SUDBURY, Ont. – Separated by less than 60 kilometres from their respective venues, the Blind River Beavers and Elliot Lake Red Wings will commence their best-of-three Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division playoff match-up Monday night with Game 1 at 7 p.m., at the Blind River Recreation Centre.
Game 2 will then go Tuesday at Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake, and will also get underway at 7 p.m.
Should the series go the distance, a third and final contest will be held in Blind River on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Blind River: 25-17-6-0 (4th NOJHL West)
Elliot Lake: 17-29-1-1 (5th NOJHL West
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The clubs met eight times during the course of the regular season with the Beavers winning five times, including once in overtime, back on December 4.
Blind River was 3-1 on home ice while Elliot Lake went 2-2 against them at Centennial Arena.
The Beavers also held the overall edge in goals scored, by a 27-22 count.
Sept. 19: @ Blind River (4-3 Red Wings)
Oct. 1: @ Elliot Lake (5-2 Beavers)
Oct. 22: @ Elliot Lake (5-2 Red Wings)
Nov. 21: @ Elliot Lake (4-2 Beavers)
Nov. 25: @ Blind River (4-1 Beavers)
Dec. 3: @ Elliot Lake (6-3 Red Wings)
Dec. 4: @ Blind River (4-3 Beavers – OT)
Feb. 20: @ Blind River (2-0 Beavers)
NOJHL West Division quarter-final
Blind River Beavers vs. Elliot Lake Red Wings
Game 1: Monday, April 4 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Community Centre)
Game 2: Tuesday, April 5 @ Elliot Lake 7 p.m. (Centennial Arena)
Game 3*: Wednesday, April 6 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Community Centre)
THE BEAVERS: Led offensively by forwards Caleb Minns and Evan Fraccaro, along with defenceman Ethan Pegg, Blind River boasts nine different skaters who collected 20, or more, points during the course of the campaign.
Minns led the squad with 47 points, including a team-high 20 tallies.
Pegg was next with 40 points, on 10 goals and 30 assists, which placed him fourth overall in league offensive production among blueliners.
Fraccaro meanwhile, a rookie up front, sat third on the club in scoring with 31 points.
Meguire Naughton and Hayden Webster shared the team-lead in game-winning markers with four apiece.
Goaltender Patrick Boivin had 14 wins in league play this season while Gavin Disano had 10.
THE RED WINGS: A rookie-laden Red Wings roster saw newcomers Brodie Kearns and Matthew Shulist finish one-two in team scoring.
Kearns led the way with 31 points, on 12 tallies and 19 helpers, while Shulist notched a team-best 17 goals to go along with a dozen assists for 29 points.
Brock McNaughton (28), Alex Antoine (27) and Jovani Moses (26) were three other forwards with 25-plus points on the year.
Some solid production on the back end saw defencemen Ethan Mercer (26), Cameron Dial (23) and Devin Shoreman (16) also register points for Elliot Lake.
Goalkeeper Cameron Smith played 1,163 minutes for the Red Wings during the season and had a team-best nine victories to his credit, while sporting a 3.25 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
Smith’s save mark was third-best in the NOJHL.
UP NEXT: The winner of this series will go on to meet the top-seeded Soo Thunderbirds, who have won 18 straight games and claimed the NOJHL’s regular season title for a record-setting eighth time in franchise history.
WHERE TO WATCH: All NOJHL playoff games are streamed live online, and on demand, at HockeyTV.com.
Photo credit: Helene Rancourt