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Huskies and Thunder duke it out for Bantam bragging rights

In an effort to provide a more consistent approach to offering coverage for the wide variety of sports that are highlighted on, we've decided to include a new feature. Bi-weekly divisional or league updates will offer a wide array of statistical tidbits, roster updates, tournament results for participating teams. The Northern Ontario Bantam AAA Hockey League will be featured every second Tuesday - next update is November 29th

Could this be the year that the Onaping Falls Huskies finally nab their first Northern Ontario Bantam AAA Hockey League championship? A impressive 17-2 start would certainly suggest that it's a thought that clearly must have crossed the mind of long-time coach Dave Berthelot and other officials in Levack.

In fact, barring any monstrous upsets, the NOBHL appears to be a definate two-horse race with Onaping Falls and Sault Ste Marie front and centre on each other's radar. The Huskies completed another three-game sweep at home this past weekend, outscoring the North Bay Blades 20-7 over the trilogy of games.

There is little doubt that the Huskies can run and gun with the best of them. Blessed with the league's top 1-2 offensive punch in Jamie Haines and Nick Esposto, Onaping Falls can also counter with a balanced scoring attack as ten different Huskies scored against North Bay as Haines and Esposto combined for just one solitary marker. Scoring for Onaping were Brandon Labelle-5, Jordan Carroll-4, Stephane Demore-2, Joshua Patrick-2, Kory Caya, Chris Chaput, Justin Sutherland, Nathan Beer, Richard Lapointe and Haines.

Still, there are areas that can be a concern for this squad, specifically in head to head matchups with the Sault. While not as lethal offensively as the Levack snipers, the Thunder will be sure to put goaltenders Matthew Comber and Max Bouffard, both up from the "AA" ranks, to the test in the remaining six head to head battles.

The Huskies will need to focus on overall tight defensive hockey in those games and must stay away from a tendancy for its top players to also rank among its least disciplined. Leading 7-1 in the dying minutes of the Sunday encounter with North Bay, the Huskies drew misconduct penalties to both Stephane Demore and Nick Esposto in a situation that clearly called for some restraint to be shown.

While this may not hurt the Huskies against the likes of North Bay, Sudbury or Timmins, it could spell another year of "what ifs" in a championship final with the Thunder. In fact, Onaping Falls three leading scorers also rank among the team's top four penalty minute chart-toppers. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to suggest it will be difficult for the Huskies gunners to score from the penalty box, a strategy that Sault St Marie is sure to exploit as the opportunity presents.

The good news for the Huskies is they have shown to ability to not only compete but also dominate the Thunder at times. The six remaining games, three of which are slated for Jim Coady Arena in Levack on December 3rd and 4th, will provide an excellent preview of what has potential to be an outstanding battle into the New Year as both teams look to qualify for the All-Ontario Championships being hosted in 2006 by the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

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