By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Powassan Voodoos blanked the Rock 6-0 Tuesday night at the McIntyre Arena, pushing Timmins to the brink of elimination.
It was the second-straight shutout for the Voodoos who now have a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven NOJHL East Division final, with Game 4 of the series set for the McIntyre Arena Wednesday night.
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne knows his squad will have to turn up the compete level a few notches if it is to have any hope of extending the series beyond Game 4 Wednesday night.
“I thought we had the first goal in tonight’s game on (Alexandre) Brisson’s shot, but their goalie (Nate McDonald) came across and made an incredible save,” he said.
“If that shot had gone in, that would have gotten us going, but then we made a little mistake with our second guy not taking his man on a two-on-two and they got a goal.
“Their second goal, I think (Rock starting goalie Jeff) Veitch would like to have that one back. It hit his hand and went in.
“After that, it was hard to play catch-up hockey. Right now, the hockey gods are not treating us well.
“The only thing I was kind of disappointed with tonight, and I know how the players feel, was the effort and the body language out on the ice. I hated to see that. It was really discouraging and it was addressed after the game and I know our guys are going to go out and put forth a good effort Wednesday night.
“This was not Timmins Rock hockey tonight.”
The Rock were riding high after a 4-2 series victory over their arch rivals, the Cocrhane Crunch, in the NOJHL East Division semifinals, but they have not been able to get anything going against the Voodoos.
Tuesday night, the Rock tried to press the attack during the first period, but McDonald came up with a number of big saves allowing the visitors to build up a 2-0 lead.
Parker Bowan scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal midway through the opening 20 minutes when he netted his sixth of the playoffs and first of two on the night.
Rhys Brown added his first goal of the playoffs, with 1:06 remaining on the clock to send the visitors to the dressing room with a two-goal advantage.
The second period was all Voodoos, as Powassan outshot the Rock 21-8 and added three goals to their lead.
Gary Mantz’s seventh goal of the playoffs and first of two on the night got the puck rolling at the 2:46 mark.
Tyson Gilmour added a power-play marker, his sixth of the playoffs, 11-and-a-half minutes later.
Mantz’s second goal of the night and seventh of the playoffs, also a power-play marker, extended the Voodoos’ lead to 5-0.
Bowman’s second goal of the night and seventh of the playoffs midway through the third period closed out the scoring and made the final 6-0 in favour of the Voodoos.
As unhappy as Gagne was with his team’s lack of effort Tuesday night, he realizes they were playing a “hell of a hockey team.”
“You have to give our opponents some credit,” he said.
“To have success against them, we are going to have to be at the top of our game. If we make mistakes, they are going to capitalize on them.”
Win, lose or draw, Gagne just wants his Rock players to go out and put forth the same kind of effort they have generated all season long.
“We have to go out there and play with pride,” he said.
“We can’t judge them on the three games we have played in this series. We have to judge them over the course of the whole season. What we want to see Wednesday night is the team we know can play against these guys.
“If mistakes happen, that’s hockey, but not the lack of effort.”
Despite suffering a one-sided loss, there were a few Rock players who impressed Gagne Tuesday night.
“Our third line — Alexandre Brisson, Stewart Parnell and Jacob Shankar — really stood out and played like a first line tonight,” he said.
“I use this word to describe them all the time, but they were relentless again tonight. They led by example and played the game the way it should be played.”
Voodoos coach Scott Wray is pleased with how things have gone so far in the East Division final, but he realizes the fourth game of any series is the hardest one to nail down.
“I thought we played well tonight,” he said.
“We stayed within ourselves. We had to weather a bit of a storm in the first 10 minutes of the game, obviously, because they came out really hard.
“After that, we did a great job of creating bounces and getting pucks deep.”
All aspects of the Voodoos game were firing on all cylinders Tuesday night.
“We need to dictate the pace and we need to dictate the transition game,” Wray said.
“For the last four or five weeks, our D have done a great job of moving pucks. We don’t want it to be a time bomb on their sticks. We want them to get the puck moving and if they don’t have a play, just send little fliers here and there with the nice high roof here.
“Nate made some fantastic saves to keep them off the board early and that’s what really dictated the score tonight was Nate standing tall. He made one back-door pad save that was just spectacular.”
The Voodoos have held the Rock off the scoreboard for a stretch of 129:57, but Wray did not hesitate to lift McDonald late in Tuesday’s contest.
“That streak doesn’t really matter,” he said.
“We are up 3-0 and we need to win four games to take the series. Tuesday’s game is going to be the hardest one to win. I wasn’t worried tonight about guys scoring two goals or pulling Nate at the end when he had a chance at the shutout. You just look after player safety.”
There were plenty of Voodoos players who caught their coach’s eye Tuesday night.
“Gary Mantz had two snipes, two gorgeous shots,” Wray said.
“Dayton Murray was back in the lineup and it was nice to have his shot from the point on the power play. Our power play was solid again and (Tyson) Gilmour had a nice goal on the power play.
“Rhys Brown had a really good game. He is a 16 year old and he doesn’t look like it. He is probably one of the fastest guys in the league and he got a nice goal for us tonight just using their defenceman as a screen. We have been preaching all year for him to shoot the puck and it was nice to see him get rewarded.
“I could go on and on and on. There are guys like Gabriel Rheault. The kid is an unsung hero. He is a sandpaper guy and you need more of those guys.
“Everybody is contributing and when you are winning, that’s what happens.
McDonald turned aside all 22 shots the Rock fired his way to earn the victory, although he ended up sharing the shutout with Andrew Suriano after Voodoos coach Scott Wray opted to pull his starting goalie over concern for his safety with 2:31 remaining in the third period. Suriano stopped both shots he faced.
Veitch, making his first start of the playoffs, blocked 36 of the 42 shots he faced in the Rock net and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — Alexandre Brisson, of the Rock, and Gabriel Rheault, of the Voodoos, were ejected from the game after being assessed five-minute majors for fighting and game misconducts following their third-period dust-up … The Daily Press Three Stars of the Game were Mantz, Bowman and McDonald … The Rock went 0-5 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 2-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,006 … Game 3 of the series will be played Wednesday night at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.