Timmins Rock goalie Brendan Bishop makes a sprawling save as Lumberjacks forward Max Johnson attempts to gain control of the rebound during the second period of an NOJHL exhibition game at the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst Sunday night. The Rock doubled the Lumberjacks 4-2 to sweep their home-and-home series and close out the exhibition season with a record of 3-0-0-1. The Rock will host the French River Rapids Friday night at the McIntyre Arena to open their 2017-18 regular season campaign. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
HEARST – The Timmins Rock closed out their NOJHL exhibition season with a 4-2 win over the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Arena.
Derek Seguin returned from the training camp of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs to score two goals and add an assists to pace the attack for the winners.
“On the first one, (C.J.) Bradburn took a shot from the corner,” Seguin said
“I saw the puck under his pad and I pulled it out and just buried the rebound. On the second one, there was a shot from the point and I tried to get a stick on it. It bounced out to the side of the net and the goalie was pulled to the other side, so I had the chance to bury it.”
Seguin centred a line featuring Rock captain Wayne Mathieu on left wing and Bradburn on the right side.
“The chemistry seemed to be there,” he said.
“We played well together and we played hard.”
While he missed part of the Rock’s exhibition season when he was in camp with the Bulldogs, Seguin is excited about the NOJHL squad’s potential.
“The guys are really clicking together,” he said.
“Obviously, we have some positioning stuff to fix, but it’s early in the season. The boys are playing well. We are getting pucks deep, we are getting pucks to the net and we are winning some hockey games.”
With Sunday night’s victory, the Rock finish the exhibition season with a record of 3-0-0-1, and they will not get ready for Friday night’s home opener against the French River Rapids — which will start a three-game weekend.
Rock coach Corey Beer was naturally pleased with his squad’s efforts Sunday night in Hearst.
“Anytime you can go on the road and hold a good team like the Lumberjacks to two goals, you have to be real happy,” he said.
“We had a different mix of line combinations tonight and I thought all four of them came through and our back end fortified things at the end, too.”
Sunday’s contest marked the second-straight game where the Rock welcomed back a player who had been at an OHL camp and Seguin’s impact was just as impressive as Stewart Parnell’s had been in Thursday’s game.
“Derek is an elite player and an elite scorer,” Beer said.
“We were obviously thrilled to have him back in the lineup. We kind of challenged him tonight with some defensive assignments, as well, and he responded very well. I think that is a huge thing for Derek moving forward. If he can be an elite two-way forward who can contribute offensively and be responsible in his own end, it will do wonders for his game and for this club.”
The Rock once again got solid goaltending, both from starter Eric Jackson and Brendan Bishop who came on with 11:04 remaining in the second period and finished up the contest.
“We were scratching our heads at some points in the game wondering how he (Bishop) even got to the puck,” Beer said.
“Both Brendan and Eric did a great job. They made the saves they were supposed to and a couple of saves they probably weren’t supposed to make. Any time you get good goaltending like that, it is going to reflect on the team.
“It is the old adage: Show me a good goalie and I will show you a good coach.”
The Rock have looked sharper from game to game after opening the exhibition season with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Cochrane Crunch and that trend continued Sunday night.
“We have to be pretty happy with the way the team has performed,” Beer said.
“We have thrown a lot at them, including set plays offensively and defensively, new structure for everyone and they have done a good job implementing it into their games.
“Of course, there is always stuff we have to tidy up, but that’s what practice is for and it’s a long season and we expect a lot of ups and downs.”
The coach was impressed with the play of many of his Rock forwards and defencemen Sunday night and not just the ones who showed up on the scoresheet.
“A kid like Evan Kentish-Stack made a heck of a play on a blocked shot to help protect the lead late in the game,” Beer said.
“In the pre-season, to have a guy lay down and block a shot like that, you don’t get that kind of contribution from a lot of players, but it shows the kind of teammate we have in him.
“I thought Jared Hester and James Watier were terrific again on the back end. They are veteran defencemen and they really stabilize things.
“We also got a good contribution tonight from the Parnell line, with Seth Reuben and Alexandre Brisson. Sometimes it doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, but to be able to match up against top lines and play a gritty game like that, is key. I thought they did a great job.
“I think tonight might have been the best game we have seen from C.J. Bradburn, as well. He showed puck possession, speed and tenacity.
“And Wayne Mathieu continues to do the little things game-in and game-out. You sometimes overlook your captain and one of your best players because you just assume he is going to do what he does night in and night out, but he continues to be a leader on the ice and just a tremendous young man.”
The Lumberjacks jumped out to a 1-0 first-period lead Sunday night on a goal off the stick of Maxim Lacrioix.
Seguin’s first goal of the night 36 seconds into the second period got the Rock back on even terms, however.
Then, just over three minutes later, Mathieu scored a power-play marker to put the Rock in front 2-1.
The Rock carried that advantage into the second intermission and then added to it at the 4:31 mark of the third period, when Seguin collected the second of his two goals to make it a 3-1 hockey game.
Case Moioffer’s goal midway through the frame pulled the Lumberjacks within a goal and gave the home fans something to cheer about.
Hopes of a Hearst comeback were dashed with 49 seconds to play, however, as Rock defenceman Jared Hester scored into an empty net, with Lumberjacks goalie Nicholas Dube on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, to make the final score 4-2.
Lumberjacks coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was, for the most part, pleased with his squad’s efforts Sunday night.
“The fans got their money’s worth,” he said.
“Both teams ended up getting some great quality chances and it was an entertaining game of hockey.”
Lafleur was impressed with the play of both Rock goalies.
“It was a difference maker tonight, not that our guys weren’t sharp,” he said.
“Their guys made a few key saves at a few key moments and essentially it was a one-goal game without the empty-net goal.”
The coach was impressed with the play of a number of his Lumberjacks.
“Wade Auger played very well tonight,” Lafleur said.
“He played a complete game with the puck and without the puck.
“Alec Johnson again distinguished himself on the blue-line and I thought Connor Green had his best game in the three exhibition games we have played so far. Our goaltending was pretty solid, as well.”
Like the Rock, the Lumberjacks will open their 2017-18 NOJHL campaign Friday night when they host the defending West Division champion Soo Thunderbirds at the Claude Larose Arena.
“We have a lot of things to work on,” Lafleur said.
“We will be working on more five-on-five plays, as well as special teams. We worked on special teams a lot over the last couple of days and five-on-five face-off assignments and you could see a lot more structure to our game tonight.
“There will be even more structure to it on Friday.”
Jackson started in goal for the Rock and turned aside 11 of the 12 shots he faced to pick up the victory. Bishop who came on with 11:04 to play in the second period stopped 27 of the 28 shots fired his way.
Artem Bortovskiy, who started in net for the Lumberjacks, blocked 11 of the 13 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss. Dube, who came into the game with 9:19 remaining in the second period, stopped 28 of the 29 shots he faced in the contest.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Seguin, Lacroix and Hester … Official attendance at the Claude Larose Arena was 578 … The Rock were 1-4 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 0-4 with the man advantage … The Rock did not dress defenceman Grant McClellan and forward Halen Cordoni.