Intensity evident in NOBHL semi-final series
by Randy Pascal
The NOBHL (Northern Ontario Bantam "AAA" Hockey League) season has been a trying one, at times, for both the Nickel City Sons and Sudbury
For starters, the Soo Thunder (38-1-1) have spent the bulk of the campaign rewriting the league record-book, establishing themselves not only as
a top-flight team in Northern Ontario, but across the province as well.
Throw in a fair share of challenges for both local organizations, with players in and out of the lineup, and one might expect the end of the year could
not come quickly enough for the tandem.
That is until you match the two, head to head, in a playoff series. With intensity not seen in a vast majority of games this year, the Sons and Wolves
battled their way through games one and two of their semi-final affair, producing some of the best hockey seen in the NOBHL in a while.
The visiting Sons grabbed the upper hand, by the skin of their teeth Saturday at Cambrian Arena, and much more convincingly Sunday night at
The opener was a wild one, to be sure, as the teams combined for 13 goals, needing overtime to settle matters. Ironically, with only three penalties
assessed in the game, it was a short-handed marker during Sudbury's first power-play of the encounter that provided the difference.
Cole Braney netted his second goal of the night at 4:31 of the fourth period, lifting Nickel City past Sudbury 7-6. Jason Bednarski also
enjoyed a two-goal performance for the winners, with Blake Purcell, Brody Brunet and Ryan Theriault chipping in with singles.
Theriault's tally came with just 12 seconds remaining in regulation time and Sons' netminder Mackenzie Savard pulled in fabour of an extra
attacker as the teams exchanged the lead no less than five times over the course of two hours.
Niibin Nashkawa and Owen Fransen netted two goals apiece for Sudbury, with Ryan Mooney and Chiwetin Blacksmith rounding out
the scoring for the Wolves.
Some 24 hours later, a three goal second period outburst by the Sons provided the gap that was needed as Nickel City doubled Sudbury 6-3. After Tyler
Read of the Wolves and Bednarski traded first period goals, Matthew Neault, Bednarski and Makenzie MacMillan scored in a span of just
over five minutes, giving the visitors a 4-1 lead.
Fransen cut the margin to 4-2 late in the second before Sons' defenseman Scott Villeneuve restored the three-goal advantage with a seeing-eye
shot from the point early in the third.
With the teams limited to just five penalties over five periods of hockey, the bubble was due to burst and so it did, just 34 seconds later. Emotions
boiled over and when the dust settled, Fransen was tagged with a major and game misconduct for head contact as the Wolves felt this one slipping away.
Villeneuve would add a second goal on the power-play, with Nathan Scruton countering likewise for Sudbury as the Nickel City crew now take a 2-0
series lead back to Levack for game three next Saturday at noon.
Game four, if necessary, goes Sunday at 1:30 p.m., also at the Jim Coady Memorial Arena in Levack. In the other semi-final series, Sault Ste Marie
survived a closer than expected opener in grabbing a 2-0 series lead as well.
The Thunder doubled the North Bay Trappers 4-2 before cruising to a 7-1 victory in game two in a series that resumes in North Bay next weekend.
The NOBHL champion will move on to represent the league at the all-Ontario Bantam "AAA" Hockey Championships in Vaughan from March 26th to 31st.