Plenty to crow about in the land of the Canadians
by Randy Pascal
Scoring eight goals against the Espanola Express Sunday night in Chelmsford was another welcomed sign of offensive improvement for the
Allowing five goals against, their second highest total all season, to an opponent that sits at the very bottom of the league in terms of goals scored
this year was obviously not nearly as welcomed an outcome of their 8-5 victory.
With new associate coach Steve Lauzon stepping behind the bench for the very first game, joining new head coach Vagelli Sakellaris and
assistant coach Clayton Bertrand - coach Dave Clancy and the Canadians parted ways some 7-10 days ago - Rayside looked to run away and hide in
the opening period, bolting to a 6-2 lead.
Things slowed down in the middle stanza, the Canadians taking a 7-2 lead into the third before dropping the final frame in the type of contest that most acknowledge
is difficult to maintain focus. "When it's a blowout like that, people start getting selfish," suggested veteran blueliner Jordan Spadafore.
"It's hard, but you have to keep your mind to defence and pretend that it's a close game." Ironically, there is little doubt that the rugged North
Bay Battalion prospect has altered his game this year. After racking up 16 points in his freshman season in the NOJHL last year, Spadafore has equalled
that total in his first 18 games of September and October, sitting third in team scoring.
"Obviously, I wanted to change my game, because I want to be playing major junior next year, maybe even this year," noted the always candid native of
Sudbury. "I knew I had to change something. It's hard for me to change my aggression, and with that, comes penalty minutes."
"I decided I was going to play a little more offensive and get some points for the team." He wasn't alone in that mindset on Sunday, as Kyle Linamaa
paced the attack with a hat-trick, while Ryan O'Bonsawin, Taylor Woolcott, Jacob Partridge, Matt Neault and Evan Krassey all bulged the twine
Tristan Poissant (2), Joel Grandbois, Henry Laukkanen and Mackenzie Schopfer replied in a losing cause for Espanola, outshot 50-28
in the contest. Adding an assist to his stat-line, Spadafore has a definite game-plan in terms of exactly how he would like to contribute more offensively.
"Mostly with shots on net," he said. "If there is a clear lane to shoot, I'll shoot. If there is a lot of traffic, I like to shoot for mesh. If there's
no traffic, just shoot for a rebound."
Despite the coaching shuffle, it was a good week in many aspects for the Canadians. When the NOJHL CCM Players of the Month were announced on
Wednesday, half of the recipients represented Rayside-Balfour.
Assembling monthly stats that featured a 2.05 goals against average and save percentage of .944, goaltender Mackenzie Savard rewarded his team
with a record of 7-1-0-1 in games in which he started in October and recognized as Goaltender of the Month.
Meanwhile, defenceman Ethan Lavallee edged out Spadafore and Alec Johnson of the Hearst Lumberjacks for Defenceman of the Month
honours. Lavallee maintained his point per game pace last month, recording four goals and nine assists in eight games, increasing his season totals to a
team high 18 points in 16 games.
Also on Wednesday, Canadian forwards James White and captain Matt Neault were informed of their inclusion on the Team NOJHL roster that
will compete at the 2017 Eastern Canada Cup All-Star Challenge taking place from November 13th to the 15th in Trenton.
While the locals were thrilled with the players selected, there was an omission that they believed deserved attention. "We are obviously disappointed that
Mackenzie Savard was not added to the roster," said club owner Adrian Gedye.
"We believe Mackenzie is the best goalie in the league, and we think his numbers speak for themselves." Hard to argue with 2.11 (GAA - 3rd), .942 (save
% - 1st), 10 wins (1st), and 488 total saves (1st) in 14 games (3rd).
Still, Gedye did admit that ensuring representation from every team in the league on the roster does make for some very difficult choices. Outside of
the NOJHL, a trio of Canadians are currently skating with the Gatineau Olympiques, as rearguards Ryan O'Bonsawin and Brandon Atkins as well
as forward Jett Leishman look to impress the QJMHL team this week.
Speaking of impressing the major junior crew, a separate troika of Rayside talent has stepped in nicely, lending a helping hand to a currently depleted
Sudbury Wolves' roster.
Defenceman Zach Snow suited up for his fourth game with the team Wednesday night in Sault Ste Marie, while the tandem of Evan Krassey and Noah
Serré drew praise from Wolves' head coach Cory Stillman for their efforts, a performance which included an OHL career first goal for Serré.
Still, Gedye expects all hands will be back on deck when Rayside resumes league play Sunday in Blind River, battling the Beavers.