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Rayside-Balfour Canadians
Quality Inn - Sudbury
Sunday, Jul. 23, 2017
Kapuskasing and Sudbury go toe to toe
2016-03-08
by Randy Pascal

Now that the semi-final dust has settled, it is on to the Great North Midget League championship series between the Kapuskasing Flyers and the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves - and Peter Michelutti's End of the Roll GNML Weekly Report checks in.

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A 1-5 record in September might not be the thing that championship dreams are made of, but it did little to deter rookie Kapuskasing Flyers head coach Cory Marchand.

His team showed signs of progress, going 4-3 in October and playing .500 hockey (3-3) in November. But it was in the heart of the season, as the Flyers won nine of their next thirteen games through the months of December and January, that people in Kapuskasing started to believe.

"We knew that we had a system in place, and that the boys had to buy into it," said Marchand, shortly after the Flyers dropped a 2-1 double overtime classic to the Nickel Capital Wolves on Saturday night in Sudbury.

"Early on, they did it from time to time. But a lot of our boys had played against each other all of their lives. They finally came together as a team." Even a pair of one goal losses to the North Bay Trappers to close out the regular season did little to detract from the momentum that was building.

"North Bay is a very aggressive team," said Marchand. "You beat aggression with speed and small plays. As soon as you own the puck, you force the other team to play more defense."

The strategy appeared to work, as Kapuskasing eliminated North Bay in a three game sweep that was about as close as it could be, with scores of 3-2 (in overtime), 2-1 and 4-3.

Trying to take down the Sudbury crew that topped the regular season standings by fourteen points presents an even bigger challenge. "Sudbury has a lot of speed, a lot of talent and depth," said Marchand.

"But I think we can match their speed and skill."

********************

Alex Rodrigue finished ninth on the Nickel Capital Wolves in the goal scoring department this year, recording six goals in 28 games. In game one of the final, Rodrigue rose to the top of the heap.

Slotted into a role that maximizes the intensity and defensive awareness that he brings to the game, the rookie Sudbury forward jammed home his own rebound at the 9:09 mark of double overtime, lifting the Wolves past the Kapuskasing Flyers 2-1 in the league final curtain-riser.

Goaltenders Justin Richer (Wolves) and Nicholas Dubé (Flyers) were sensational, as this was anything but a tight-checking affair. Low scoring, perhaps, as Kyle Liinamaa gave the homeside the lead in the opening minute of period three, only to have Samuel Bourdages even things up six minutes later.

Amazingly, given the intensity in the rink, the teams combined for a grand total of just three minor penalties. Unfortunately, Kapuskasing had trouble re-charging the batteries for another match-up less than 18 hours later, as the Nickel Capital Wolves cruised to a 3-0 win on Sunday.

Tyler Brisson, Hunter Chiblow and André Frappier handled the goal scoring for the homeside, with Richer registering the shutout between the pipes. The teams return to Kapuskasing for games three and four of the best of five series on March 12th and 13th, with game five, if necessary, back in Sudbury on Monday, March 14th.

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"In game one, they really utilized their speed, especially with their top two lines," acknowledged Sudbury head coach Peter Michelutti Jr on Monday. "Game one was very entertaining, with both teams getting a lot of quality chances, even if the final score didn't indicate it. They really put pressure on our defense."

Not surprisingly, Michelutti viewed the Sunday encounter as a near-perfect execution of the game plan. "The boys did everything we asked, not only on the offensive side, but definitely on the defensive side," he said.

"I've never seen our team back-check as much as we did that game. We were able to roll four lines, and that was a huge advantage." It just may have been the best overall Sudbury performance of the year.

"We beat Timmins 9-1 in the first game of the playoffs, and I thought we played better yesterday (Sunday) than we did in game one against Timmins," said Michelutti. "Kap got very good goaltending again."

With his team in good shape, up two games to none, Michelutti knows to take nothing for granted as his squad prepares for the nut-house that is the Sports Palace on "Game Night".

"The biggest thing is going to be the crowd," he said. "The message to the kids is simple - don't let the crowd get into your heads. Don't try and do things that you wouldn't normally do."

"If we cna keep it on that even keel, focus on our game plan, our systems, we'll be alright."

********************

The Great North Midget League unveiled their year-end award winners a few weeks back, with recipients representing six of the seven league franchises (the New Liskeard Cubs were shutout this year):

Most Valuable Player (Jerry Corriveau Award)
Karter Renouf (Timmins Majors)

Best Defenseman
Ryan O'Bonsawin (Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves)

Rookie of the Year (Marcus Foligno Award)
Lucas Theriault (Sault Thunderbirds)

Most Gentlemanly Player (GNML Award)
Hunter Chiblow (Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves)

Top Defensive Forward (Mike Mulryan Award)
Chad Robert (Kapuskasing Flyers)

Best Goalie (Marty Turco Award)
Cameron Lamour (Sudbury Minor Midget Wolves)

Coach of the Year (Mike Hall Award)
Mike Reise (North Bay Trappers)

GNML Scoring Champion (Steve Sullivan Award)
Lucas Theriault (Sault Thunderbirds)

Manager of the Year (Russ Farnel Memorial Award)
Daniel Mongrain (Kapuskasing Flyers)

GNML Builders Award (Larry Keenan Award)
David Plourde (Kapuskasing Flyers)

Trainer of the Year (Don (Doc) Cholmondeley Award)
James Richer (Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves)

Regular Season Champions (Don Shepherdson Memorial Trophy)
Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves

All-Star Team
Goalie - Cameron Lamour (Sudbury Minor Midget Wolves)
Defense - Ryan O'Bonsawin (Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves)
Defense - Nolan Makkonen (Sault Thunderbirds)
Forward - Lucas Theriault (Sault Thunderbirds)
Forward - Karter Renouf (Timmins Majors)
Forward - Chad Robert (Kapuskasing Flyers)
Coach - Mike Reise (North Bay Trappers)
Ass't Coach - Dom Deluca (Sault Thunderbirds)
Trainer - James Richer (Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves)
Manager - Daniel Mongrain (Kapuskasing Flyers)

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And finally, congratulations go out to Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves manager Albert Corradini and his crew of volunteers. Earlier this week, the NOHA (Northern Ontario Hockey Association) announced the awarding of the 2017 Central Region Midget “AAA” Championships to Sudbury.

Corradini and his group beat out a bid from the Kapuskasing Flyers, bringing the event back to the Nickel City for the first time since the 1997 tournament was held locally.

Northern Ontario AAA Hockey League
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