Timmins Rock captain Wayne Mathieu appears to have Blind River Beavers goalie Garret Boyonoski at his mercy during this play in the first period of Friday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. Mathieu, who is still searching for his first goal of the 2017-18 campaign, was unable to convert on the play, however, and Blind River forward Owen Robinson was able to keep Rock forward Derek Seguin from offering much assistance on the play. The Beavers went on to blank the Rock 4-0, marking the third time in their first six games that Timmins has been shut out. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The NOJHL West Division leading Blind River Beavers blanked the Timmins Rock 4-0 at the McIntyre Arena Friday night to kick off a three-game swing through the North.
It marked the third time in six games that Timmins has been shutout this season, but Friday night’s loss had more to do with what the Beavers did right than what the Rock did wrong.
“The effort level was there, the consistency level was there and our energy was up,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“We were just a little snake-bitten around the net again. Our execution was lacking and sometimes you need a little puck luck to go your way and we just didn’t have it tonight.”
Beer realizes his Rock faced a pretty good Beavers team Friday night — a squad that went to the NOJHL finals in 2016-17 and has won five-straight games to start the 2017-18 campaign.
“They have a tremendous hockey team,” he said.
“Kyle Brick has done a great job of getting them to where they are now.
“Having said that, there was a lot of stuff on our end that we were good on, but the execution just wasn’t there.”
The Rock, who outshot the Beavers 10-4 during the opening 20 minutes, played a solid first period.
“Our speed was pretty good early on and we were good on the forecheck,” Beer said.
“We had good activation from the points and we had them scrambling a bit. Then, in the second period, we got ourselves into penalty trouble and when you do that against a top team, you are asking to have the puck end up in the back of your net.
“For whatever reason, we thought we could take undisciplined penalties and get away with it, but good teams will bite you in the butt every time.”
Following a scoreless first period, Beavers captain Caleb Serre beat Rock goalie Eric Jackson for a power-play marker — his seventh goal of the season — at the 1:37 mark of the second period to put the visitors in front.
Max Khull added another power-play marker — his third goal of the season — 12-and-a-half minutes later to extend the Beavers’ lead to 2-0.
The Rock continued to press early in the third period, but they were unable to solve Beavers goalie Garret Boyonoski and just over 12 minutes into the final frame Dylan McMahon added his third goal of the season, an unassisted marker, to push the visitors’ advantage to three goals.
Steven Khull salted things away when he scored his third goal of the season into an empty Rock net with Jackson on the bench in favour of an extra attacker and Timmins on the power play to make the final 4-0.
Despite the four-goal loss, Beer felt a number of his players turned in a solid effort Friday night.
“Once they got put together, the (Derek) Seguin line, with Wayne Mathieu and Seth Reuben, were real good in the offensive zone,” he said.
“They did all the good things we were asking them to do and it may not have been reflected in their minutes, but I thought (A.J.) Campbell, (Halen) Cordoni and (Tyler) Planetta added a good edge for us.
“They are real good physical players and they certainly came prepared to play.
“In addition, I think Linden Spencer played the best game we have seen from him this year. He was physically engaged and moving his feet. It would have been nice for him to get some puck luck around the net, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Brick, the Beavers’ second-year coach, was pleased with how his team start off a very tough three-game weekend road trip.
“It was the perfect road game,” he said.
“We weathered the storm early. We were a little bit undisciplined early. I thought we shot ourselves in the foot.
“Then, late in the first period, I thought we settled into our game. We won some battles and cleared some pucks and tried to keep them to the outside.
“We are happy with the result and it was a great road win.”
The coach was impressed with the play of most of his Beavers Friday night, but chose to single out a few for a little extra praise.
“Boyonoski has been solid for us all year,” Brick said.
“He has won some big games for us in the Soo, in Powassan and now tonight.
“It is pretty hard to argue with the play of Caleb Serre, either. Our captain has been playing like a guy possessed all year. We are extremely happy with how he is leading the team and what he is bringing to the table offensively, as well.”
This year’s Beavers team might be even better than the squad that made it all the way to the NOJHL finals last season.
“Last year, we were kind of a one-trick pony a little bit,” Brick said.
“We wanted to get a lot deeper and I like our Top 9 forwards and I feel comfortable with any of them being on the ice at any given time.
“They are really buying into our system and accepting their roles. They understand we might have something special here.
“We are rolling right now and hopefully we can keep moving forward and getting the job done.”
The Beavers blue-line is big and skilled and they did a good job of boxing out the Rock all night long.
“That, protecting the house, is something we worked on all week in practice,” Brick said.
“We play by committee on the back end and any time you don’t notice your defence, it means they were doing their job and that’s exactly what they did tonight.
“With Garret playing behind them, things worked out really well.”
Anyone who has seen the Rock play — either in person or on video — knows speed is a big part of their game.
“Watching film, I thought we needed to slow them down through the neutral zone,” Brick said.
“They have got some speed and they are really good off the high cycle in our end. So, we worked on little things to slow them down and really tried to keep them to the outside. For the most part, I thought we did a really good job of that.
“We had a good summer recruiting players and obviously the returning players have helped the new guys along pretty good, as well,” he said.
Boyonoski stopped all 26 shots the Rock fired his way to earn his first shutout of the season and the victory.
Jackson blocked 15 of the 18 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Boyonoski, Serre and Max Khull … The Rock did not dress defenceman Will Caston (upper-body injury) and Jared Hester (serving the second game of a two-game suspension), as well as forward C.J. Bradburn (lower-body injury) … Affiliate player Riley Robitaille played his second-straight game in a Rock uniform … Rock defenceman Shawn Sloan celebrated his 18th birthday Friday night … The Rock went 0-7 on the power play and surrendered a shorthanded goal, while the Beavers were 2-8 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 769 … Friday night’s other action saw the Rayside-Balfour Canadians silence the Crunch 6-1 in Cochrane, the Rapids edge the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 7-6 in double overtime in French River and the Powassan Voodoos gun down the Wildcats 7-3 in Elliot Lake … The Rock will return to action on Friday night when they travel to Kirkland Lake for a game against the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Centre. The next home game for the Rock will be on Saturday, Sep. 30, when they host the Rapids.