The Rayside-Balfour Canadians now have their sights set on the Elliot Lake Wildcats.
After fluttering in and around the .500 mark through much of the first two months of the NOJHL season, the Canadians have won six of their past seven games dating back to Halloween night, climbing to within three points of the second place Elliot Lake Wildcats, and still holding a game in hand.
The positive streak continued as Rayside-Balfour comfortably swept aside the French River Rapids in a home and home set this past weekend. The Canadians wasted little time asserting their dominance of the last place Rapids (1-22-0-0), establishing a 4-1 first period lead Friday night in Noelville.
Captain Ryan Erickson was the offensive catalyst with a five-point outing that included a pair of goals, though several teammates joined in the fun. Cayse Ton and Danny Lepage also drilled home two goals apiece, with Tristan Simm, Otis Goldman and Mackenzie MacMillan capping things off.
Chenier added four assists, as well, to his stat-line, while Quinn Robelle (2), Tyler McGregor and Brandon Dumouchel answered for French River. While the contest remained somewhat closer for longer the next night in Chelmsford, the end result was not dramatically different, with the Canadians recording a 7-2 victory.
Erickson added two more goals, along with a helper, cracking the NOJHL top ten scorers in the process, as the long-time local "AAA" talent is now sitting with 34 points in 19 games. Solo markers came courtesy of Chenier, Lepage, Jayme Forslund, MacMillan and Matt Neault.
Caleb Rich and Brett McInall replied in a losing cause, as Rayside outshot French River 49-15 on the night. The Canadians kick off another key week of action this evening, travelling east to face the Powassan Voodoos (19-2-0-0) in Powassan.
The team is back home on the weekend, welcoming the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (15-6-2-1) on Saturday night to Chelmsford, and closing things off against the Espanola Express (4-18-1-0) the very next evening.
In other league news, defenceman Ryan Mooney and forward Bradley Chenier recently returned from Cornwall, site of the Eastern Canada Cup Jr "A" Challenge. The Rayside tandem joined head coach Jason Young, trainer Lisa Parisť and equipment manager Bryan Workman as part of the "Team NOJHL" contingent that was included in the nine-team field.
The NOJHL crew advanced to the quarter-finals by earning a split of their two round-robin games, before being eliminated with a 5-3 loss at the hands of the OJHL (Ontario Junior Hockey League) Hawerchuk squad.
Scoring for the northern reps were Darian Pilon (Soo Thunderbirds), Seamus Maguire (Cochrane Crunch) and Tyler Peters (Powassan Voodoos), with the local talent shining even more in earlier games.
Mooney scored twice, including once on a feed from Chenier, helping to lead the NOJHL to a 5-2 triumph over the OJHL Nieuwendyk team in their second game of the tournament.
Jaren Bellini (Soo Thunderbirds) and Brett Jeffries (Soo Thunderbirds), with a pair, rounded out the scoring for the winners, who received goals from Bellini and Hunter Atchison (Cochrane Crunch) in a 3-2 setback to the CCHL (Central Canada Hockey League) Robinson Division Selects in their opening game.