For the fourth time in their five-year history, the Powassan Voodoos will meet up with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in the NOJHL Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Voodoos upset the defending champs in 2015, but the tables turned the following year as the Gold Miners upset the Voodoos the following year.
In their last meeting in 2017, the Voodoos swept the Miners in four straight as part of their unbeaten run to a Copeland Cup championship.
It took the Powassan squad until the final regular season game of the year to move up into third place in the NOJHL East. The Voodoos only had one regular season loss in their final 10, defeated the French River Rapids 5-4 to move up into third spot which allowed them to avoid last weekend's four versus five survivor series.
Joe Whittet, knows a lot about the Gold Miners. The North Bay forward played his rookie season with the Gold Miners last year. He came home in a three-way trade that sent Harrison Israels to the OJHL's Oakville Blades and a development fee to the Gold Miners.
"As a team I think we all know we have a lot of capabilities and can win against anyone," said Whittet who finished with 16 regular season goals.
"This upcoming series against KL I think we just need to keep it simple and do what works for us as a whole. We need to get pucks to the net and crash the net the whole game to be successful and open up space for us to use our skill when it’s presented to us."
Tomas Yachmenev, son of former NHLer and Centennial star Vitali Yachmenev, had a late game winning goal in Kirkland Lake in their first meeting this season.
“We need to work hard together as a team, be hard on the puck, always stick to our game plan given by our coach and play both sides of the puck, and of course capitalize on our offensive chances,” said Yachmenev, who had 23 goals this season.
For rookie head coach Max Gavin, he is hoping to build off the team's solid record in the last 10 games.
“We have to be us, that is what got us here, and commit to doing that every shift,” said Gavin.
NOJHL LEAGUE PLAYOFF PREVIEW
One of the highly anticipated Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League semifinals will commence Friday at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake as the hometown Gold Miners welcome the Powassan Voodoos for Game No. 1 of their best-of-seven East Division series.
Both clubs have hoisted the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy, emblematic of being NOJHL champions in recent years.
The Voodoos captured their first league crown back in 2017 while the Gold Miners did likewise in 2014.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Of the eight times the two clubs met during the course of the regular season, four of the contests were decided by just one goal while three more were determined by only two tallies, that featured a pair of them finished off with empty net markers.
It was close overall with each team coming away victorious on four occasions in their 2018-19 get togethers.
Being the home side also helped as both squads won three times apiece in their own venues.
The tally total saw Kirkland Lake collect 23 goals while Powassan notched 21 in regulation, and another via the shtootout.
Neither side featured a player with more than one game-winning goal during the season set.
SCORING: A well-balanced attack saw nine Kirkland Lake skaters register four points or more against Powassan this season.
Leading the club were Vinny DeSanctis and Joshua Maine as that duo had six points each vs. the Voodoos.
Next were the trio of Sam Ellwood, Noah Cauchi and Gabriel LeBlanc with five points apiece.
For Powassan, Tomas Yachmenev, Cade Herd and Joe Whittet were all seven-point men against the Miners.
Whittet and rookie/Battalion prospect Gabinien Kioki paced the squad with four goals against them.
Overall, veteran forward Gregory Trudeau-Paquet led Kirkland Lake offensively with 53 points on 27 goals and 26 assists.
In a combined 125 NOJHL regular season and playoff outings, Trudeau-Paquet has scored 70 times and helped set-up 70 others.
Pacing Powassan offensively was Herd, who notched 23 markers and dished out 32 helpers.
He too is a veteran NOJHLer and in a total of 163 contests, Herd has 57 goals and 99 assists to his credit.
Herd and defenceman Cameron Moore are the lone returning members of the 2017 Voodoos championship team.
GOALTENDERS: Gold Miners’ goaltenders Gregory Brassard and Dawson Rodin both posted two victories apiece over Powassan while the Voodoos Joe Vrbetic was 3-3 and Christian Cicigoi had a win and loss against Kirkland Lake.
Rodin led all league netminders in goals-against average at 2.34 while Brassard sat fifth at 2.50.
In all, the duo produced 33 victories this season.
Vrbetic and Cicigoi matched the wins mark for Powassan at 33.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The power play saw the Gold Miners go 4-28 against their series opponent while the Voodoos were 4-25.
Neither team collected a shorthanded marker in their eight meetings.
East Division semifinal
No. 2 Kirkland Lake Gold Miners vs. No. 3 Powassan Voodoos
Game 1: Friday, March 15 @ Kirkland Lake 8 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac Community Complex)
Game 2: Sunday, March 17 @ Kirkland Lake 7 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac Community Complex)
Game 3: Wednesday, March 20 @ Powassan 7 p.m. (Powassan Sportsplex)
Game 4: Thursday, March 21 @ Powassan 7 p.m. (Powassan Sportsplex)
Game 5*: Saturday, March 23 @ Kirkland Lake 7 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac Community Complex)
Game 6*: Sunday, March 24 @ Powassan 7 p.m. (Powassan Sportsplex)
Game 7*: Tuesday, March 26 @ Kirkland Lake 7 p.m. (Joe Mavrinac Community Complex)