HEARST – Bradley Golant scored a pair of goals Friday night to lead the Lumberjacks to a 4-2 win over the Timmins Rock at the Claude Larose Arena.
And with the win, the Lumberjacks (12-13-1-0) were able to move into sole possession of fourth place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings — two points ahead of the Rock (10-16-1-2).
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
Not even the return of a pair of veteran blue-liners — James Redmond and Eric Paquette — could improve the Rock’s fortunes at the Claude Larose Arena.
“We had a lot of chances in the third period to tie the game, but we just couldn’t get the bounce we needed,” said Rock assistant coach James Daschuk, who was filling in for coach Corey Beer (serving the second game of a three-game suspension).
“It was just one of those games were the puck just didn’t seem to be bouncing in our favour. The beloved hockey gods were not smiling down on us tonight. We missed a few chances from in close and their goalie (Nicholas Dube) made a few saves with his skates.
“If another bounce or two had gone our way, I think it would have been a different game.”
The Rock drew first blood Friday night, taking a 1-0 lead just 1:18 into the contest when Evan Kentish-Stack beat Dube for his third goal of the season.
“We showed up on time tonight and Evan scored a nice goal,” Daschuk said.
“We got a two-on-one and we knew their D likes to jump into the play. We chipped the puck out and had an odd-man rush and Evan buried it.
“It kind of took their loud crowd out of the game for a little bit. The last couple of times we have been in their barn, we fell down 2-0 or 3-0 early, but tonight we had a good start. Scoring the first goal is the way you want to start any game on the road and we have not been able to do that a whole lot this season.”
Golant’s first goal of the game and 11th on the season got the Lumberjacks back on even terms late in the opening period.
And the home side took a 2-1 lead at the 4:31mark of the second period when Max Griffioen scored his eighth goal of the season.
The Lumberjacks increased their advantage to 3-1 just under four minutes into the third period when Shadow Reuben scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal, his sixth tally of the campaign.
Rock captain Wayne Mathieu scored his seventh goal of the season four-and-a-half minutes later to cut the Hearst lead to a single goal.
With 52 seconds remaining in the contest, Lumberjacks defenceman Maxime Lacroix was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for tripping and the Rock pulled goalie Tyler Masternak in favour of an extra attacker to create a two-man advantage.
That move backfired, however, as Golant was able to deposit his second goal of the night and 12th on the season into the empty Timmins net for a shorthanded marker to make the final score 4-2.
“We were a little too complacent and didn’t jump on an offensive zone face-off,” Daschuk said.
“You just assume you are going to have puck possession, but we didn’t. We lost the face-off and they jumped on it. They knew the game wasn’t over and we were going to come hard at them right to the end. That was the plan, but it didn’t work out that way.”
With the return of Remond and Paquette, the Rock had seven blue-liners in the lineup including affiliate player Cooper Roussy (Kapuskasing Flyers).
“It allowed us to ease those guys (Redmond and Paquette back into the lineup,” Daschuk said.
“We weren’t sure what to expect from them, but they have both been cleared to play. It’s huge for us to have those guys back in the lineup.
“Redmond is arguably the most prepared player on this hockey team. His preparation is amazing. His routines, his focus and his leadership is second to none.
“We haven’t seen Eric play too much this year, just a couple of games before he got hurt. He is one of those steady guys on the back end who is probably not going to contribute too much offensively, but he is very tough and very gritty.”
Despite the loss, a number of Rock players impressed Daschuk with their effort Friday night.
“I may sound like a broken record, but our captain, Wayne Mathieu, was amazing again tonight,” he said.
“You can tell he has been in the league a couple of years now. He knows the importance of stepping up when guys are injured. He doesn’t expect anybody else to do the work for him. He was probably our best competitor tonight.
“Jared Hester on the back end, played forward for half the game and was very effective. He almost scored a couple of goals.”
Masternak was not as busy as he was Wednesday night when he made 43 saves in a 1-1 double-overtime tie with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, but he was steady.
“He did his job,” Daschuk said.
“He was solid and looked confident. He is proving he is the real deal and he is getting the job done for us. Our play in our defensive zone was fantastic tonight.”
Dube stopped 26 of the 28 shots the Rock fired his way to earn sixth win of the season for the Lumberjacks.
Masternak turned aside 21 of the 24 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars were Golant, Dube and Hearst forward Max Johnson (two assists) … Rock defenceman Frank Zhong and Lumberjacks defenceman Colin Boudreau were ejected from the game at the 7:40 mark of the third period after they were assessed five-minute majors for fighting and game misconducts … The Rock did not dress Goalie Eric Jackson (lower-body injury), defenceman Will Caston (undisclosed) and forwards Derek Seguin (fractured jaw), Stewart Parnell (upper-body injury), Jace Soroko (serving the second game of a three-game suspension) and Tyler Gilberds (healthy scratch). With Jackson out of the lineup, Jordan Yaremchuk dressed to back up Masternak even though his Timmins Majors were playing the Greyhounds in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock went 0-4 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Claude Larose Arena was 696 … Friday’s other action saw the Soo Eagles defeat the Crunch 4-3 in double overtime at the Tim Horton Event Centre and the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners hang on to edge the Rapids 2-1 in French River … The Rock will return to action on Saturday night when they host the Eagles at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:00 PM.