Hearst Lumberjacks defenceman Alec Johnson advances the puck up the ice during an NOJHL exhibition game against the Timmins Rock at the McIntyre Arena on Aug. 31. Johnson scored a pair of goals and added three assists in eight regular season games against the Rock this season to help Hearst win the season series 5-3-0-0. The Lumberjacks will host the Rock at the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst Saturday for Game 1 of their best-of-three East Division quarterfinal series. Game 2 will be played at the McIntyre Arena on Monday night, with Game 3 — if necessary — back at the Claude Larose Arena Wednesday night. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
HEARST – If the Timmins Rock hope to advance to the NOJHL’s East Division semifinals, they will have to find a way to do something that eluded them during the 2017-18 regular season — win a game at the Claude Larose Arena.
The Rock dropped all four meetings with the Lumberjacks in that facility — 5-0 on Sept. 15, 3-1 on Oct. 4, 5-3 on Nov. 22 and 4-2 on Dec. 1.
They fared much better at the McIntyre Arena, winning 3-1 on Sept. 9, 3-2 on Oct. 20 and 5-1 on Nov. 5, while dropping a 4-2 decision on Feb. 6.
Game 1 of the best-of-three East Division quarterfinal series will be played at the Claude Larose Arena on Saturday, at 7:30 p.m.
The two teams will then return to the McIntyre Arena for Game 2 in the series on Monday, at 7 p.m.
If necessary, Game 3 would be played back at the Claude Larose Arena on Wednesday, at 7 p.m.
Only five points separated the fourth-place Lumberjacks (23-30-2-1) and the fifth-place Rock (19-31-3-3) during the regular season, with Hearst being the better offensive squad (215 goals compared to 142) and Timmins having the better defensive record (184 goals allowed compared to 215).
The Lumberjacks’ attack features five players — Spencer Silver (54, 27-25-52, 10), Samuel Bourdages (55, 21-34-55, 20), Max Griffioen (56, 21-30-51, 28), Bradley Golant (51, 21-14-35, 10) and Max Johnson (46, 20-30-50, 76) — who cracked the 20-goal plateau this season.
In addition, they had four players — defenceman Alec Johnson (51, 14-22-36, 107), defenceman Colin Boudreau (56, 14-20-34, 49), Zack Dorval (25, 12-8-20, 30) and Shadow Reuben (47, 11-23-34, 22) — with more than 10 goals and defenceman Austin Anselmo (46, 9-32-41, 30), Wade Auger (56, 8-22-30, 31) and Morgan Scriber (56, 8-16-24, 14) were not far off that pace.
And late addition Dominik Lavergne (10, 6-5-11, 10) provided a boost to an already potent Lumberjacks’ attack.
By comparison, the Rock did not have any 20-goal scorers in their lineup and only four of their players — Jordan Picard (57, 16-25-41, 54), C.J. Bradburn (43, 17-15-32, 34), Derek Seguin (41, 12-16-28, 53) and Tyler Gilberds (52, 11-14-25, 65) — managed to crack the 10-goal plateau.
And it should be noted, a portion of Picard’s and Gilberds’ totals came with the French River Rapids and the Powassan Voodoos respectively.
Veteran sniper Wayne Mathieu (48, 9-19-28, 30), who struggled to find the back of the net early in the season, was much better in the second half and Stewart Parnell (27, 9-11-20, 14), who missed more than half of the season with an upper-body injury, is finally healthy.
Head-to-head, four members of the Lumberjacks — Griffioen (6-3-9), Golant (4-3-7), Reuben (3-4-7) and Bourdages (3-3-6) — accounted for 16 of the 25 goals their team scored against the Rock in their eight meetings.
Conversely, Mathieu (3-3-6), Bradburn (3-3-6), Alexandre Brisson (4-0-4) and Seguin (3 -0-3) represent 13 of the 17 goals the Rock scored against the Lumberjacks this season.
Of concern, of course, is the fact Brisson is now a member of the Huntsville Otters, of the PJCHL.
Brisson (18, 4-12-16, 14) averaged almost a point a game with the Otters following his Nov. 22 trade and he has been even hotter in the playoffs (7, 6-6-12, 8) with his new squad.
When it comes to keeping the puck out of the net, the Rock duo of Eric Jackson (1,766:00, 10-15-2-2, 0, 2.99, .895) and Tyler Masternak (1,288:00, 8-10-1-1, 2, 2.98, .899) have been solid this season.
In Hearst, Matt Kustra (1,406:00, 7-14-1-1, 0, 4.18, .885) has established himself as the No. 1 puck stopper.
Rookie Nicholas Dube (1,019:00, 9-7-1-0, 0, 3.42, .892) has actually posted better numbers than Kustra and the Lumberjacks also have Jonathan Passarelli (129:00, 1-2-0-0, 0, 6.03, .849) and Nicolas Lemieux (0:00, 0-0-0-0, 0, 0.00, .000) on their roster, as well.
Artem Bortovskiy (712:00, 6-6-0-0, 2, 2.95, .906), who is no longer on the Lumberjacks’ roster, had the most success against the Rock this season.
Special teams can have a big impact on the outcome of any playoff series and the Lumberjacks appear to have a slight edge in this category, as well.
They scored 44 power-play goals in 301 opportunities for a 14.6% efficiency rating, which ranked them 10th out of the NOJHL’s 12 teams during the regular season.
The Rock, meanwhile, scored 43 power-play goals in 309 opportunities for a 13.9% efficiency rating, good for 11th place.
It should be noted, the Lumberjacks surrendered 18 shorthanded goals while they were on the power play this season, while the Rock were beaten just 11 times.
Another area where the Rock enjoyed an advantage was on the penalty kill, as their 83.5% efficiency rating ranked them sixth in the NOJHL.
They surrendered just 49 power-play goals in 297 shorthanded situations this season.
Meanwhile, the Lumberjacks 78.9% efficiency rating saw them ranked in ninth place.
In 298 shorthanded situations, they gave up 63 power-play goals this season.
The Lumberjacks did have an advantage when it came to shorthanded goals scored, with nine compared to the Rock’s seven.
Momentum can be another key factor heading into a playoff series, but neither the Lumberjacks nor the Rock were exactly firing on all cylinders in the regular season’s final few weeks.
The Lumberjacks enter the playoffs riding a two-game losing streak and sporting a record of 4-6-0-0 in their past 10 games.
Meanwhile, the Rock also enter post-season play on a two-game losing skid and they went 2-7-0-1 in their final 10 games.