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NOJHL West Division semifinal preview: Rayside-Balfour Canadians vs. Blind River Beavers

SUDBURY, Ont. – Chelmsford Arena will be the site of Game 1 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division semifinal between the host Rayside-Balfour Canadians and the Blind River Beavers tonight at 7 p.m.

Here’s a glance at this series.

HOW THEY ARRIVED: Rayside-Balfour earned the No. 1 seed in the West Division after finishing first there with 79 points and a 37-14-4-1 record during the course of the campaign.

Blind River meanwhile was fourth in the West after posting a franchise record 33 wins along the way.

The Beavers also had to play a first round best-of-three set against the Elliot Lake Wildcats in which they won in two straight by scores of 3-0 and 5-4 to advance and take on the Canadians.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: An eight-game regular season match-up saw the two teams go to overtime in three of them along with having another one-goal game.

In the end the evenly matched squads saw Rayside-Balfour win three times in regulation, once more in OT, while also earning two more points in a couple of extra time setbacks.

Blind River meanwhile produced two victories in regulation and two more in OT as well as picking up another point in a double OT defeat.

The Canadians outscored the Beavers 26-21 on the year.

Blind River’s Dylan McMahon produced two game-winning markers with Kyle Liinamaa having a pair of assists on deciders for Rayside-Balfour.

POINT PRODUCERS: Jacob Partridge was the Canadians’ top point provider in the games against the Beavers as he scored four times and assisted on three others.

Next on the squad was Jordan Spadafore with six points while Brandon Atkins and Taylor Woolcott were among those with four each. All of Woolcott’s points were goals.

Josh Norman was the leading offensive performer for Blind River with nine points, which included a team-high five tallies.

Rookie Owen Robinson and Caleb Serre were next with seven points apiece with Dylan McMahon and Jack Sampson providing six each.

On the year, Liinamaa and Evan Krassey shared the scoring lead the Canadians with 51 points apiece with Partridge right behind with 50.

Also close by was the duo of Matthew Neault and Christian Gaudreau as they both had 49 points.

As for Blind River, Max Khull paced his team with 64 points with Serre sitting second with 57 followed by Robinson’s 56.

Among defencemen, Jordan Spadafore led the way for RBC with 40 points and Ryan Mulligan had 22 for the Beavers.

THE GOALTENDERS: In net on the two teams’ playoff rosters, Brayden Lachance went 1-2-1 in four starts against the Canadians while Jean-Marc Brisson did not see any game action against them.

Throughout the regular season, Lachance had a 14-6-3 record to go with a 2.65 average and a save percentage of .934 along with one shutout.

Brisson was 8-3-1 with an average of 3.11 and a save mark of .919. He also had two shutouts.

Garret Boyonoski had a 2-1 record for Blind River in four appearances and Cam Bruggrabe won his only start against Rayside-Balfour.

In the series win over Elliot Lake, Boyonoski started both of them and picked up a pair of victories, including a Game 1 shutout.

Regular season play saw him go 15-9-1 with a 2.86 average, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts.

Bruggrabe meanwhile was 6-2-1 with a 2.26 GAA and a .943 save mark.

SPECIAL TEAMS: While on the power play, the Canadians clicked five times in 32 opportunities and the Beavers connected for 11-man advantage markers in 61 chances.

WHAT’S NEXT: Awaiting the winner of this anticipated close-knit series will be the club who comes on top in the other West Division semifinal, which features the rival Soo Thunderbirds and Soo Eagles going at it.

NOJHL Playoffs

Series E
West Division semifinal
No. 1 Rayside-Balfour Canadians vs. No. 4 Blind River Beavers
Best-of-seven series
Game 1: Friday, March 16 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 2: Sunday, March 18 @ Rayside-Balfour 3:30 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 3: Tuesday, March 20 @ Blind River 7:30 p.m. (Community Centre)
Game 4: Thursday, March 22 @ Blind River 7:30 p.m. (Community Centre)
Game 5*: Friday, March 23 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 6*: Sunday, March 25 @ Blind River 7:30 p.m. (Community Centre)
Game7*: Tuesday, March 27 @ Rayside-Balfour 5:30 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
*- if necessary

All NOJHL playoff games are streamed online at HockeyTV.com.

With files from NOJHL Statistician & Historian David Harrison

Photo courtesy of Rob and Caleigh Fera:  www.sudburylight.ca