NOJHL West Division final starts tonight in Chelmsford
by Randy Pascal
The Rayside-Balfour Canadians begin phase two of their quest for a Dudley-Hewitt Cup, and beyond, this Friday night in Chelmsford.
Having disposed of the Blind River Beavers in six hard fought games, the local NOJHLers will now face the Soo Thunderbirds in the West
Division best of seven final.
Game one goes Friday (March 30th) at 7:00 p.m. in Chelmsford, with game two set to start exactly 24 hours later, at the same location. The teams head
back to Sault Ste Marie for games three (April 4th) and four (April 5th) at the John Rhodes Community Centre, with game five back in Rayside-Balfour
next Sunday afternoon (April 8th) at 4:00 p.m.
The Canadians advanced to round two despite being outscored 17-13 over the course of their six game tete a tete with the Beavers, averaging just a hair
over two goals a game.
Thankfully, the team was backstopped by 20 year old netminder Brayden Lachance, who posted a sizzling .945 save percentage, despite surrendering
eight goals in a dreadful 8-1 game three loss in Blind River.
Offensively, 2016-2017 NOJHL Rookie of the Year Kyle Liinamaa has picked an ideal time to step to the forefront, leading the team with three
goals and seven points, while Gabriel Rheault has chipped in with a pair of game-winning goals.
The Canadians and Thunderbirds split their eight game regular season set, each squad winning four times, the Saultites holding a minimal 22-21 advantage
in terms of goals scored in those matchups.
Over and above their post-season series win, the Rayside-Balfour crew also had reason to celebrate the league's annual awards. NOJHL career games leader
and Rayside captain Matt Neault was awarded the Mitch Tetreault Memorial Trophy as the Top Defensive Forward in the loop, while defenceman
Ryan O'Bonsawin was named to the second all-star team.
Following is a complete listing of both the individual award winners, as well as all of the league all-stars:
Most Valuable Player (Carlo Cattarello Trophy)
Connor Lovie (Cochrane Crunch)
Best Defenceman (NOJHL Trophy)
Connor Lovie (Cochrane Crunch)
Rookie of the Year (John Grignon Trophy)
Harrison Israels (Powassan Voodoos)
Most Improved Player (Gilles Laperrière Trophy)
Jacob Kelly (Elliot Lake Wildcats)
Best Goals-Against Average (Wayne Chase Memorial Trophy)
Carter McPhail (Soo Eagles)
Best Defensive Forward (Mitch Tetreault Memorial Trophy)
Matthew Neault (Rayside-Balfour Canadians)
NOJHL Team Goaltending Award (Fewest Goals Allowed)
Brandon Gordon/Eric Schuch (Soo Thunderbirds)
NOJHL Scoring Champion (Jim Connors Memorial Trophy)
Kyle Herbster (Cochrane Crunch)
Most Gentlemanly Player (David Harrison Trophy)
Shane Beaulieu (Powassan Voodoos)
Best Overall Team Player (NOJHL Trophy)
Nick Techel (Soo Eagles)
NOJHL Coach of the Year (Mirl "Red" McCarthy Memorial Trophy)
John Parco (Soo Thunderbirds)
NOJHL Director of the Year (Joe Drago Trophy)
Darren Smyl (Soo Thunderbirds)
CCM Hockey 1st All-Star Team
Centre - Tyson Gilmour (Powassan Voodoos)
Left Wing - Harrison Israels (Powassan Voodoos)
Right Wing - Nick Techel (Soo Eagles)
Defence - Connor Lovie (Cochrane Crunch)
Defence - Austin Anselmo (Hearst Lumberjacks)
Goaltender - Brandon Gordon (Soo Thunderbirds)
Coach - John Parco (Soo Thunderbirds)
General Manager - Bruno Bragagnolo (Soo Eagles)
Trainer - J.J. Johnson (Powassan Voodoos)
CCM Hockey 2nd All-Star Team
Centre - Kobe Keller (Soo Eagles)
Left Wing - Owen Robinson (Blind River Beavers)
Right Wing - Kyle Herbster (Cochrane Crunch)
Defence - Eric Nagy (Powassan Voodoos)
Defence - Ryan O'Bonsawin (Rayside-Balfour Canadians)
Goaltender - Carter McPhail (Soo Eagles)
Coach - Ken Strong (French River Rapids)
General Manager - Ryan Leonard (Cochrane Crunch)