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Saturday, Mar. 24, 2018
TOCs the time to determine the TOP teams
by Randy Pascal

When it comes time to doling out the hardware within the Northern Ontario Hockey Association, the really heavy lifting takes place during a two to three week stretch, each and every March.

During that time, more than twenty divisional banners will be awarded, as towns and cities right across the north serve as host to the various competitions. This past weekend, no less than three different set of playdowns were being contested in Greater Sudbury, all part and parcel of the festivities that are the NOHA Tournament of Champions.

Two of the trophies did not have to be carted very far at all, as the Nickel City Minor Atom “AA” Jr Sons and the Nickel City Major Bantam “AA” Jr Sons both claimed their respective age categories.

The younger Sons continued their flair for the dramatic, converting a great feed from Karson Gouchie to Grady Jalbert for the game-winning overtime goal, edging the SPWHL (Soo Pee Wee Hockey League) Minor Atom Selects 3-2 in Copper Cliff.

“One of our kids (Gouchie) got kind of body checked and they were calling a penalty,” explained Nickel City head coach Jason Young. “He got up, he was determined to go get the puck. He spun around and saw the guy in front of the net (Jalbert). Grady shot it in the empty net.”

In the span of twenty seconds or so, the Jr Sons tandem captured the essence of this team, according to the former OHLer and long-time European hockey pro who has guided the squad the past two years. “I see a lot of will and determination in these kids,” said Young. “I've said it all along, the 2008 group (players who were born in 2008) in Sudbury area is going to be fantastic.”

“These kids just work and they work and they work.” In terms of exactly where Young and his staff (assistant coaches Joel Whissell and Dan Charbonneau) would like to see those efforts focused, they are clear-cut proponents of skill development, something that apparently also resonates with the young hockey talent in the fold.

“We asked the kids, right at the beginning of the year, to name three things they wanted to see happen this year,” recalled Young. “They said they want to have fun, they want to get better and they want to win. It's easy for us as coaches when that's the message coming from these nine and ten year olds.”

“We've approached every game, every practice this year, as a staff, that we want the kids to get better,” Young added. “In two years, I've probably done five practices with line drills. At this age, that's completely out the door for me. It's mostly individual skill stuff, I think that's what you need. The positioning stuff, that will come.”

The 2017-2018 edition of the Nickel City Minor Atom “AA” Jr Sons features goaltenders Kalia Pharand and Evan Doyle, and skaters Greyson Case, Vincent Beaudry, Mathieu Berthiaume, Dylan Rousselle, Lukas Morin, Ryker Young, Caleb Mead (affiliated call-up), Grady Jalbert, Karson Gouchie, Bryson Villeneuve, Russell Ranger, Martin Brassard, Noah Lafrance and Xander Strojny.

Nickel City goals by Bryson Villeneuve and Martin Brassard, earlier in the contest, were offset by Sault Ste Marie markers from Evan Headrick and Cole Wriggett. Out in Walden, the Nickel City Bantam “AA” crew were somewhat more emphatic in laying claim to NOHA bragging rights.

Backstopped by a shutout performance from Evan Nicholls, and the goal scoring touch of Nolan Moxam (2), Tyler Roussel and Jordan Michaud, the Major Bantam Jr Sons blanked Sault Sports Gold Rush 4-0. With four teams in the mix over the course of the past three days, the single semi-final encounter (3rd vs 2nd) would see Sault Ste Marie edge the Copper Cliff Redmen 2-1, earning their spot in the final.

Logan Vanderburg snapped a 1-1 tie with just under two minutes to play, propelling the Saultites to victory. Malcolm Robere-Mcgugan (Gold Rush) and Noah Moxam (Redmen) traded goals through the opening thirty minutes of play.

Finally, in the sole local final that did not include Sudbury and area representation, the Temiskaming Shores Puckhounds doubled the SPWHL Atom “A” Selects 4-2, claiming the NOHA banner for the Tri-Towns region.

The Puckhounds squeezed into the championship affair after a pair of first period tallies from Maverick Hill and Kian Wilson was just enough to eke out a 2-1 semi-final win over the Hearst Elans. Alexis Fournier replied with the only goal in a losing cause.

As for the Selects, they managed to stop the West Nipissing Sting 4-1 earlier in the day on Sunday, largely thanks to a nicely balanced offense. Ethan Agawa, Laake O'Neil, Ryan Lemieux and Deago Campagna all found the back of the net for the winners, with Cohen Paquette answering for the Sting.

There remains just one weekend of play in the 2018 NOHA Tournament of Champions schedule, with the Midgets in action March 16th to the 18th (“AA” in Hearst, “A” in Timmins, “B/C” in Temiskaming Shores). At the same time, the only two NOHA House League TOCs are also taking place, with the Peewees in Temiskaming Shores and the Midgets in Coniston.

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