including 15 goals, with both numbers leading all NOJHL defencemen. … His 24 power play points also topped all league rearguards. … Earlier, the 20-year-old London, Ont., product became the 10th player in league history to play 200 games in his career. … Lovie also named the NOJHL’s Most Valuable Player and its Top Defenceman award winner.

DEFENCE: AUSTIN ANSELMO, HEARST LUMBERJACKS – Anselmo was a stabilizing force for first-year Hearst in 2017-18 on both ends of the ice. … The 20-year-old from Trail, B.C. led all Lumberjacks’ defencemen in scoring this season with 41 points in just 46 games on nine goals and 32 assists. … Anselmo’s offensive totals tied him for second among all NOJHL rearguards.

GOALTENDER: BRANDON GORDON, SOO THUNDERBIRDS – Hailing from across the border in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the veteran Thunderbirds netminder had another solid year for his club. … His final year in Jr. A, saw Gordon pick-up 21 wins while registering a 2.31 goals-against average with a young Soo squad along with a .926 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. … In 92 career contests, Gordon has produced 60 victories and 11 shutouts for the Thunderbirds.

GENERAL MANAGER: BRUNO BRAGAGNOLO, SOO EAGLES – The veteran hockey man continued his diligent efforts in building the Eagles’ roster once again this season. … He is also a key cog in an organization that is always near the top in attendance in league play as well as one that is heavily involved in a multitude of community endeavours.

COACH: JOHN PARCO, SOO THUNDERBIRDS – In his first season behind the bench for the Thunderbirds, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., product guided his club to a 36-16-3-1 record, boasting a line-up that featured 12 rookies on their roster as well as others who were in their first year in the league.

TRAINER/EQUIPMENT MANAGER: J.J. JOHNSON, POWASSAN VOODOOS – Earns CCM Hockey first team all-star laurels for a second straight season with his impressive efforts for with league-leading Powassan. …Johnson also served as one of the trainers/equipment managers for Team NOJHL at the Eastern Canada Challenge Cup this past November in Trenton, Ont.

CCM HOCKEY 2ND ALL-STAR TEAM

CENTRE: KOBE KELLER, SOO EAGLES – Another solid contributor to the Eagles’ success this season was the play of Keller. … Hailing from Stevens Point, Wis., the 19-year-old scored 20 times in just 40 games played while doling out 30 assists along the way. … Finishing with at a 1.25 point-per-game pace, Keller also picked up 17 power play points while offering a solid two-way game for the Eagles.

LEFT WING: OWEN ROBINSON, BLIND RIVER BEAVERS – Set to turn 18 on Friday, the Orangeville, Ont., product was second among all NOJHL rookies in scoring during the 2017-18 campaign. … In 51 contests, the Blind River Beavers forward notched 22 goals and helped set-up 34 others for 56 points in total. … He also tied for top spot among all league rookies in power play points with 17. … Robinson was also recognized by the Canadian Junior Hockey League earlier this season as he was selected, in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting, to participate in the CJHL Prospects Game in Mississauga, Ont., back in January.

RIGHT WING: KYLE HERBSTER, COCHRANE CRUNCH – The 19-year-old from Cary, Ill., produced 86 points this season to lead all NOJHL players. … Herbster scored 36 times and assisted on 50 others in 55 games played for Cochrane. … His eight shorthanded tallies topped the table in that category. … He also had 24 multi-point games to his credit.

DEFENCE: ERIC NAGY, POWASSAN VOODOOS – Bolstering the back-end for Powassan, Nagy was once again pivotal in the club’s success in 2017-18. … His strong play defensively anchored the Voodoos D-corps. … The 20-year-old from Queensville, Ont., also contributed offensively by tallying twice and chipping in with 17 assists along the way.

DEFENCE: RYAN O’BONSAWIN, RAYSIDE-BALFOUR CANADIANS – Helping bolster Rayside-Balfour enroute to winning the NOJHL’s West Division title was the play of O’Bonsawin. … The 18-year-old rookie D-man from Azilda, Ont., produced 25 points in 34 games for the Canadians on six goals and 19 assists while turning in solid contributions defensively.

GOALTENDER: CARTER MCPHAIL, SOO EAGLES – McPhail’s efforts in his first season in the league saw him record a NOJHL-low 2.27 goals-against average. … The 19-year-old from Fenton, Mich., was second overall in wins with 22 and save percentage at .930 and he led the all netminders in shutouts with four.

GENERAL MANAGER: RYAN LEONARD, COCHRANE CRUNCH – Continuing to do an impressive job of recruiting, Leonard’s work has seen him bring in some high-end talent up to Cochrane while building a roster that competes at a high level on a yearly basis. … Leonard’s team commitment to education has also seen the Crunch send a solid of amount of players to the next level, including 18 to the NCAA & U-Sports ranks the past three campaigns.

COACH: KEN STRONG, FRENCH RIVER RAPIDS – In his first year behind the bench, Strong helped the French River franchise improve their win margin during the course of the regular season. … Under the tutelage of the former NHLer, the Rapids picked up 10 more victories than they had in 2016-17. … That total was the highest win-improvement ratio in the league compared to last season.

TRAINER/EQUIPMENT MANAGER: JAY THOMAS, SOO THUNDERBIRDS – Thomas earns his initial league all-star honours for his efforts with the Soo Thunderbirds program as the club’s equipment manager.

ABOUT CCM HOCKEY: CCM is the legendary hockey brand that has been rooted in performance for over a century. CCM Hockey offers the innovation and performance that will help write the next chapter in the history of the game. Your legend starts here. For more information on CCM Hockey, visit their website at ccmhockey.com or on social media at twitter.com/CCMHockey or facebook.com/CCMHockey.

T.B.A. NOJHL AWARDS

RBC SCHOLASTIC PLAYER OF THE YEAR

PLAYOFF MVP

PLAYOFF CHAMPION

GALLERY: Spencer strikes twice as Rock defeat Rapids

FRENCH RIVER – Linden Spencer scored twice, including the game-winner with 6:20 remaining in regulation, as the Timmins Rock went on to defeat the French River Rapids 5-3 Friday in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League encounter at Noelville Arena.

First period play saw French River get on the board first as Stephen Calisti collected his 12th goal of the year, which came during a two-man advantage.

Timmins got that back though four and a half minutes later on an Evan Kentish-Stack effort.

Heading into the second period the Rock tacked on a Spencer shorthanded marker followed by one at even strength courtesy of Paul Spadafora to go up 3-1.

However, Calisti’s second of the night brought the Rapids to within one at 11:27.

Moving on to the final frame, Max Lightfoot drew French River level six and a half minutes into the third.

It stayed tied until Spencer supplied the eventual difference maker at 13:40.

The Rapids pulled their netminder, Matty Mayhew, in an attempt to tie it and force overtime, but A.P. Frederic Leclair-Pouw iced it in the late going with an empty netter for his initial league tally to round out the night’s scoring.

Timmins affiliate player Austin Holmes chipped in with two assists while Donny Schultz had a couple of helpers in defeat for the Rapids.

Rock goaltender Jordan Yaremchuk made 33 stops to record his first NOJHL win while Rapids starter Matty Mayhew faced 36 shots in defeat.

Photos courtesy of  Dal Photography

GALLERY: Hearst secures No. 4 seed in East with win at French River

FRENCH RIVER – The Hearst Lumberjacks picked up a goal and four assists from Max Johnson to help power them to a 7-3 victory over the French River Rapids Thursday evening in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League play at Noelville Arena.

With the outcome, Hearst wraps up the No. 4 seed in the NOJHL’s East Division and will take on the No. 5 seeded Timmins Rock in a first-round best-of-three playoff match-up with the Lumberjacks having home ice advantage.

Hearst got going offensively in this one near the six-minute mark of the first period on a Maxim Lacroix effort.

Stephen Calisti tied it for French River though at 10:28 with a power play tally as he picked up his 11th goal of the season.

However the Lumberjacks answered with a pair of markers in the back half of the frame with Johnson connecting at even strength for his 20th of the season before he set-up Austin Anselmo at 18:06 for one during a late man advantage.

Johnson’s solid night continued with his third point of the game as he assisted on Samuel Bourdages’ 21st at 4:11.

The Rapids cut into the deficit 10 minutes later thanks to Will Frustaglio, but Jacob Comeau answered that for Hearst before the period expired to put them up 5-2 after two.

Moving on to the third, CCM Hockey Rookie of the Month for February, Spencer Silver, upped the visitors lead at 4:19 only to see Max Carbone get that back for the home side just nine seconds later.

Bradley Golant tacked on another for Hearst a couple shifts later as he reached the 20-goal plateau while also rounding out the scoring.

Matt Kustra made 44 saves to record the win for the Lumberjacks while Andrew Rocha was tested 47 times in defeat for French River.

Photos courtesy of  Dal Photography

Cochrane awarded 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup

SUDBURY, Ont. – The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, in conjunction with the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League, announced Thursday that Cochrane, Ont., has been selected as the host community for the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship.

The town and the NOJHL’s Cochrane Crunch will host the four-team event, April 30 through May 4, 2019, at the Tim Horton Event Centre.

Cochrane was selected as the 2019 host following submissions made to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup steering committee, which included the three commissioners of the competing leagues of the DHC; Robert Mazzuca (NOJHL); Marty Savoy (OJHL) and Bryan Graham (SIJHL) as well as Ontario Hockey Federation president Tony Foresi.

Joining the Crunch at the 2019 DHC will be the respective champions of the NOJHL, OJHL and SIJHL with the four clubs vying for the Central Canadian Jr. A title as well as the opportunity to represent the Central region at the 2019 RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A Championship in Brooks, Alta.

Should Cochrane prevail as 2019 NOJHL champion, then the league finalist will also take part in the event.

“On behalf of our member partners, we congratulate the Town of Cochrane and the Cochrane Crunch on their selection as host of the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup,” offered NOJHL commissioner Mazzuca.

“We also extend our sincere appreciation to all of the groups that submitted bids to host this prestigious event, added Mazzuca.

“Each of the bids were tremendous and the entire Dudley-Hewitt Cup selection committee was extremely impressed with the efforts and submissions put forth by the respective groups.”

Now in their fourth season in Cochrane, the Crunch boast the third-best winning percentage in the NOJHL over the past four campaigns.

Along with one NOJHL East Division regular season title and a East Division playoff crown to their credit, the club has also advanced the most players, from within the league, to NCAA and U-Sports programs over the past three years.

“We couldn’t be happier to share this event with the Town of Cochrane, who opened their arms to us four years ago upon our arrival,” stated Crunch president, general manager and head coach Ryan Leonard.

“We all are excited and ready to put it into overdrive over the next 12-plus months to make sure our team and our community is ready to host the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup,” added Leonard.

Having the opportunity to host such an event as the Dudley-Hewitt Cup in their northern Ontario community is something the Town of Cochrane is extremely proud of and wholeheartedly supports.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to not only showcase our progressive community and region, along with the greatest way of life in the best backyard on the planet, we’re also excited to showcase central Canadian Junior A hockey at it’s highest calibre,” provided Peter Politis, the Mayor of Cochrane.

“Congratulations to the entire team here in Cochrane for once again demonstrating to the rest of the world why we’re “Wonderfully Unexpected”. Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a fun ride!”

The NOJHL last hosted the event back in 2016 in Kirkland Lake, Ont.

Serving as the host chairperson for the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup will be Sue Parton.

“The Cochrane DHC Host Committee is honoured and excited to be awarded this prestigious championship,” said Parton.

“We look forward to working with the NOJHL and its committees to host this event next spring.”

Additional information on the 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup, including ticket and corporate partnership packages, will be announced in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the 2018 Dudley-Hewitt Cup will be hosted by the Dryden GM Ice Dogs (SIJHL) May 1-5 with the champion there moving on to the RBC Cup, May 12-20, in Chilliwack, B.C.

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