SUDBURY, Ont. – Claude Larose Arena in Hearst will be the site as the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League East Division Final between the Hearst Lumberjacks and Powassan Voodoos gets underway with Game 1 Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Here’s a breakdown on how this best-of-seven affair shapes up:
HOW THEY ARRIVED: Hearst earned their way to take on Powassan after rallying from a three-games-to-one deficit and going on to edge the Timmins Rock in a highly-entertaining affair.
As for the Voodoos, they upended the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in six outings to advance to the division final.
Both clubs had 33 wins each on the regular season with Hearst finishing with 73 points to claim their first-ever East Division title with an overall record of 33-16-6-1.
As for Powassan, they ended up in third spot in the division, finishing three points in arrears of the Lumberjacks after going 33-19-3-1 during the campaign.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Regular season play saw the two teams meet eight times with the Lumberjacks coming away victorious on six occasions.
Three of those Hearst triumphs came in extra time as they won twice in overtime and once via the shootout, with one of the Voodoos’ victories also decided by just one goal.
The Lumberjacks also held the overall edge in markers by a 33-27 count.
Max Griffioen notched a pair of game-winners for Hearst against Powassan to lead his squad in that department while teammate Jake Desando registered four assists on contest-deciding goals.
SCORING: It was Griffioen, who also led the Lumberjacks in scoring against the Voodoos, as he collected 11 points on five goals and six assists.
Desando was right behind him with 10 and he scored once and helped set-up nine others.
After that was defenceman Alec Johnson, who picked up seven points, including a trio of tallies.
In the playoffs, Max Johnson enters the series leading all Hearst players in scoring with 10 points on six goals and four assists, with two of his markers being game-winners.
During the regular season Jake Desando (30g-45a-75pts) and Max Griffioen (29g-43-a-72pts) finished third and fourth respectively in NOJHL scoring.
Alec Johnson was fourth in league D-man scoring with 43 points as he scored 12 times and helped set-up 31 more.
Leading the Voodoos vs. the Jacks was Cade Herd as he notched two goals and dished out five assists.
After him was David Campbell with six points while Henry Scott had five.
A veteran NOJHLer in a total of 163 contests, Herd has 57 goals and 99 assists to his credit and led Powassan in scoring during the regular season with 55 points, that featured 23 goals.
Yachmenev was just back of him with 54 points, as he too tallied 23 times.
Postseason play, in the series win over Kirkland Lake, it was Cameron Moore and Rico Rossi that paced the offensive attack with eight points apiece.
Moore, in his third season with the Voodoos, is one of two remaining players from Powassan’s 2016-17 NOJHL championship team.
Yachmenev and rookie Jacob Peterson-Galema were next with a half a dozen points each.
GOALTENDERS: Both Nicholas Tallarico of Hearst and Joe Vrbetic of Powassan started in net in every game their respective sides played in the divisional semifinals.
Vrbetic went 4-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage while posting one shutout.
As for Tallarico, he saw 458 minutes of game action and went 4-3 with an average of 2.75 along with a .898 save mark.
In contests against each other during the campaign, NOJHL MVP Tallarico was 5-0 for the Lumberjacks against the Voodoos with a 2.84 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
A pair of North Bay Battalion – OHL prospects, Vrbetic was 0-2-1 vs. Hearst while Christian Cicigoi, went 2-1-1.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Hearst power play was impressive vs. Powassan as they connected 12 times on just 33 opportunities.
The Voodoos meanwhile tallied on five occasions in 36 extra man chances.
The lone shorthanded marker in the season set was supplied by Hearst.
Overall, the Lumberjacks were second in the league on the power play at 21.7% and finished fourth on the P.K. at 85.8%.
As for Powassan, they sat ninth in the NOJHL at 15.4% with the man advantage and were slotted seventh while shorthanded at 82.6%.
BEHIND THE BENCH: Leading their respective sides are Hearst’s Marc Lafleur, the NOJHL Coach of the Year, while Max Gavin, the son of former NHLer Stewart Gavin, is in his first season behind the bench for Powassan.
WHAT’S NEXT: The winner of this match-up will move on to meet either the Soo Thunderbirds or Rayside-Balfour Canadians for the NOJHL championship.
The league winner will then earn a berth to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, April 30 – May 4, at Tim Horton Events Centre joining the host Cochrane Crunch along with the title holders from Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League.
All NOJHL playoff games are streamed online at HockeyTV.com.
NOJHL East Division semifinal
No. 1 Hearst Lumberjacks vs. No. 3 Powassan Voodoos
Game 1: Saturday, March 30 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
Game 2: Sunday, March 31 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
Game 3: Wednesday, April 3 @ Powassan 7 p.m. (Sportsplex)
Game 4: Thursday, April 4 @ Powassan 7 p.m. (Sportsplex)
Game 5*: Saturday, April 6 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
Game 6*: Monday, April 8 @ Powassan 7 p.m. (Sportsplex)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 10 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
With files from NOJHL Statistician/Historian David Harrison & Powassan GM/Director of Hockey Operations Chris Dawson