Sweet seven setup

The tried, tested and true Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League begins the 2012-13 regular season with seven teams, having seen the Michigan-based Soo Eagles depart for the North American Hockey League while adding the Elliot Lake Bobcats from the Greater Metro Jr. Hockey League.

Elliot Lake joins its North Shore neighbours, the Blind River Beavers, along with Soo Thunderbirds, Sudbury Nickel Barons, North Bay Trappers, Abitibi Eskimos and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in forming a sweet seven setup.

All seven teams will play one another eight times for a 48-game, regular-season schedule. All teams will make the playoffs with the first-place finisher getting an opening-round bye.

The defending champions from the Soo have reloaded and along with North Bay, are expected to wage war for first place, at least in the minds of most NOJHL insiders with an educated guess.

Thunderbirds have a new head coach in long-time NOJHL assistant Warren Lavoy while Tom McCarthy returns for a second season as bench boss of the Trappers, who are now led by chairman of the board and director of operations Tim Clayden. The no-nonsense Clayden returns to North Bay and the NOJHL after several seasons as a power-broker in the rival Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

In Sudbury, there is new ownership and a new name. Michael Mooney replaces Bill Scott as owner and has changed the name of Sudbury’s NOJHL team from Cubs to Nickel Barons. Dave Clancy, who has NOJHL championships on his resume from when Sudbury was called the Jr. Wolves, returns to the NOJHL as coach of the Nickel Barons. Long-time Ontario Hockey League scout Oscar Clouthier also returns to his NOJHL roots as general manager of the Nickel Barons.

Up in Iroquois Falls, Paul Gagne is back for his 12th season as coach-general manager of Abitibi Eskimos. Along with North Bay’s McCarthy, Gagne is the NOJHL’s only holdover coach.

In nearby Kirkland Lake, former Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League assistant Marc Lafleur heads to the Mile of Gold as coach-general manager. Kirkland Lake and Abitibi figure to form a rivalry that should match the intensity of Elliot Lake v. Blind River.

Ryan Leonard leads the Elliot Lake entry as owner-coach-general manager. Leonard will be assisted behind the bench by Todd Stencill, who has four years of experience as an NOJHL head coach, three with Blind River and one with the erstwhile Manitoulin Islanders.

Blind River has a new hockey department. Former assistant coach Rusty Joncas is now the GM while Doug McEwen is the Beavers first-year bench boss.

Based on a number of factors and conversations, here is my predicted order of finish for the NOJHL’s seven teams:

1. North Bay 2. Soo 3. Kirkland Lake 4. Sudbury 5. Abitibi 6. Elliot Lake 7. Blind River.

45 thoughts on “Sweet seven setup

  1. kenadian

    Still browsing the new site, like what I see so far. I’ll be (hopefully) blogging from the Baron’s game tonight (as long as the connection doesn’t go flaky again)………..

    Good to be back in the rink, even the back-breaking cold Copper Cliff cave..

  2. eskisfan

    I expect north bay to get stronger as the year progresses with new acquisitons and im sure clayden will once again through a pile of cards. I give them a very slight over the soo because of goaltending but other than that, they are neck and neck and without dodd, i might evve the edge to the Tbirds. Thought the traps would have a more impressive roster than what they have right now. Dont be surprised to see the birds compete or beat the bay early in the season.

    The rest of the pack are a ways behind and will need major acquisitionS to be considered a threat to either the Trappers or Birds

    New site is an improvement.

  3. Bruin19

    Eskifan you havent seen the full Goldminer lineup. Missing 6 important players when they beat up your eskies. We will just have to wait and play the games. The games are played on ice not paper. I think there will be more balance in the league this year than last. Cannot wait till Sunday!

  4. North Bay Hockey

    The Trappers are just playing the feild for depth players for the first 3 months of Junior Hockey the first and secand line players may be 3rd and 4th line players come April, The Trappers will bring in and let out at least 15 more players they are most likley waiting for OHL and QMJHL drop outs to come over for some exposer with hosting the dudley… Should be a slow start but pick it up come december.

  5. stick

    Eskimos will be in tough for the first half of the season , they need a starting goalie and 3 or 4 front line players.

  6. eskisfan

    Yeah i agree NBH, im simply stating that right now, im not overly impressed with the roster to date. further agree theyll burn through all available cards.

    Bruin, ive watched this league and jr hockey for a long time. Im glad ur pumped about your team, i too am happy for the gold miners and KlL but beating up on the weakest Eskis team ive seen in recent memory doesnt constitute powehouse or true contender for that matter. Gminers are improved but still have a long way to go. Ive seen your roster, know the characters, roster and just took in another practice! I think Randy s prediction before the season starts are very good….before a puck drops of course. I can see 3rd as a real possibilty since dr tom and marc are very good and good. All teams will will improve but by who and much remains to be seen.

  7. Bruin19

    Eskifan I never said the GoldMiners were a powerhouse or a true contender. My point was that the Miners IMO are not way back or will they need alot of major acquistions to compete with NB or the Soo. We Know NB will get stronger and bring in new players over the course of the year but who’s to say the Miners couldnt do the same. We will have to wait till they play and see what happens. you could very well be right but I hope your wrong. We will see how NB handles the pressure of hosting the Dudley. Should be a very interesting year with alot of changes for all teams.

  8. john-kl

    i agree with eskisfan, i do not think that the Gold Miners are close yet to being a championship type team, they definitely have some young talent but they will find the going tough against the top couple of teams, but might be able to slide into third if they can get all three lines to contribute each night and are able to land a goaltender that will be able to keep them in some games

  9. Bruin19

    Your right about landing a goaltender. They definitley need a number 1 to be able to compete against the stronger teams. Championship team this year would be very tough. Can they compete on any given night? I think with a proven #1 goalie yes they can compete and provide a entertaining game. All I am talking about is being a competitive team with every team in the league. Time will tell, lets just play the games and see.

  10. kenadian

    The Good:
    • A win to start the season
    • Crowd size over 300 (sure a few were from BR…..)
    • Barons D engaged on the PP, last year the fab 3 would play with the puck down low
    • Rolling the lines……
    The Bad:
    • Some defensive lapses and turnovers on our breakout (but it’s only game 1 with basically a new lineup)
    • Those arena benches (can’t change that so moving on…)
    • PA announcements COULDN’T HEAR ONE (or the 50/50 number) Please turn up the volume and turn on the extra speakers above the seating area.
    The Ugly:
    • PENALTIES (as Yogi Berra said “it’s like DEVA VU all over again”) Hopefully with a new coach it’s be corrected, or the offenders will be sitting

    And that was one lonnnnnnnnng game, as of this morning there’s still 0:23 sec left in the game……

  11. Randy Russon Post author

    Nickel Barons win season opener

    KEITH DEMPSEY, FOR THE SUDBURY STAR

    Thursday, September 6, 2012 6:18:51 EDT AM

    Playing in front of a packed McClelland Arena is a new experience for Sudbury Nickel Barons’ forward Darcy Haines, but the veteran player and the rest of his club seemed to feed off the energy and gave the home crowd a lot to cheer about.

    The Nickel Barons defeated the Blind River Beavers 6-3 on Wednesday in front of a packed crowd of 369 people at McClelland Arena in the opening game of the NOJHL season.

    “It was great being out there in front of a crowd like that,” Haines said after the game. “We gave them something to cheer about, and that’s always good to do.”

    The Barons scored by committee, with goals by four different players. Haines led the way for the Barons with two goals, Sebastien Leroux had a beauty goal and an assist, Joshua Moore found the back of the net, and so did Giovanni Foschia and Justin Bell. The Barons also received a solid start in net by goaltender Alex Laino.

    “(We’re) always happy with getting the first win of the season,” Barons head coach Dave Clancy said about his team’s effort. “I thought our guys showed a lot of heart and showed they can skate with any team in this league.”

    After the Barons’ Justin Bell took an interference penalty early in the first period, Beavers’ Scott Marshall scored to put the Beavers up 1-0.

    Haines replied for the Barons, putting home a rebound after the initial Barons shot was stopped by Beavers netminder Brandon Currie.

    After Corey McEwen dangled his way through the Nickel Barons’ defender, his shot was covered up by a Barons’ hand in the crease, and a penalty shot was awarded to Samuel Wilbur. His attempt was stopped by Laino.

    While the Barons were on a power play, Laino continued to have to be busy, stopping Dean Gordon on a breakaway after Gordon had intercepted a pass on the blue line.

    With 2:21 left in the first period, the Nickel Barons crashed the Beavers’ net searching for a loose puck. Eventually, Justin Bell found the puck and whacked it in behind Currie.

    After the first 20 minutes of action, the Barons led 2-1, while the Beavers led in shots 18-15.

    “We didn’t really have systems in play,” Clancy said. “I think the more the game went along, the more we got better.”

    The only downside to the period for the Barons is that they found themselves often sitting in the penalty box, taking seven p

  12. David Harrison

    kenadian – give us a break – some people still learning the system Maybe you should offer your services instead of criticism.

  13. kenadian

    Guess from now on I need to add the LOL, or smiley face……..

    I understand it’s all done on a volunteer basis, and my intent wasn’t to criticize, and I’m sorry to anyone I offended.

  14. NOJHL Alumni

    The Gold Miners will surprised some teams because they have the best coach in the league hands down

  15. WittyFan

    Word is the Miners just signed a couple of late cuts from the Q.
    While that may not mean much I’m sure this club will open some eyes and compete this season. While the questions about goaltending are definitely warranted rumor has it coach Lafleur has a little surprise for the league arriving tonight.
    Sunday should be very interesting.

  16. eskisfan

    I dont think i ever said kl wont complete every night. Au contraire, they will. I think everyone expected lafleur to picka few late cuts from the q and that might be the difference maker. quality tender will go long way for kl and it was common knowledge that the gminers were looking for one. Sounds like kl might of acquired a few key pieces that werent there when randy prepared the forecast.
    Nojhl alumni, thats a funny statement. Good coach for sure, but lafleur hasnt
    Won anything that wasnt developped by losier and being assistant coach in major jr doesnt mean much (see verrault). Fleur is a very good coach but common, many will argue KLs assistant coach has more knowledge and experience. I will say this KL has the best coaching Tandem in the league, hand down as you say but lafleur has some rungs to climb before being the best head coach

  17. stick

    NOJHL Alumni that’s high praise for a coach that has not coached a league regular season game as of yet. Let’s give him a season in the league before you bestow that honour on him. ):

  18. League Fan

    I see some are trying to built a Rivalry lol good for the League,good for the two teams attendance, keep it up

  19. eskisfan

    Interesting statement considering Begin returned to Gagne, despite that fact that he was doing well playing for Lafleur, in the CHL, which is of course Professional Hockeys’, (particularly the NHL’s) #1 feeder system. In his last year of junior hockey i might add.

    Not saying he didn’t tweet it, I just find it interesting.

    Again, and for the final time, Lafleur is a VERY good coach, i just wouldn’t say best the league….at least not yet.
    Enjoy it.

  20. League Fan

    Schedule starts this weekend and lets hope that all teams have success at the gates and that they provide their fans with entertaining hockey that will make their fans come out game after game….

  21. ABITIBIAN

    Looking at the rosters, I think Randy`s prediction is bang on. There will be adds & deletes on every team but the power houses will be N-B & the Soo .
    As for the Eskis , Gagné will have his hands full this year. Very young club, 5 coming from the GNML, 2 from Hearst AA, 2 from the Timmins Midget League.
    If the nucleus sticks around maybe in 2 yrs we`ll contend . Just like the Leafs , we re rebuilding !!
    Just shooting off , haven t seen them play yet. Tonight is the night !!

  22. stick

    Looks like the Eskimos won’t have Jake Ryan back this season he has made the OHL Sudbury Wolves. Congratulations Jake
    Another Eskis move’s on to bigger and better things, bode’s well for the Eskimos organization.

  23. bruin19

    Jake played less then half a season with the eskies. let’s give stratford a bit of credit also. it’s good for northern ontario boys. congrats Jake.

  24. eskisfan

    Tough game for the eskis young club. Could be tough couple of months until they really find their bearring and get used to the league. Therrien only forward vet with experience sure showed tonite.

    Good scrap tonite between parker and sirkka. Parker had early edge, and landed the harder blows but sirkka finished strong, draw. paid more attention to that fight and missed what was happening in the robert fight that was takin place at the same time.

    Haines was easily test player on the ice. Audet was very good in net for the Eskis and held them in and kept it close, certainly cant blame him.

  25. Cavedog

    kenadian ur a joke anytime ur on here its to run your mouth if you know its volunteer then step up im sure the barons could use your help

  26. eskisfan

    safe to say bruin is an eskis hater? Lol

    Going to be a trying start to the eskis season im afraid. Just not nearly enough experience or size up front. Sounds like re-inforcements are on the way and im afraid theyll be much appreciated. No gagne all week or this weekend doesnt make it any easier but regardles, its buy soon or this group is a long term project.

    Highlights for Eskimos were Audet who kept them in it and had a very fine game all around. Kid is going to facea lot of rubber this year, hope he doesnt get discouraged. Parker fight with with syrrka was good too, parker edge early, syrkka had the edge late, draw! Robert and chretien fought at the same time but i was watching the other fight and missed the whole thing.

    Haines was dominate formudz and i thought thier young tend played wel too. Suds has good size and looked very calm in comparison the eskis.

  27. ABITIBIAN

    2 – 16 yrs old started the game last night. I liked Muzyka , big boy , covers the net well, poised played the 2 on 0 well .Audet moves well but will need to control his re-bounds.

    I liked the Barons last night, all Greater Sudbury boys, some graduates of the GNML , some are picked fresh from the GNML. Good balance of young & vets ,good talent on the roster. Big boys who moved the puck well last night, good clean game. What strucked out for me was the abscence of the attitude that has been around this Sudbury team for years. Some players in the past played with an ego larger than the league.
    It all starts in the dressing room & if Clancy can coach with an iron fist , good things are to come for the Barons.

    As for my Eskies, they are young & are making mistakes that are costly in this league. Only one way & it`s up for this team.
    Lafleur was in attendance last night taking notes …so watch out Eskimos

  28. League Fan

    Very well said Eskisfan and Abitibian ,…you watch the same game as I did……..Audet is no doubt good enough to win with…,Barons better than I had expected…

  29. stick

    Eskis had 4 break away’s and shot right on the goalie all 4 times. 2 of them came when the score was 2-1. That really hurt. Above comments about Baron’s all true. Nice looking young team.

  30. League Fan

    Yes Stick, your correct had forgotten about that and I believe two of them were while playing a man short.

  31. North Bay Hockey

    Im not ripping anyone right now its early but if the Trappers with there roster is 2-0-1-0 is very very scary we as a league need to step it up, if two team like this enter then dudley we are going to get killed, Just my thought the traps should not be where they are with the roster where they are!

  32. Bruin19

    Miners win but it wasn’t a pretty win. They missed alot of opprtunities and were very sluggish in the 3rd. The Eskies goalie Audet played very well and was well deserving of a game star.

    Thought a couple former cubs Lafrance and Nowry played well as did Kyle Bishop.

    Weds game should be a better indicator where the Barons and Miners rank in the league.

  33. Mike

    I’ve been able to see a few games so far. Sudbury’s home opener was actually entertaining. Laino was awesome in net. A few players for Sudbury are either awful and very out of shape but overall, pretty decent. Blind River wasn’t too bad. Their goalie played well. They are undersized and had a short bench. I’m told reinforcements are on the way. North Bay and the Soo should be 1-2 although KL doesn’t look bad either. NB took it to Blind River on Sunday although the score was pretty close… 5-3 until an empty netter. Hard working and speedy, NB will be tough but they are certainly beatable. Currie made some awesome saves for BR but also let in a couple of cheapies. BR is very small on D and the forwards don’t support too well. McEwen’s a good hockey guy… quite a bit quieter and not as vulgar as his counterpart on Sunday. Missed the NB – EL game… glad I did based on the score.

  34. Bruin19

    Your exactly right League Fan! It will take teams time to come together and teams are still looking to sign players so rosters will improve. I doubt the eskies will continue to play defencemen as forwards. NB and the Soo will always continue to improve with the NOJHL hosting the Dudley Cup.

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