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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018
Liinamaa lighting it up of late
by Randy Pascal

Well that sure didn't take Rayside-Balfour Canadians' forward Kyle Liinamaa very long to make up plenty of ground.

After registering 19 points in his first 32 games of the NOJHL season, the 2016-2017 NOJHL Rookie of the Year has racked up another 14 in his past five games, including no less than nine points in leading his team to a home and home sweep of the Espanola Express last weekend.

"The first half of the season was a little slow," Liinamaa conceded. "Last year, as well, but I found a way to pick it up in the second half. I think in the first half, I was just trying too hard. You always want to be out there, trying to make something happen. My confidence is high right now, so that helps."

Also pushing along his recent production has been a move to a line that has included Jacob Partridge and Taylor Woolcott, though Christian Gaudreau filled in for the latter recently, with Woolcott sidelined with an injury.

"My linemates right now are playing really well, we have some chemistry, myself, Partridge and Woolcott," said Liinamaa. "We all play a similar game, so we know where each other are. We like to use our speed to drive wide and hard to the net, and the other guys can follow-up for the rebounds."

Given the fact that not one of the trio will hit the 6'0" mark during the course of their junior hockey careers - Liinamaa and Partridge are both listed at 5'10", Woolcott at 5'6" - there is a need to play a certain style of hockey if the line is to enjoy some success.

"Yes, we have to keep our heads up, but we're all skilled forwards, really fast, and we can burn them with our speed," said Liinamaa. After spotting the Express a 1-0 lead at home last Thursday, the Canadians managed all of their scoring in the middle stanza, recording a 5-2 win.

Evan Krassey and Liinamaa scored twice each for the winners, with affiliated call-up Carson McMillan capping things off. Liinamaa was red-hot two nights later, finishing with three goals and an equal number of assists as the Canadians drubbed the Express 10-2.

Krassey and Ethan Lavallee chipped in with two goals each, with Gaudreau, Matt Neault and Partridge completing the on-slaught. Henry Laukkanen and Makenzie MacMillan countered for Espanola, which makes their second visit in eight days to Chelmsford this coming Thursday.

Rayside-Balfour closes off their January schedule with a trek westward this weekend, meeting up with the Soo Thunderbirds on Sunday afternoon, and are back at home next Thursday against the Elliot Lake Wildcats to open February.

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