Voodoos ready for playoff rematch with Lumberjacks

‘They want revenge for what we did to them last year, and we have to be ready to go and play our own game and do our thing’

Kortney Kenney – BAYTODAY.ca

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And no, we’re not talking about Christmas like the popular song says…we’re talking playoff hockey!

Locally that means the Powassan Voodoos will be looking to run the gauntlet that is the NOJHL playoffs, starting this Thursday, March 21 in Hearst against the Lumberjacks. This series is the fourth straight matchup between the two teams, with Hearst winning in 2019 (4-0), and 2022 (4-2), before Powassan prevailed last year 4-2, with a spectacular 5-3 win at home to seal the series win. There were no playoffs in 2020, and 2021.

For the Voodoos, they expect Hearst to come out strong, looking for redemption.

“Just be ready and prepared, they’re going to be ready for us,” head coach Peter Goulet said. “They want revenge for what we did to them last year, and we have to be ready to go and play our own game and do our thing.

“It’s going to be a great series.”

“We played them last year and a bunch this season and I think we play really good hockey against them,” added forward Tucker Shields. “I think we play really good hockey against them in the season and we beat them last time in the playoffs…that doesn’t mean we’re going to beat them this year, but it does give us extra confidence.”

Hearst will own home ice advantage as they finished second in the East Division with 78 points, while Powassan finished third with 75. It was a chase for home ice right down the stretch as up until the last couple of games, neither team knew who would be hosting game one. However, the Voodoos took home the season series with a 3-1 record against the Lumberjacks. However, that doesn’t mean Powassan will rest on their laurels.

“We have to prepare the same way we did last year,” remarked Goulet. “It’s just another hockey game and after the regular season, nothing matters where you finished and what you did. It’s a brand-new season and they will be ready and we will be ready.”

“It’s really exciting,” added Shields. “We’ve been working all year for it, we tried to get home ice advantage but it’s fine we’re starting in Hearst and we’re confident.

“I think we have a good group of guys and we will go far.”

The Timmins Rock will take on the Iroquois Falls Storm in the other match up in the East. With no disrespect to Iroquois Falls (Timmins finished first with 84 points to the Storm’s 35, a difference of 49 points), most eyes will likely be looking at this Hearst/Powassan series based on how close the two teams finished in the standings.

Also adding to the intrigue is both teams were hot down the stretch, and support a goal differential on the season that is close to one another, +71 for Powassan and +60. All that to say is that there might be some high scoring games.

“The main thing to do is go up there and win, whether that’s 2-1, or 6-5, or 6-1,” Goulet explained. “Their mindset will be the same and that first game is always important so we have to be ready to go.”

A key storyline for this years ‘Doos squad is the health of the team. While they endured stretches without Shields, their captain Alex Little, and shutdown centreman Justin Rousseau, the team has been relatively healthy since the Christmas break.

“It really sucked to lose those guys,” said Goulet. “It’s not an excuse, but having those guys out really hurt us, but we’re healthy so there is no excuses. We have to be ready to go and not let them get the jump on us.”

While they may not get a chance to play in front of home fans until March 26 for game three, Goulet believes the Powassan Sportsplex will be rocking.

“I think it should be great. Our team has been great in our community, especially since Christmas. Our last two crowds were the best of the season, I am really looking forward to the support of the fans in the community and surrounding areas to come out and cheer these guys on.

“Let’s be as loud as the fans in Hearst will be.”

Rookie Caden Dubreuil did not mince words when asked on his mindset on the playoffs in a post game interview Saturday with the Frontline.

“We’re winning a championship. That’s our mindset and we’re doing whatever it takes to win. That’s it, that’s all.”

Apologies to Andy Williams, who so brilliantly sung It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, but with a quote like that, it’s hard not to think he was really singing about playoff hockey.