Soo Thunderbirds and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners finished 1-2 during the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League regular season.
Thus, it seems only right that the Soo and Kirkland Lake have emerged from the first two rounds of the playoffs and will face off in a best-of-seven series for the NOJHL championship.
The set will begin in the Soo with Games 1 and 2 slated for Saturday and Sunday nights at 7:30 at the Essar Centre.
For the record, the Soo disposed of Blind River Beavers in five games and Abitibi Eskimos in four straight to reach the finals.
Kirkland Lake is unbeaten thus far in the playoffs, having swept both the North Bay Trappers and Espanola Rivermen.
These are two teams, the Soo and Kirkland Lake, with major upsides.
Both have good goaltenders, quality defenceman and depth on the forward lines, complete with impact players.
On the subject of goaltending, the Thunderbirds boast the NOJHL’s most valuable player and first-team all-star Joel Horodziejczyk.
But Horodziejczyk is sidelined with a lower-body injury and has not played since a Game 1 loss in the first round to Blind River.
In his place, Brian Kment has stepped in to play eight straight games, all of which the Thunderbirds have won.
Is Kment as good as Horodziejczyk?
Let’s just say that Kment’s playoff record of 8-0 with a 1.74 goals against average and .925 save percentage is a good one.
The Soo-KL series, to be sure, will feature considerable travel with the two towns a good seven-hour drive apart.
On ice, this looms as a matchup similar to a year ago when the Thunderbirds played North Bay in the finals and the Trappers won in seven games.
It starts with the coaches.
Both the Thunderbirds and Gold Miners are well-coached with Jordan Smith guiding the Soo bench and Marc Lafleur calling the shots for KL.
The goaltending should not be an issue either way, even if Horodziejczyk does not return to the Soo net. Not only as Kment played better and better as the playoffs have progressed, the rookie goalie has the confidence of the coaching staff.
Kirkland Lake, on the other hand, is in the good goaltending hands of starter Jeremy Pominville and backup Kenny Fitzgerald.
On the blueline, both teams have skilled puck-movers with Tyler Jones, Owen Headrick and David Radke as the Thunderbirds main go-to-guys and Dan Morin and Jeremy Picard-Fiset a pair of high-end Gold Miners.
Offensively, while the Soo can unleash Gavin Burbach, Darcy Haines and Anthony Miller, KL can counter with the likes of Samuel Wilbur, Steve Babin and Austin Rust.
What will decide this series?
A coin-flip perhaps?
Seriously, this has the makings of a series — regardless of length — that will be dominated by one-goal games.
For the third straight spring, the Thunderbirds are playing for the NOJHL championship. Standing in the way of the Soo winning for the second time in three years is a talented lot from Kirkland Lake.
Good thing I am not a betting man. Because I would not know who to put my money on.