SUDBURY, Ont. – The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s East Division semifinal between the Cochrane Crunch and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners begins Friday evening at the Tim Horton Event Centre.
Here’s a preview of this best-of-seven match-up.
HOW THEY ARRIVED: After 56 contests, Cochrane finished second in the NOJHL East behind league-leading Powassan with a solid 36-17-2-1 record and 75 points.
Kirkland Lake meanwhile was third in the East after going 24-21-7-4 as they ended up with 59 points.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The two teams met eight times during the course of 2017-18 with the Crunch taking the season set 6-2 with one game being deciding in overtime while another couple of contests were determined by just one goal.
Cochrane outscored Kirkland Lake 30-17 overall in those eight meetings.
Austin Stauffer of the Crunch notched a pair of game-winners in the meetings while six others had one apiece for both squads combined.
POINT PRODUCERS: The top point getter for Cochrane in the get togethers with the Gold Miners was the NOJHL’s leading scorer Kyle Herbster. He picked up five goals and six assists along the way.
Next for the Crunch was Stauffer who secured 11 points, including four tallies while league MVP and Top Defenceman award recipient Connor Lovie was third with seven points.
Pacing Kirkland Lake vs. Cochrane was Tyler Fyfe as he registered a team-high five goals to go along with three assists for eight points.
Marshal Nikitin was next with a half dozen points that saw him score twice and help set-up four others.
With 86 points, Herbster of the Crunch led all league skaters in offensive production.
Stauffer was next with 57 points, including 32 goals.
Leading the Gold Miners in 2017-18 was Fyfe with 69 points in all with Gregory Trudeau-Paquet earning 64 points.
THE GOALTENDERS: Shayne Battler and Taylor Unruh both saw plenty of action between the pipes for Cochrane with the duo combining for 36 wins between them and a pair of shutouts.
Unruh saw the bulk of the workload vs. Kirkland Lake going 3-2 while Battler had one victory.
As for the Gold Miners, Cade McEwen was 1-1 vs. the Crunch and Ryan Winter had a 1-4-1 mark.
In overall league play, Unruh’s 19 wins was the fourth most in the league while Battler’s 17 triumphs placed him fifth in the NOJHL.
Winter was sixth-best in the league with his 16 decisions.
SPECIAL TEAMS: With the man advantage, Cochrane was a solid 7-31 vs. the Gold Miners with Kirkland Lake striking eight times in 46 chances against the Crunch.
WHAT’S NEXT: Awaiting the winner of this series will be a berth in the East Division final against either the top ranked Powassan Voodoos or the survivor of the Hearst Lumberjacks – Timmins Rock match-up as those two clubs conclude their best-of-three affair tonight at Claude Larose Arena.
East Division semifinal
No. 2 Cochrane Crunch vs. No. 3 Kirkland Lake Gold Miners
Game 1: Friday, March 16 @ Cochrane 7:30 p.m. (Tim Horton Event Centre)
Game 2: Saturday, March 17 @ Cochrane 7:30 p.m. (THEC)
Game 3: Thursday, March 22 @ Kirkland Lake 7:30 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac Community Complex)
Game 4: Saturday, March 24 @ Kirkland Lake 7 p.m. (JMCC)
Game 5*: Sunday, March 25 @ Cochrane 7 p.m. (THEC)
Game 6*: Tuesday, March 27 @ Kirkland Lake 7:30 p.m. (JMCC)
Game7*: Wednesday, March 28 @ Cochrane 7 p.m. (THEC)
*- if necessary
All NOJHL playoff games are streamed online at HockeyTV.com.
With files from NOJHL Statistician & Historian David Harrison