Friday, March 23, 2007

Indians begin semis this weekend at Big Bear

by Randy Russon
RR Media Service

Following a two-week layoff, the Soo Indians will begin their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League best-of-seven semi-final playoff series with a pair of games this weekend at Big Bear Arena.

The Indians will play host to the North Bay Skyhawks on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m.

The Indians haven't played since clinching first place in their last game of the regular season on March 10, a status that earned them a first-round playoff bye.

Indians' head coach Kevin Cain said no one is taking North Bay lightly. The Skyhawks finished sixth in the seven-team NOJHL -- albeit just below .500 with a 23-24-1 record -- before upsetting the third-place Abitibi Eskimos in the first round of the playoffs.

"They have had their ups and downs but North Bay is a talented team and they certainly put it all together against Abitibi," Cain observed.

North Bay is coached by Darren Turcotte, who played more than 700 National Hockey League games. And as Turcotte got North Bay to elevate its game in the playoff series with Abitibi, the former NHLer is well aware of what the Indians have.

"That's a good-skating, very-skilled team," Turcotte offered. "They ended the season strong and they are well coached. They've been a more-disciplined team since Kevin took over behind the bench. They're a team that works hard and a team that we really respect."

Cain has confirmed that first all-star team goalie Brennan Poderzay will get the nod to start the series. The affable Cain, who has been a voice of reason and a person of trust to his players, noted that "we need everyone on board from our goalies to our defencemen to our forwards.

"The leaders have to lead...we all have to do the jobs that have been assigned us."

Indians with previous NOJHL playoff experience who'll be expected to lead the way include forwards Shane Bailey, Sean Farley, Isaac Viau and Sam Yearsley and defensemen J.D. King, Pete Landem and Sean Reid.

The entire team was strong down the stretch as the Indians played their best hockey of the season under the direction of Cain and his assistants, Al DiPasquo and Warren LaVoy, fashioning a 9-2 record to close out the campaign in first place.

All in all, the Indians were 14-6 under Cain and Co. following the release of former coach Jim Capy and his staff. The Indians were 17-9-2 under Capy, meaning they actually had a better winning percentage under Cain and Co.

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