After winning two out of three games during their final road trip of the regular season, the Blind River Beavers are gearing up for what should be a highly competitive playoff series with the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds.
The Beavers ended the regular season by defeating the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 3-0 and the Elliot Lake Wildcats 7-1. However, they dropped a close 4-2 decision to the Thunderbirds, setting the stage for their match-up with the T-Birds in the best-of-seven games western division semi-finals starting the week of March 11 in Blind River.
The victory over the Canadians was particularly satisfying for the Beavers, as they had been edged out by Rayside for top spot in the division during the regular season. In addition, it marked just the second win for the Beavers over the Canadians in eight meetings this season.
Goalie Dominic Boily stole the show for Blind River, as he stopped all 45 shots by the Canadians to earn the shutout. It was the second shutout for Boily in his last three starts, and the veteran netminder acquired by the Beavers from the Elliot Lake Wildcats in the middle of the season earned the victory by thwarting the Canadians on numerous scoring opportunities throughout the contest.
With Boily holding the fort in goal, Kyle Quinn took control of the offence for the Beavers and led them to victory with a pair of goals. Quinn opened the scoring in the first period with the help of Devon Savignac and Bryan Clahassey, and then made it 2-0 midway through the second period as he converted a feed from Lucas Adams.
While the Canadians swarmed around the Beavers goal in an attempt to get back into the game in the third period, it was the Blind River team that remained calm in front of the stellar goaltending of Boily. Milos Todorovic teamed with Jake Behnen to make it 3-0 for the Beavers early in the final frame, and the Beavers used solid team defence to help Boily secure the shutout and hand the Canadians their first loss in regulation time in 2020.
The battle against the Thunderbirds the following evening in Sault Ste. Marie provided a preview of the highly anticipated playoff series between the two clubs. The teams traded scoring chances, hard hits and terrific saves throughout the contest, with the Soo squad finally prevailing with a pair of goals late in the third period.
A power-play goal by Adams from Clahassey and Caleb Serre put the Beavers ahead 1-0 early in the first period. The Beavers held the advantage until the midpoint of the second stanza, when MacKenzie Walkington tied the score at 1-1.
The T-Birds assumed a 2-1 lead on a goal by Jacob Kovacs early in the third period, but the Beavers battled back to tie the score when Clahassey scored from AJ Campbell. With time running down in regulation time, Kurtis Rogers of the T-Birds found a way to beat Boily in the Blind River goal to give his team a 3-2 lead.
Despite their best efforts, the Beavers were unable to beat Dakota Meyer in the T-Birds goal to tie the score. With Boily on the bench in the final seconds in favour of an extra attacker, Camden Findlay scored into the empty net to provide the insurance goal in a 4-2 victory for the Thunderbirds.
In their final game of the regular season against their North Shore rivals in Elliot Lake, the Beavers scored early and often on their way to a lopsided victory. Justin Mauro and Noah Minns each scored a pair of goals for the Beavers, with singles from Adams and Andrew Malek. Serre had a goal and five assists in the contest, as the Beavers led 3-1 after the first period and 5-1 by the second intermission.
The victory over the Wildcats gave the Beavers a final regular season record of 37 wins, 15 losses in regulation time and four more losses in overtime or shootouts for 78 points, good for second place in the western division of the NOJHL. Caleb Serre won the NOJHL scoring race with a total of 113 points while recording league-high totals of 47 goals and 66 assists, marking just the second time that a member of the Beavers has captured the scoring crown.
The schedule for the playoff series between the Beavers and the Thunderbirds will be announced by the NOJHL next week.