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Newton and Metivier shine as Cubs open post-season play with a win

With 4-3 and 3-2 games on back to back nights in mid-January (each team won once), the Greater Sudbury Cubs and Soo Thunderbirds provided NOJHL fans with a glimpse of what a head to head playoff battle for a second straight year might look like.

In game one Thursday night at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex, the teams only added fuel to that fire.

With forward Nolan Newton supplying the offense with a pair of highlight reel goals and netminder Noah Metivier bringing his "A" game to the rink with a 23-save effort, the Cubs would draw first blood, edging the visitors 2-1.

Flashing the speed and deft puckhandling skills that would earn him an OHL contract with the Barrie Colts, Newton netted the first two goals of this series, scoring at 7:28 of the first period and 6:18 of the second.

In both cases, the 18 year-old native of the French River region would hit the opposing blue-line in full flight before leaving a defender in his wake, dipsy-doodling his way in tight and beating Soo goaltender Kolton Bourret from close range.

But for as much as Sudbury coach Darryl Moxam wanted his team to play with emotions, there will be a need to rein in the direction those emotions take as this series moves on.

The Cubs gifted the Thunder birds seven power play opportunities, including a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct infractions that were tagged on to a previous call, with the Soo getting back into this contest thanks to a bullet from defenseman Declan Gallivan with his team enjoying a four on three advantage.

Thankfully, the added poise and experience of the home side, especially on the back end, was on full display in period three as the T-Birds could muster only five shots on net, with Metivier making the key saves that were required.

After noting the youth of his team one year ago upon being eliminated by these same Thunderbirds, Moxam and the Sudbury management crew set out to surround some top-end younger talent with a veteran presence, players who understand the style of hockey needed to be successful at this time of year, players like Ethan Larmand.

"I've had a bunch of little tips that I think I brought back and tried to apply here," said the 20 year-old native of Midland who racked up nearly 170 games of valuable OHL experience with the Sudbury Wolves before signing on for what he hopes will be a lengthy playoff run with the Cubs.

"It's little things like how to get the puck out of the zone off the wall, where to slip pucks to," Larmand added. "I think the guys have done a great job of picking it up."

Still, for as much as his defensive acumen is appreciated in these parts, Larmand also produced at better than a point per game pace (25 pts in 18 GP) since his arrival in the NOJHL, a throwback to his minor hockey days, to some extent.

"I think the role I took on in major junior (OHL) was definitely a lot different than the role that I play here," said the young man who recently committed to the Queen's Gaels of the OUA.

"I was more of a defensive, penalty kill kind of player there. I've carried that part over here as best I can but I've enjoyed putting the puck in the net a little more and contributing on the offensive side."

Game 2 of the series is set for Friday night (March 22nd) in Sudbury, with the series shifting for games three (Monday March 25th) and four (Tuesday March 26th) to the Lock City. Game five, if necessary, returns to the Nickel City next Thursday.

Northern Hockey Academy