A first-round playoff victory by a fifth-place team over a fourth-place adversary hardly constitutes a shocking upset.
Still, that won't make the advancement of the Nickel City Sons into Round 2 of Great North Midget League post-season play any less satisfying for coach Joel Whissell and his crew.
After picking up the split on the road the previous weekend, the Sons took care of business on home ice, racking up two more wins over the visiting Timmins Majors and capturing the quarter-final series three games to one.
The Sons rode the strong netminding of both Kevin Labelle and Scott Vaillancourt, posting victories by scores of 3-0 and 3-2 in Levack on Feb. 16 and Feb. 17.
Finishing four points behind the Majors in regular-season play, Nickel City wasted little time taking advantage of the cozy confines of the (Jim) Coady Memorial Arena in Game 3, building up a 2-0 first-period lead on goals from Ryan Punkari and Nathan Shane.
A third-period insurance marker from Punkari provided more than enough breathing room for Labelle, as the draft-eligible puck-stopper limited Timmins to just two goals in racking up a pair of playoff wins over the Majors.
With their backs against the wall, the visitors proved more resilient on Feb. 17, though the opportunistic Sons were leading 3-1 after 40 minutes of play.
Goals from Kurtis Clouthier, Matthew Neault and Sheldon Lalonde more than offset a second-period tally from Timmins forward Austin Landry, giving the Sons a slight cushion heading to the third and final stanza.
That margin for error proved useful as the Majors threw everything they could at the home side, with only Tyler Romain managing to beat Vaillancourt, who kicked out a number of key saves in the final 10 minutes of play.
After the game, the Rayside-Balfour product provided a synopsis of both his own play, as well as the challenges that a team like Timmins can present.
“I'm quick and can read the puck well,” said Vaillancourt, a second-year midget. “They have a really good player in Tyler Romain, and I really have to watch him, to know where he is at all times.
“They move the puck quick on the power play. They like to work a tick-tack-toe one-timer. I was coming into the game expecting that.”
The challenge ahead will not get any easier for the Sons, who now move on to face the league-leading Soo North Stars. The defending league champions won 32 of their 34 regular-season games this year.
As for the Nickel Capital Wolves, a defence-first approach continued to pay dividends as Sudbury swept aside the New Liskeard Cubs in three straight games with a 4-0 win Feb. 15 in the gold-mining town.
After a scoreless first period, power-play goals from Niibin Nashkawa and Jackson Gunner in the middle frame gave the visiting Wolves a 2-0 lead, one which they doubled in the third.
Adding two more with the man advantage courtesy of Michael Laidley and Gunner, with his second, Sudbury turned to goalie Jean-Marc Desormeaux, racking up the shutout between the pipes for coach Peter Michelutti Jr. and company.
Sudbury now must battle the Kapuskasing Flyers, yet another matchup of teams separated by just four points in regular-season play.
That series opens Feb. 23 at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex, with Game 2 slated for Feb. 24 at 2:30 p.m.
In other league news, the GNML confirmed their season-ending award winners for the 2012-2013 campaign, with the following individuals earning accolades for their play this year:
Quinn Trophy - Scoring Leader: Anthony Stefano (Soo North Stars)
Quinn Sports Trophy - MVP: Tyler Peters (North Bay Trappers)
NB Tim Hortons 33's Trophy - Rookie: Brenden Locke (Kapuskasing Flyers)
Kapuskasing Legion 85 Trophy - Goaltender: Jacob Kment (Soo North Stars)
GNML Trophy - Most Gentlemanly: Jaren Bellini (Soo North Stars)
Quinn Sport Trophy - Top Forward: Matt Pinder (Soo North Stars)
NB Farquhar Trophy - Best Defenceman: Jack MacLeod (Soo North Stars)
Russ Farnel Memorial Trophy - Executive: Jerry Young (Nickel City Sons)
First All-Star Team
F - Anthony Stefano (Soo North Stars)
F - Matt Pinder (Soo North Stars)
F - Tyler Peters (North Bay Trappers)
D - Jack MacLeod (Soo North Stars)
D - Brenden Pheasant (Sudbury NC Wolves)
G - Jacob Kment (Soo North Stars)
Second All-Star Team
F - Michael Laidley (Sudbury NC Wolves)
F - Jake Staples (North Bay Trappers)
F - Malcolm Bilton (Nickel City Sons)
D - Brennan Roy (Kapuskasing Flyers)
D - William Wuerch (Kirkland Lake Legion 87's)
G - Andrew Lefebvre (Sudbury NC Wolves)
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