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NOJHL playoff preview: Blind River Beavers vs. Soo Thunderbirds

SUDBURY, Ont. – The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal match-up between the Blind River Beavers and Soo Thunderbirds begins tonight with a 7 p.m. start at the Blind River Community Centre.

Here’s a preview of the best-of-seven affair:

THE COACHES:

Beavers: Kyle Brick

Thunderbirds: Cole Jarrett

SEASON RECORDS:

Blind River: 43-11-3-2 (2nd NOJHL West/3rd Overall)

Soo: 36-15-3-3 (3rd NOJHL West/5th Overall)

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The clubs met 10 times during the course of the regular season, with the results being as even as you can get with each side winning five times.

Six of the contests were decided by just one goal, with two determined in overtime, and another via a shootout.

Each side also won three times in the other team’s building while Blind River won the last four meetings.

RESULTS:
Oct. 11: @ Blind River (4-1 Thunderbirds)

Oct. 19: @ Soo (2-1 Thunderbirds – SO)
Nov. 9: @ Soo (4-3 Beavers – OT)
Dec. 4: @ Soo (4-3 Thunderbirds – OT)
Dec. 17: @ Blind River (4-1 Thunderbirds)
Jan. 10: @ Blind River (3-0 Thunderbirds)
Jan. 11: @ Soo (5-4 Beavers)
Feb. 3: @ Soo (4-3 Beavers)
Feb. 7: @ Blind River (3-2 Beavers – OT)
March 3: @ Blind River (2-0 Beavers)

SERIES SCHEDULE:

NOJHL West Divison semifinal
Blind River Beavers vs. Soo Thunderbirds
Best-of-seven series

Game 1: Thursday, March 23 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)

Game 2: Saturday, March 25 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 3: Monday, March 27 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 4: Wednesday, March 29 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 5*: Friday, March 31 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 6*: Saturday, April 1 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 7*: Tuesday, April 4 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
*-if necessary

Best–of–seven series tied 0–0

THE BEAVERS:  The NOJHL’s Most Improved Player for 2022-23, Caleb Minns, led the club offensively with 84 points, which placed his third overall in league offensive numbers. … Minns’ 53 assists were also third most while he and Evan Fraccaro shared second in shorthanded goals with three apiece. … Fraccaro, along with Gavin Rocha, Joshua Thompson and Matthew Green also registered 50, or more points, on the year with 54, 52, 51 and 50 respectively. … Rocha, Green and Michael Gallagher were third, fourth and sixth in league rookie scoring. … Gallagher’s 24 tallies were the second-highest among rookies, while Rocha’s 19 knotted him for fourth in that category. … Rocha and Gallagher shared the team lead in game-winning goals with five apiece. … Green’s 36 assists were just one off the league rookie lead. … The defencemen trio of second team NOJHL 2nd Team All-Star Ethan Pegg (35), along with Andrew Manov (25) and Owen Arnold (25) combined for 90 points between them. … Four of Manov’s 10 tallies were game-winners. … Blind River’s goaltending tandem of Gavin Disano and Charlie Burns combined for 42 wins on the season. … Burns was third in goals-against average at 2.01 while Disano was fifth with a GAA of 2.14. … Burns meanwhile was knotted for third in save percentage at .923 and Disano shared sixth at .920. … Burns also tied for second in shutouts with six. … The Beavers had a record of 33-2-3-2 when scoring first in a game. … Blind River boasted the third-best power play in the NOJHL at 24%, connecting 50 times on 208 man advantage opportunities. … The Beavers were tops in the league on the penalty kill at 88.9%. … Blind River allowed the second fewest goals-against this season at 125 and provided the fourth most with 244. … When leading after two periods, the Beavers were an impressive 35-0-1-0.


THE THUNDERBIRDS: The NOJHL’s Top Defensive Forward award recipient, Dharan Cap also led the Thunderbirds in scoring with 68 points, including getting 30 goals. … His totals placed him ninth in league scoring. … First-year forward Jackson Truchan provided 57 points and veteran Youssef Chaouachi was third on the squad with 47 points. … Seven of Chaouachi’s 17 goals were game-winners, which tied him for third in the NOJHL. … Among rookies, Truchan placed second in scoring, was tops in tallies with 26 and ended up second in power play goals with eight. … Truchan and Wyatt Marlow provided five game-winning markers each. … A solid defensive core saw Brodie McConnell-Barker (35), Kaden Dundas (33) and Austin Fellinger (32) all contribute offensively as well for the Soo. … Likewise, D-man Ranon Joseph was over a point-per-game producer from the back-end with 23 in 14 games played, including notching a pair of game-winning goals. … Rookie netminder Landon Miller finished sixth in the league in average at 2.29 and tied for third in save percentage at .923 and won 14 times. … Fellow first-year goalkeeper Kolton Bourret had 19 wins, a GAA of 2.92, along with an .894 save mark. … When notching the game’s opening tally, the Thunderbirds went 26-5-3-1. … The Soo was seventh in the league while on the man advantage with a success rate of 20.3%. … While shorthanded, the T-Birds held a P.K. rate of 80.9%, which was sixth in the NOJHL. … The Soo notched the fifth-highest goal total on the campaign with 229 and gave up the fifth fewest at 161. … The Thunderbirds were a solid 25-0-3-1 when holding the lead after 40 minutes of play.

UP NEXT: The team that takes this series meet either the Greater Sudbury Cubs or Espanola Paper Kings in the best-of-seven West Division Final.

WHERE TO WATCH: All NOJHL playoff games will be streamed live online, and on demand, via HockeyTV.com.

Photo credit: Bob Davies