COCHRANE, Ont. -- The Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Junior A Championship begins today in Cochrane, Ont., as the host Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) and the Hearst Lumberjacks (NOJHL), Oakville Blades (OJHL) and Thunder Bay North Stars get set to vie for the title and a trip to the Canadian Jr. A Championship, May 11 to May 19, in Brooks, Alta.
Here's a look at the four competing clubs.
THE COCHRANE CRUNCH
Cochrane returns to game action here at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup for the first time since March 10 when they fell in the first round of the NOJHL playoffs to the rival Timmins Rock.
The Crunch dropped that best-of-three play-in series 2-0, suffering a 5-2 setback in Timmins before being edged 2-1 in overtime on home ice.
In regular season play, the squad finished fifth in the tightly-contested NOJHL’s East Division with a 31-20-1-4 record.
Their 67 points however was just six points out from first place, in the closest divisional race in NOJHL history.
BACK AGAIN: Cochrane is making their second straight appearance in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Junior A Championship.
The club won the NOJHL title in 2018 and represented the league in the DHC in Dryden, Ont., where they finished fourth overall in the standings following a trio of narrow defeats.
BEHIND THE BENCH: Leading the squad is the squad’s president, head coach and general manager Ryan Leonard.
Not only did Leonard lead Cochrane to the NOJHL championship last season, he was named league Coach of the Year back in 2015-16.
That same campaign he was tabbed a first team all-star laurels behind the bench and was a second team honouree as GM. He also earned second team GM accolades in 2017-18 as well.
FORWARDS: A well-balanced attack saw 10 Cochrane forwards produce 20 or more points for the club during the course of the regular season.
Leading the way were a trio of 40-plus point men in Nicholas Flanders, Austin Whelan and Zach Hayes.
Flanders led the squad with 44 points on 18 tallies and 26 helpers while Whelan was right behind him with 43, including a team-high 29 markers.
Hayes meanwhile finished with 15 goals and 25 assists.
DEFENCEMEN: First-year rearguard Ethan Emanuel paced the Crunch D-corps offensively with 32 points in 54 outings as he scored five times and helped set-up 27 others.
Eli Hernandez was next as he had a goal and 16 helpers in 34 contests.
GOALTENDERS: Netminder Zach Wickson boasted a 19-9-0-1 record in regular season action with Cochrane and sported a 2.55 goals-against average along with a .919 save percentage and two shutouts.
Meanwhile the club’s other stopper, in Bradley Dobson, appeared in 20 games overall and went 8-4-1-2.
CRUNCH NOTES: Austin Whelan tied for fourth in the NOJHL this season in goals with 29. … Whelan also paced all league skaters in shorthanded tallies with five. … Those five points tied him for top spot in man-down offensive production. … Netminder Zach Wickson was tied for seventh in goals-against average among qualified NOJHL goalkeepers at 2.55. … His 19 victories were the fifth most in the league in 2018-19. … Trent Grimshaw tied for ninth in rookie scoring this season as he scored 15 times and doled out 22 assists. … Defenceman Ethan Emanuel led all rookie blueliners in helpers with 27. … 11 of his assists came on the power play, which also paced rookie D-men. … He was also tops in shorthanded assists and points among defencemen with three. … Emanuel’s offensive contributions were the seventh-most among all league rearguards. … The club’s lone penalty shot this was taken by Shadow Reuben and was against fellow Dudley-Hewitt Cup counterpart, Nicholas Tallarico of the Hearst Lumberjacks, but he was thwarted on his attempt by the netminder. … The Crunch had an 18-7-1-2 record on home ice during the regular season and were 0-1 in their brief playoff run in 2019. … Cochrane appeared in 11 overtime contests overall and went 4-1-2-4. … In 56 games during the year, they scored first on 28 occasions. … When notching that initial marker, the sported a record of 22-3-0-3. … In head-to-head meetings with Hearst, the Crunch won six times in 10 get togethers against a trio of defeats and one shootout setback. … Special teams saw the squad finish 12th in the NOJHL. … They scored 33 times in 245-man advantage opportunities, which was a success rate of 13.5%. … The club was second overall however on the penalty kill and were just off the league lead. … In all, Cochrane boasted a P.K. rate of 86.3%. … They only allowed 37 power play goals in the 270 times they were down at least one skater. … Their 11 shorthanded markers were the second-most in the NOJHL this season. … They allowed just five shorthanded goals, which was just one off the fewest given up by any club. … In all they fired 2,110 shots on net while giving up 1,796. … When leading after one period of play, the Crunch went 15-3-0-2. … When ahead after 40 minutes Cochrane was nearly flawless finishing at 23-0-0-1 overall. … In one-goal games, the team was a solid 13-6-1-4. … They were 22-11-1-2 when outshooting an opponent. … At the Tim Horton Event Centre, the Crunch were perfect when having the lead at the intermissions. … They went 7-0 when up after 20 minutes and doubled that to 14-0 when leading after two periods of play. … Jacob Stos wrapped up the regular season with points in six straight at home. … Nicolas Flanders had a five-assist game back on November 30th. … That tied him for the most helpers in a single contest all season long. … A two-shorthanded assist night for Ethan Emanuel back on October 19th tied him for the most in that category in one outing this season. … Zach Hayes’ five power play goals led the team. … Austin Whelan and Jacob Stos paced the club in game-winning goals with five apiece. … Whelan’s efforts on the ice also saw him named the NOJHL’s Top Defensive Forward for 2018-19. ... Local connections on the Cochrane roster are forwards Baldino Aiello (Thunder Bay), Hunter Buzzi (Ignace) and Owen Perala (Nipigon).
THE HEARST LUMBERJACKS
Hearst is fresh off capturing their first-ever league championship after defeating perennial NOJHL power, the Soo Thunderbirds, in a thrilling seven-game series that went the distance.
In the Lumberjacks initial playoff series, they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Timmins Rock in another seven-game set.
They then claimed their East Division playoff crown by sweeping the Powassan Voodoos in four straight outings.
In the regular season they claimed their initial NOJHL East Division title by finishing with 73 points and a 33-16-6-1 overall record.
This mark’s Hearst’s first Dudley-Hewitt up appearance.
Lumberjacks head coach and general manager Marc Lafleur is no stranger to the DHC though. He led the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners to a pair of the events in his days as coach and GM of that NOJHL side.
The two-time NOJHL Coach of the Year, including this season, also won a Dudley-Hewitt Cup in his playing days.
Back in 1995 he helped the Thunder Bay Flyers claim a Central Region crown and help his club advance to the Canadian Junior A Championship.
MR. MVP: Much of the Lumberjacks success this season can be credited to goaltender Nicholas Tallarico.
His efforts during the campaign saw him named the NOJHL’s Most Valuable Player for both the regular season and the playoffs.
The Vancouver, B.C., product played the second-most minutes in the league season at 2,479 as he helped backstop the Hearst to their first-ever East Division title.
Tallarico also tied for second in wins with 24, was third in goals-against average at 2.49, fifth in save percentage at .921 and third in shutouts with three.
His 1,304 shots faced was the most of any NOJHL netminder among those in the Top 15 in GAA.
He also produced a league-best 12 playoff wins in1,134 minutes of action, starting all 18 games his club played in the postseason.
FORWARDS: The Hearst duo of Jake Desando and Max Griffioen finished third and fourth respectively in NOJHL scoring.
Desando racked up 75 points, leading the Lumberjacks in both goals and assists with 30 and 45.
Griffioen meanwhile tallied 29 times and dished out 43 helpers along the way.
Bradley Golant also finished among the Top 20 point producers in the league with 50 in 42 contests as he notched 19 markers and helped set-up 31 more.
Postseason play saw Max Johnson lead the Lumberjacks with 25 points on a dozen markers and 13 assists. Golant was next with 23, including nine goals.
DEFENCEMEN: Alec Johnson led the squad offensively from the back end. He produced 43 points in just 33 games while scoring 12 times and assisting on 31 others.
Maxim Lacroix was a 31-point man in 34 outings for Hearst to finished second among blueliners.
Troy Daniels was the top point getter from the back end in the playoffs as he had 15 points in 18 games on a trio of tallies and a dozen assists.
GOALTENDERS: Along with Tallarico’s efforts, Tomi Gagnon went 9-6-1 in his time between the pipes.
HEARST HIGHLIGHTS: Max Johnson’s three game-winning goals tied him for first overall in the playoffs. … Hearst was second in the league in goals scored with 210 and fourth in fewest goals allowed at 159. … Desando’s 30 goals were the third-most in the NOJHL while Griffioen was knotted for fourth with 29. … Desando was second in assists with 45 and tops in power play helpers at 26 and man advantage points at 37. … Dawson Waddell was second in the league in shorthanded goals with four. … Nicholas Tallarico tied for second in wins with 24. … Hearst was 24-4-2 when scoring first. … They had a 4-5-1 record vs. Cochrane this season. … The club was second-best on the power play at 21.7% and fourth on the penalty kill at 85.8%. … They went 20-3-2 when ahead after one period and 23-2-2-1 when leading after 40 minutes. … At one point this season, Jake Desando had goals in six straight, while Max Griffioen had points in 13 in succession. … They were 15-2-2 in their final 19 games in the regular season then went 12-6 in the playoffs en route to the league championship.
THE THUNDER BAY NORTH STARS
HOW THEY ARRIVED: Thunder Bay punched their ticket to Cochrane after claiming their first SIJHL Bill Salonen Cup title since 2010 when they topped the Red Lake Miners four games to one in the best-of-seven final.
That year the North Stars fell in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup final to Oakville.
During the season, the North Stars ended up in top spot after posting a league-best record of 49-5-1-1.
Their efforts saw them tabbed second overall in the final Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 rankings.
In league semifinal play, the North Stars dethroned the two-time defending SIJHL champion Dryden GM Ice Dogs in five thrilling games, including one that needed overtime to decide a winner and two more then went to double OT, with Thunder Bay taking all three of those contests.
Thunder Bay boasts a SIJHL-record six titles to their credit.
SCORING: The league-leading North Stars boasted a plethora of offensive talent seeing four of their players finish in the Top 5 in SIJHL scoring as well as have 10 skaters register 40 or more points on the campaign.
Leading the squad were forward Keighan Gerrie and defenceman Kyle Auger as the duo amassed 102 points each in pacing the league.
Gerrie, a NCAA Division I commitment to Bowling Green (WCHA) in 2020, scored 41 times and dished out 61 assists. He is also tabbed on the most-recent NHL Central Scouting rankings list heading into this June’s NHL Draft in Vancouver.
As for Auger, he topped all SIJHL blueliners in offensive numbers, including a league-high 69 assists.
Ryan Mignault and Joel Willan were fourth and fifth respectively in SIJHL scoring with 90 and 87 points with Mignault registering a league-high nine game-winning markers.
In the playoffs, Gerrie led the North Stars and all league skaters with 16 points, including eight in the final, with eight goals and as many assists.
He was followed by blueliner Auger, who scored three times and doled out 10 helpers, to finish second overall.
Joining them in the Top 10 were Willan with 11 points, which tied him for fifth-best in the league while Jacob Brown was right behind him with 10 points.
On the blueline, the trio of Auger, Logan Mihalcin and Josh Bryant combined for 24 points.
GOALTENDERS: The Thunder Bay netminding tandem of Brock Aiken and Dougie Newhouse finished one-two in nearly every league goaltending category.
Aiken was first in goals-against average (2.12), save percentage (.931) and shutouts (8) followed by Newhouse in average (2.16), save mark (.923) and shutouts (5).
Newhouse was first overall in victories with 26 while Aiken had 23.
In the playoffs, Aiken sported an 8-2 record and topped all SIJHL netminders in goals-against average at 2.17 and
Sat second in save percentage at .935.
In playoff overtime, Aiken has been even better, having not allowed a goal in nearly 80 minutes of extra work on 54 shots.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Thunder Bay topped the table in power play proficiency at 24.8% scoring 52 times in 210 opportunities. The North Stars were also No. 1 on the penalty kill at 89.4%.
Postseason play saw them click at a 25% clip as they tallied 13 times while up a skater in 52 opportunities.
They were just 79.1% on the penalty kill however, allowing nine extra-man markers in the 43 times they were shorthanded.
NORTH STARS NOTES: The North Stars featured the top three players in the SIJHL in terms of game-winning goals
during the season. … Along with Mignault’s nine, Auger had eight and Gerrie seven. … Also, of note, of Auger’s 48 career marker in the league, 14 have been game-winners. … Thunder Bay led the league in goals scored with 363. … The North Stars allowed the fewest tallies against at 122. … Mignault was second in the SIJHL in goals with 49 and Gerrie was third
with 41. … Auger led the league in power play points with 27 while Gerrie tied for third with 19. … Thunder Bay was
34-0-0-1 when scoring first in a game. … When leading after one period, the North Stars were a perfect 29-0 and 40-0 while in front heading to the second intermission. … Thunder Bay had winning streaks of nine of more games four times this season. … The North Stars were first in SIJHL playoff attendance, averaging over 1,236 fans
per-game. … Gerrie scored on a penalty shot in a win vs. Dryden on March 29. … Thunder Bay was 5-1 at home this postseason and 3-1 on the road. … The North Stars were a perfect 3-0 in OT in the playoffs. … They were also 6-0 when scoring first in the playoffs. … Thunder Bay was 6-0 when leading after one period and the same when up following 40 minutes. … 20 players on the North Stars hail from Thunder Bay.
BEHIND THE BENCH: In his second year as head coach for Thunder Bay is Rob DeGagne. He boasts an 87-18-5-2 record behind the North Stars bench in that span.
PLAYOFF MVP: Forward Keighan Gerrie of the Thunder Bay North Stars was named the SIJHL’s Most Valuable
Player for the 2019 playoffs.
In 10 contests, the 18-year-old Thunder Bay product led all SIJHL skaters in postseason production with 16 points on eight goals and eight assists helping lead the North Stars to the Bill Salonen Cup
Gerrie was only held pointless once in the playoffs and boasted four multi-point affairs.
The highly-touted prospect is committed to attend Bowling Green State University (WCHA) on NCAA Division I scholarship in 2020.
He was also tabbed 129th overall, among North American skaters, by NHL Central Scouting, in their final rankings heading into the 2019 Draft this June in Vancouver.
LAST TIME: Thunder Bay also competed in last year’s Dudley-Hewitt Cup, held in Dryden, Ont.
There they fell in the semifinal to the eventual DHC champion Wellington Dukes, who went on to fall in the final game of the
Canadian Junior A title game.
The last time the North Stars won the Dudley-Hewitt Cup was back in 2006.
That year they defeated Sudbury in overtime on home ice.
From there they went on to fall in extra time in the semifinal of the then RBC Cup to the eventual winners from the BCHL.
Notable alumni from that team were current Buffalo Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton and St. Louis Blues defenceman
THE OAKVILLE BLADES
Representing the Ontario Junior Hockey League at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup are the Buckland Cup champion Oakville Blades.
The No. 3 ranked team in the entire Canadian Junior Hockey League, Oakville claimed their first OJHL title since 2010.
They also won their league in 2008.
Postseason play saw the Blades skate to an impressive 16-3 record enroute to the OJHL crown.
They needed just five games to win each of their first three playoff series. They skated to triumphs over Brampton, Buffalo and Markham before sweeping the defending OJHL and Dudley-Hewitt Cup champion Wellington Dukes in their league final.
FORWARDS: Pacing the Blades offensively in their run to the title was the trio of Spencer Kersten, Peyton Reeves and Jack Ricketts who combined for 67 points to finish third, fourth and tied for fifth respectively in overall OJHL playoff numbers.
Kersten led the way with a dozen goals, and as many assists, as his 24 points led his squad.
Reeves was right behind him with 23, including 18 helpers, while Ricketts racked up 20 points on eight markers and dishing out 12 assists.
Thomas Maia also cracked the Top 10 in OJHL playoff scoring with 17 points in 19 games on six tallies while setting up 11 more.
During the regular season, Kersten collected a team-high 60 points as he scored 20 times and provided 40 helpers in 49 outings.
Maia was close by with 58 points as he too tallied 20 times while Kyle Lewis collected 55 points along the way.
DEFENCEMEN: Oakville also got significant offensive contributions from blueliners Callum Jones, Garrett Pyke and Ryan Nicholson in the playoffs.
Jones led the Blades D-corps with 13 points, which tied him for third overall among all OJHL rearguards.
Pyke picked up 12 points and Nicholson had eight as all three finished in the Top 10 in D-men scoring in the playoffs.
On the back end, Pyke led all OJHL defencemen in scoring with 55 points during the regular season as he registered 12 goals and provided 43 assists.
He also notched four game-winning goals.
GOALTENDERS: Will Barber was the man between the pipes for Oakville in the playoffs, as he started all but one of his club’s contests in the postseason.
His efforts saw him lead all OJHL netminders in wins (16), goals-against average (1.37), save percentage (.949) and shutouts (3), among those with 200 or more minutes of game action.
Barber was a stellar 22-4-2 during the regular season for the Blades and sported a stingy 1.92 goals-against average along with a solid .925 save percentage and seven shutouts.
Chris Elliot meanwhile went 22-5 with a 2.54 average and a .909 save mark. He also posted four shutouts.
BEHIND THE BENCH: Guiding the Blades is head coach Mike Tarantino.
His team had a league-best 94 points to finish first overall in the 22-team league as they went 44-5-2-4 before continuing to roll in the playoffs.
Tarantino’s efforts earned him OJHL Coach of the Year laurels.
BLADES BITS: Oakville is making their first Dudley-Hewitt Cup appearance since 2010. … The Blades won that event held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., when they defeated Thunder Bay in the final. … Oakville currently has 11 players committed to NCAA Division I programs. … Spencer Kersten was named OJHL playoff MVP, earning the Brent Ladds Trophy. … The Princeton University NCAA commit finished up with points in nine consecutive playoff outings and had 24 points in all, in 19 games, including a dozen goals. … Oakville converted at a 18.99% clip on the power play in the playoffs, scoring 15 times in 79 chances. … The penalty kill saw them finish at 93.85%, which was second-best in the OJHL. … They also notched three shorthanded markers. … During the season, Oakville was third in the OJHL on the PP at 20.58%. … They ended up seventh on the PK at 85.39% and produced nine man-down markers. … The Blades boasted a 10-game winning streak during the campaign and also had an eight-game run at one point. … Kersten, Maia and Lewis all had seven game-winning goals during the season. … Kersten had three more game-winners in the playoffs while Ricketts, Maia, Josh Nixon and Kyle Potts had two each. … Kersten tied for the league-lead in postseason power play goals with four. … Peyton Reeves led the Blades in power play goals during the year with eight. … Harrison Israels and Potts were next with seven each. … Oakville has won their previous two Dudley-Hewitt Cup appearances, back in 2010 and 2008 in Newmarket, Ont. … The Blades sweep of Wellington in the Buckland Cup Final was the first time since 1998 the OJHL championship series went just the minimum four games.
Awaiting the Dudley-Hewitt winner will be a trip to Brooks, Alta., for the Canadian National Jr. A Championship, May 11-19.
All Dudley-Hewitt Cup games will be streamed live and on demand via HockeyTV.com.
Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL-Host)
Hearst Lumberjacks (NOJHL)
Oakville Blades (OJHL)
Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL)
Tuesday, April 30
Oakville vs. Hearst 2:30 p.m.
Thunder Bay vs. Cochrane 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 1
Hearst vs. Thunder Bay 2:30 p.m.
Cochrane vs. Oakville 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 2
Thunder Bay vs. Oakville 2:30 p.m.
Hearst vs. Cochrane 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 3
Semifinal: 3rd round robin vs. 2nd round robin 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 4
Final: Semifinal winner vs. 1st round robin
DHC winner advances to Canadian National Jr. A Championship, May 11-19, in Brooks, Alta.