NOJHL Copeland McNamara Preview: Soo Thunderbirds vs Timmins Rock

Photo Credit: Freeze Frame Photo

The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League final for the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy, between the Timmins Rock and Soo Thunderbirds, begins Thursday, April 20th with a 7:00 p.m start at McIntyre Arena.

Here’s a glance at the best-of-seven affair that will provide the winner, not only the NOJHL title, but a trip to Portage la Prairie, Man., to compete in next month’s Centennial Cup, Canadian Jr. A championship.

HOW THEY ARRIVED: The regular season-winning Rock collected series wins over the French River Rapids (4-1) and Powassan Voodoos (4-0) to claim the league’s East Division crown, in just one game over the minimum.

As the for the Thunderbirds, the defending NOJHL champions, persevered over the Blind River Beavers (4-1) and the Greater Sudbury Cubs (4-1) in a pair of five-game triumphs to capture NOJHL West honours.

THE COACHES
Rock: Brandon Perry
Thunderbirds: Cole Jarrett

RECORD-TO-DATE
Rock: Playoffs: 8-1 – Regular season: 46-10-2-0 (1st NOJHL East/1st Overall)

Thunderbirds: Playoffs: 8-2 – Regular season: 36-15-3-3 (3rd NOJHL West/5th Overall)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
It was pretty evenly matched between the two teams in their three regular season meetings this season.

Each side won once on home ice by identical 4-2 scores, while Sault Ste. Marie pulled out a 3-2 overtime decision when the clubs met back in October at the NOJHL Showcase in Sudbury.

RESULTS
Oct. 4 @ NOJHL Showcase @ Sudbury (3-2 Thunderbirds – OT)
Oct. 14 @ Soo (4-2 Thunderbirds)
March 19 @ Timmins (4-2 Rock)

SERIES SCHEDULE
NOJHL Final (Best-of-seven series)
Game 1: Thursday, April 20 @ Timmins 7 p.m. (McIntyre Arena)
Game 2: Friday, April 21 @ Timmins 7 p.m. (McIntyre Arena)
Game 3: Sunday, April 23 @ Soo 6 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 4: Monday, April 24 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 5*: Wednesday, April 26 @ Timmins 7 p.m. (McIntyre Arena)
Game 6*: Sunday, April 30 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 7*: Tuesday, May 2 @ Timmins 7 p.m. (McIntyre Arena)
*if necessary

THE ROCK
PLAYOFFS: The one and only time a Timmins-based team won the NOJHL championship was back in 1994-95 when the then Timmins Golden Bears skated to the title. … Nolan Ring and team captain Nicolas Pigeon share the team lead in playoff scoring with 13 points apiece. … Ring has scored four times, including a game-winner, and dished out nine assists, while Pigeon has a trio of markers and 10 helpers to his credit. … Teammate Brady Haroun is right behind them with a dozen points, including a club-best seven tallies. … Nicholas Fredericks’s trio of man advantage markers are the second-highest total in the league. … Lucas Lowe’s seven playoff points are the second-best total among rookies. … Ethan Pool enters the final with goals in four consecutive games. … Felix Cadieux-Fredette tops all Rock defencemen in offensive production in the post season with 10 points in nine outings, having scored twice while setting up eight others. … That ties him for second among all league blueliners. … Kenton Nyman and Christophe Petit are next on the squad with six points each. … Nyman’s five power play assists tie him for second among all players. … Goaltender Jacob Brown is 4-0 in the playoffs with a NOJHL-best 1.75 goals-against average and is also first in save percentage at .930. … Meanwhile, netminding partner Patrick Boivin sports a 4-1 record with a 2.14 GAA and a .914 save mark. … Timmins is 4-0 when scoring first in the postseason. … They are 5-0 on home ice to date and 3-1 on the road. … They have also won six playoff games in a row. … The Rock sit third on the power play so far in the playoffs at 26%, with 13 goals on a league-high 50 opportunities. … They are also third on the penalty kill at 86.7. … The Rock lead the way in shorthanded goals with three. … When leading after 40 minutes in the playoffs, Timmins is a perfect 6-0. … Their 23 third-period goals are the most of any team.

REGULAR SEASON: A banner campaign for Timmins saw them win both the league’s East Division title and the NOJHL’s overall regular season crown by going 45-8-3-2 and registering 95 points. The Rock were led offensively by the tandem of NOJHL MVP Nicolas Pigeon and fellow 1st Team All-Star forward Brady Harroun. Pigeon paced all league skaters in offensive numbers with 107 points. … He also led all players in assists with 81, while his 44 points on the power play topped all players. As for Harroun, he became the first NOJHLer since 2016 to notch 50 goals in season. His 50 tallies were the most in league play, as were his nine game-winning markers and 20-man advantage efforts. Harroun’s 96 points trailed only Pigeon as he finished second overall in scoring. Pigeon wrapped up the regular season with points in 21 straight contests while Harroun had a 20-game run to conclude play. Nicholas Frederick’s three shorthanded markers tied him for second-highest in the league. Kenyon Nyman, who also earned 1st Team NOJHL All-Star status, paced all league defencemen in assists and points with 49 and 60 respectively. … He was also tops in power play points among blueliners with 30. … Brandon Rossetti’s four game-winners tied for the league lead among defencemen. Goaltenders Jacob Brown (1.49) and Patrick Boivin (1.98) both had solid seasons for Timmins, finishing one-two in the league in terms of goals-against average. Brown was second in save percentage (.925), while Boivin (.920) sat sixth. Brown’s seven shutouts led the NOJHL and Boivin, who led the league in wins (27) shared second with six shutouts to his credit. The Rock scored the second-most goals on the season with 273 and allowed the fewest with just 111 against. Timmins went 36-3-1-1 when scoring first in a game this season. … Special teams played a big part in the Rock’s success during the campaign as they led the NOJHL in power play success at 27.5% and were second on the P.K. at 84.5%. The Rock were 40-1-0-2 when leading after two periods of play.

THE THUNDERBIRDS
PLAYOFFS: The Thunderbirds are no strangers to winning NOJHL championships. Not only are they the defending league title holders, the T-Birds have won it all five times since 2008-09. They are a perfect 6-0 on the road in the playoffs and 2-2 at home. … The Sault Ste. Marie duo of Dharan Cap and Jackson Truchan share the NOJHL playoff scoring lead with 15 points apiece. Cap’s eight goals pace all league skaters. Teammate Justin Mauro is right behind them with 14 points, with his 11 assists being the most of any NOJHLer. Truchan and Mauro share the overall lead in power play points with seven apiece. … Truchan also paces all NOJHL rookies in offensive numbers. … Defenceman Kaden Dundas tops all players in power play markers with four. … His 10 points tie him for second by all league D-men. Sault Ste. Marie netminder Landon Millers leads all goalkeepers in playoff wins with eight. He has also played the most minutes at 602. When scoring first so far in these playoffs, the Soo have yet to lose, having gone 5-0. The Thunderbirds sit second overall on power play proficiency at 26.7%. … As for the penalty kill, they are first in the league at 89.5%. The Soo has 17 first period goals in the 2023 postseason, the most of any team. … When holding a lead after two periods of play, the Thunderbirds are spotless at 7-0.

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 Thunderbirds 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.

FORMER THUNDERBIRDS: Two key members of last season’s NOJHL championship team with the Thunderbirds are being highly touted by NHL Central Scouting.

The league’s top defenceman award recipient in 2021-22, Andrew Gibson, was tabbed 31st among North American skaters in the final NHL Draft Rankings, released Monday.

Meanwhile, the NOJHL’s MVP in 2021-22, Cooper Foster, was slotted 88th in the listings heading into the 2023 NHL Draft, this June in Nashville, Tenn.

UP NEXT: The NOJHL title holder will move on to the Centennial Cup, May 11-21, in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

WHERE TO WATCH: All contests in the NOJHL final can be streamed live, and on demand, via HockeyTV.com.

Source: NOJHL

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