SUDBURY, Ont. – The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division final between the Greater Sudbury Cubs and Soo Thunderbirds begins Thursday night with a 7:05 p.m. Game 1 start at Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury.
Here’s a look at the best-of-seven affair:
HOW THEY ARRIVED: Greater Sudbury punched their ticket to the West final by defeating the Espanola Paper Kings in five games, with Sault Ste. Marie doing likewise to the Blind River Beavers.
Cubs: Darryl Moxam
Thunderbirds: Cole Jarrett
Cubs: Playoffs: 4-1 – Regular season: 46-10-2-0 (1st NOJHL West/2nd Overall)
Thunderbirds: Playoffs: 4-1 – Regular season: 36-15-3-3 (3rd NOJHL West/5th Overall)
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The two teams met four times over the course of the 2022-23 campaign, with Greater Sudbury taking the season set 3-1.
After dropping the first two, Sault Ste. Marie was edged in a shootout in their third meeting and won convincingly in the fourth.
The Cubs outscored the Thunderbirds 14-12 along the way.
Oct. 1: @ Sudbury (4-1 Cubs)
Nov. 19: @ Soo (6-3 Cubs)
Jan. 28: @ Soo (3-2 Cubs – SO)
Feb. 16: @ Sudbury (6-2 Thunderbirds)
Game 1: Thursday, April 6 @ Sudbury 7:05 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
Game 2: Friday, April 7 @ Sudbury 7:05 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
Game 3: Monday, April 10 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 4: Tuesday, April 11 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 5*: Thursday, April 13 @ Sudbury 7:05 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
Game 6*: Saturday, April 15 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 7*: Tuesday, April 18 @ Sudbury 7:05 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
1ST ROUND: Backstopped by the efforts of goaltender Noah Metivier, Greater Sudbury needed just one over the minimum to defeat Espanola in the first round of the playoffs. … Metivier shares the league lead in playoff wins with four and dating back to last season, he sports a solid 12-2 record in the postseason and has a crisp .927 save percentage in that span. … A well-balanced attack saw 13 Cubs’ skaters collect multiple points in the series against the Paper Kings. … Leading that group is forward Samuel Assinewai, who had six points, on a goal and five assists. … Assinewai has assists and points in five straight contests. … Oliver Smith and Cole Crowder are next with five playoff points apiece. … Crowder is one of five NOJHLers to have a four-point game in these playoffs. … Cameron Walker tops the team in tallies with four, including a game-winner. … Christopher Innes led all Greater Sudbury defencemen with four points, while Nicholas Toffoli had three, including a game-deciding marker. … … The Cubs are unbeaten on home ice in the playoffs at 3-0. … They’ve only scored the opening goal once in five games and came away with the victory after notching the initial tally. … The club sits fifth in the league on the power play at 17.6%. … Meanwhile, they are second on the P.K. at 95.2%, having only allowed one against in the 21 times they’ve been down a skater. … Greater Sudbury is 2-0 when leading after two periods of play. … The Cubs sit second in playoff attendance, averaging 610 spectators per home contest.
REGULAR SEASON: Winning the NOJHL’s West Division, while finishing just one point out of top spot overall, Greater Sudbury had a solid campaign under head coach Darry Moxam. … The Cubs talented forward trio of Pierson Sobush, Oliver Smith and Billy Biedermann all finished in the Top 10 in league scoring. … Sobush tied for sixth in offensive production with 70 points, including 44 goals. … His tally total was the second-highest in the NOJHL. … Ending up third in man advantage markers with a dozen, Sobush, a second team NOJHL All-Star, also lead all skaters in shorthanded goals with five. … Fellow forward Smith was also over a point-per-game producer for Greater Sudbury, as he registered 69 in 55 outings on 23 goals and 46 helpers. … He was eighth overall in scoring. … Close behind was Beidermann, who tied for 10th in offensive numbers with 67 points. … Of his 22 markers, Biedermann’s seven game-winning efforts led the team and tied him for the third-most in league play. … NOJHL Rookie of the Year, Kyloe Ellis, led all Greater Sudbury defencemen in points with 43 as he scored eight times and dished out 35 assists, while appearing in all of his squad’s 58 contests. … That placed him fifth in scoring among all league blueliners. … Veteran D-man Nicholas Toffoli also chipped in with 34 points, in setting personal bests in goals (9) and assists (25) along the way. … Boasting a solid goaltending duo, in Noah Metivier and Noah Beaulne, both collected 19 wins apiece. … Named a second team NOJHL All-Star in net, Metivier led all league stoppers in save percentage at .930. … He was also fourth in goals-against average at 2.01 and posted four shutouts. …. As for Beaulne, he sported a 2.43 GAA, along with a save mark of .908 and one shutout. … The Cubs had the third-highest goal total in league play with 248 and gave up the third fewest at 138. … Greater Sudbury notched the night’s first goal 37 times on the year and went 35-2-0-0 when doing do. … They club was fourth in the league on the power play at 23.3% and fifth on the P.K. at 83.2%. … The Cubs were nearly perfect when leading after two periods of play, going 39-0-1-0 overall.
1ST ROUND: A terrific opening round series by Jackson Truchan saw him average over two points a game, as he registered a dozen in five contests. … His point total leads the league heading into the divisional final stage. … He’s also first in power play points with six and paces all rookies in offensive numbers. … The Thunderbirds also have three other skaters siting in the Top 10 in playoff scoring. … Dharan Cap is tied for fourth with eight points, including five goals. … Cap enters the series with Sudbury having scored in five consecutive games. … Justin Mauro and Brock Santa Maria are close behind with seven points each. … Cap’s tally total tie him for the second-most to date. … Veteran defenceman Kaden Dundas has averaged a point-per-game in the playoffs with five in as many contests. … One of his two goals was a game-winner. … Both of his markers have come on the power play, to lead the league in man advantage efforts. … Rookie netminder Landon Miller has started all five-playoff match-ups so far and is tied for wins with four. … The T-Birds are a league-best 3-0 as the road team, so far in the playoffs. … They are also unbeaten when scoring first at 2-0. … At 36.4%, the Thunderbirds sit second in the league in power play proficiency. … The Soo is third on the penalty kill at 88.9%. … The club is a perfect 4-0 when leading after 40 minutes of play. Dating back to last season, the defending NOJHL champion Thunderbirds are 16-4 in their past 20 NOJHL playoff games.
REGULAR SEASON: The NOJHL’s Top Defensive Forward award recipient, Dharan Cap also led the Thunderbirds in scoring with 68 points, including getting 30 goals. … His totals placed him ninth in league scoring. … First-year forward Jackson Truchan provided 57 points and veteran Youssef Chaouachi was third on the squad with 47 points. … Seven of Chaouachi’s 17 goals were game-winners, which tied him for third in the NOJHL. … Among rookies, Truchan placed second in scoring, was tops in tallies with 26 and ended up second in power play goals with eight. … Truchan and Wyatt Marlow provided five game-winning markers each. … A solid defensive core saw Brodie McConnell-Barker (35), Kaden Dundas (33) and Austin Fellinger (32) all contribute offensively as well for the Soo. … Likewise, D-man Ranon Joseph was over a point-per-game producer from the back-end with 23 in 14 games played, including notching a pair of game-winning goals. … Rookie netminder Landon Miller finished sixth in the league in average at 2.29 and tied for third in save percentage at .923 and won 14 times. … Fellow first-year goalkeeper Kolton Bourret had 19 wins, a GAA of 2.92, along with an .894 save mark. … When notching the game’s opening tally, the Thunderbirds went 26-5-3-1. … The Soo was seventh in the league while on the man advantage with a success rate of 20.3%. … While shorthanded, the T-Birds held a P.K. rate of 80.9%, which was sixth in the NOJHL. … The Soo notched the fifth-highest goal total on the campaign with 229 and gave up the fifth fewest at 161. … The Thunderbirds were a solid 25-0-3-1 when holding the lead after 40 minutes of play.
UP NEXT: Awaiting the winner of this series will be a berth in the league championship against either the Timmins Rock or the Powassan Voodoos.
The NOJHL title holder will then move on to the Centennial Cup, May 11-21, in Portage la Prairie, Man.
WHERE TO WATCH: All NOJHL playoff games can be streamed live, and on demand, via HockeyTV.com.
Photo credit: Bob Davies