By Matt Stefano
The time has come and the season is about to wrap up.
Game 7 of the COVID Cup series between the Blind River Beavers and the Soo Thunderbirds takes place today at the John Rhodes Community Centre, beginning at 2:00 p.m.
This will also be the final game of the 2020-2021 season, in what has been a very different season due to COVID.
HEAD TO HEAD IN THIS SERIES
In this series against the Beavers, Thunderbirds have a record of 4 wins, 1 loss and 1 shootout loss.
The Thunderbirds have also outscored the Beavers 32-21 overall.
IN THE PENALTY BOX
For the past two seasons, the Blind River Beavers have been the most penalized team in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
But this year, in what has been a year of COVID, has been no different for them.
The Beavers enter tonight’s game with the most penalty minutes in the league, with 299.
But when it comes to individual players this year, there is one member of the Soo Thunderbirds that has been no stranger to the sin bin this season.
And that player is Jacob Doucette.
Thunderbirds defenceman Jacob Doucette enters tonight’s game with 34 penalty minutes, which is the most among all NOJHL players.
PASSING THE PUCK
When it comes to passing the puck this season, Blind River Beavers forward Noah Minns has been setting up the most goals.
Minns enters tonight’s game with a league-leading 20 assists.
The Barrie, Ontario native has also been dangerous on the man advantage as also leads the league in power play assists with 11.
Defenceman Cam Dutkiewicz has turned out to be a great addition to the 2020-2021 Soo Thunderbirds.
After coming over to the Thunderbirds in a trade from the Renfrew Timberwolves back in September, Dutkiewicz now finds himself leading all NOJHL defencemen in goals (9), points (18) and power play goals (6).
Dutkiewicz, who has 9 goals this season, is just one goal away from becoming the first Soo Thunderbird defenceman to hit the 10-goal plateau since Caleb Boman and Matt Busby both did back in 2015-2016.
Goaltender Alex Bugeja has been solid in between the pipes in during first season with the Soo Thunderbirds.
The West Vancouver, Bristish Columbia native enters tonight’s game with a .936 save percentage, which is currently the best among all NOJHL goaltenders.
KELLY AT THE TOP
Beavers assistant captain Jacob Kelly has been dangerous all season long.
The 2018 13th round pick of the Guelph Storm currently leads the NOJHL in scoring with 33 points in 20 games played.
Kelly, who had a power play goal in last night’s 5–1 loss to the Thunderbirds, moved one point ahead of Derek Seguin (Timmins Rock) for sole possession of first among NOJHL scoring leaders.
HOUNDS PROSPECT IN THE BIRD NEST
Soo Greyhounds 2020 3rd round pick Connor Toms has been having quite the season with the 2020-2021 Soo Thunderbirds.
The 17-year old blueliner currenlty leads all NOJHL rookie defencemen in goals (4), assists (12), points (16), points per game (0.89), power play assists (7), shorthanded goals (2) and game-winning goals (1).
Thomas Michaud has recorded at least one point in his first eight games played with the Beavers this season, but his eight-game point streak was snapped following last Thursday night’s 8-1 loss to the Thunderbirds in game five of the COVID Cup series at the John Rhodes.
Michaud, who was acquired by the Beavers in a trade from Leamington in the middle of February, now enters this afternoon’s game with no points in his last two games.
ABOUT THE COVID CUP
The COVID Cup is a seven-hand cohort series between the Soo Thunderbirds and the Blind River Beavers.
The winner of a game earns two points and the team who loses in a shootout gets none.
The team that wins a period received one-half point and the team who ends most overall points at the end of the series will be crowned COVID Cup champions.