The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) has provided a springboard to the career of many a young prospect. One can't help but to think that Jake Paterson might well be the next in line.
The Soo Eagles' netminder, drafted in the second round of the 2010 OHL draft by the Saginaw Spirit, was back to his old tricks Monday night at the McClelland Arena.
The 16-year-old product of the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget program turned aside 34 of the 35 shots he faced, leading the Eagles to a 3-1 win and capturing the league championship in the process, four games to two over the Sudbury Kal Tire Jr. Wolves.
In 15 playoff games this year, Paterson sported an impressive save percentage of .931, all while winning 11 of the 15 starts he made between the pipes for the Soo. With the series with Sudbury tied at two games apiece, the soon-to-be OHLer proceeded to save 75 of the next 76 shots he faced. The Eagles will now move on to represent the league at the 2011 Dudley Hewitt Cup.
Zach McGillis (Sudbury) and Clayton Brackett (Soo Eagles) traded first period goals, but it was a five-minute span late in period two that proved to be the difference.
Siblings Robbie and Travis Payne connected less than four minutes apart before the end of the middle stanza, and Paterson and company would make the lead stand as the young puckstopper earned Playoff MVP honours in the process.
This marks the second time that an American-based team will carry the hopes of NOJHL fans into the all-Ontario playdowns, with the Northern Michigan Black Bears being the first just a few years back.
Despite being shut down over the final two games, three members of the Jr. Wolves swept the top three spots in the playoff scoring race as Nick Esposto (30 pts), Mathieu Lecours (27) and Evan Daciuk (26) finished well ahead of Soo captain Aaron Leonard (19).