Timmins Rock forward Connor Hoffmann sends a pass over the stick of French River Rapids defenceman Connor Loft during the third period of Saturday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. The Rock overcame a two-goal deficit to defeat the Rapids 5-3 and earn three of a possible four points during the weekend. With the victory the Rock were able to avenge the 3-1 loss they suffered at the hands of the Rapids during their home opener back on Sept. 8, while French River lost all three games of its weekend road trip through the North. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock overcame a two-goal deficit to hand the French River Rapids their third-straight defeat Saturday night at the McIntyre Arena.
And in the process of nailing down the 5-3 victory, the Rock exacted a little revenge for the 3-1 setback they suffered at the hands of French River during the home opener back on Sept. 8.
Early on, however, fans were feeling a sense of déjà vu, as the Rapids jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by defenceman Connor Loft and Christian Gaudreau.
During their Sept. 8 visit, the Rapids jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead, chasing starting goalie Brendan Bishop, but this time around the Rock goalie shut the door on French River.
And everything changed in the span of one shift, as the line of Alexandre Brisson, Stewart Parnell and affiliate player Austin Holmes struck for a pair of goals 11 seconds apart.
Holmes got the puck rolling when he notched his first NOJHL goal at the 14:12 mark and Brisson followed with his third of the season to tie things up at 2-2 heading into the first intermission.
In addition to netting his first goal in his first NOJHL game, Holmes also picked up an assist for a two-point night, as did Brisson.
“Even though we were down two goals before that shift, we just kept working hard and it paid off,” Brisson said.
“It was just simple hockey. Work hard and you get rewarded.”
Brisson was impressed with Holmes’ contribution to the line and how he netted his first NOJHL goal.
“It was a set play and he was at the right place at the right time,” he said.
“He was open, made himself available, and I got the puck to him. He did his job and put the puck in the net. He may be an AP, but he played like has been in the league for a while.”
With the two points he picked up Saturday night, Brisson (8, 3-5-8, 4) now leads all Rock scorers this season.
After losing the home opener to the Rapids back on Sept. 8, Brisson knew hard work was going to be the key to beating them Saturday night.
“We knew they were going to put up a fight,” he said.
“You have to give it to them for putting up such a tough fight. They didn’t roll over at all.”
After a scoreless second period, Timmins native Jordan Picard scored a power-play marker, his fifth goal of the season to put the Rapids back in front 3-2 at the 1:23 mark of the third period.
The Rock were able to get back on even terms just over five minutes later, however, as defenceman Shawn Sloan scored his first goal in a Rock uniform.
Fellow blue-liner Grant McClellan then notched what would prove to be the game-winning goal, his first of the season, one minute later to give the Rock their first lead of the game, 4-3.
Derek Seguin provided the home side with a little insurance with 15 seconds remaining on the clock as his notched his fourth goal of the season to make the final 5-3.
Rock coach Corey Beer was happy see his squad defeat the Rapids and finish the weekend with three of a possible four points.
“The line of Parnell, Brisson and Holmes did some damage pretty quick on that one shift,” he said.
“I liked their energy all night. They gave us the spark we were looking for with some good, hard-nosed hockey, first on the forecheck and then winning loose puck battles. That was very big for us.”
Coincidentally, fans attending Saturday night’s Rock game were given a Brisson hockey card prior to the contest and he autographed them following its conclusion.
“Maybe next game we should have everybody’s card on display and get a whole team effort,” Beer joked.
He was impressed with his squad’s work ethic Saturday night.
“In a true teaching moment from last (Friday) night, you look at the Kirkland Lake team that didn’t give up and kept coming back on us,” Beer said.
“I think our guys learned from that and they understood it is a 60-minute game. It is not comprised of 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there. Credit to our guys for battling through and I thought Bishop made some great saves for us down the stretch to give us every chance to win.
“He wanted to have a better effort and he was full marks for the victory tonight. You couldn’t ask for a better performance from him.”
The coach was impressed with the effort put forth by a number of players wearing the Rock maroon, gold and white.
“Holmes and Frederic Leclair-Pouw played very solid games for us tonight and did their jobs,” Beer said.
“We hope that when we bring those guys up they are able to carry that experience back with them to the Timmins Majors and help that squad.
“I was definitely impressed with Grant McClellan and James Redmond tonight, as well. I thought they were really stable on the back end. Lucas Dolanjski played a bit better game, as well.
“Up front, you look at Derek Seguin and the stuff he can do defensively now and his offensively a very special player.
“Bits and parts of our lines were going at times and it will be nice once we get everyone rolling here.”
One of the things the Rock did especially well Saturday night was block shots.
“We had a really good video session this morning,” Beer said.
“It was a priority for us tonight, especially on the penalty kill, to get in the shooting lanes and deter those shots. If guys want to shoot the puck through us, so be it. We will be there and I thought our guys did a great job getting in the lanes and taking away Grade A opportunities.”
After picking up three of a possible four points on the weekend, the Rock (3-4-0-1) have moved up to fifth spot in the NOJHL’s East Division standings.
“You can look back on the weekend and say we should have had all four points, but we will take those three points and run with them,” Beer said.
Almost as important, is the fact the Rock were able to score nine goals in those two contests after being shutout in three of the previous four games.
“I think our guys did a great job of sticking to our systems these last two nights,” Beer said.
“We have a certain way we want to generate offence and it was nice to see our guys sticking to it and benefitting from those types of plays.”
Despite falling to 5-4-1-0 on the season, the Rapids remain in second place in the East Division standings, but coach Ken Strong is not a happy camper after his team lost all three games during its road trip through the North.
“It just comes down to plain discipline and hard work, sticking to the game plan, playing as a team and structure,” he said.
“Tonight, that team (the Rock) just out worked us. They worked hard and finished their checks. We just weren’t willing to put as much effort into it.”
Strong agreed the momentum in the game changed drastically in the duration of one shift.
“It came down to a couple of guys not doing their job,” he said.
“They think they can let everyone else do it while they watch and collect the points. You have to play smart, structured hockey for 60 minutes.”
Despite Saturday night’s setback, Strong was impressed by the effort put forth by some his Rapids players.
“We had a few players who really worked hard,” he said.
“You have got guys like Gaudreau and Levi Siau up front, (Marc-Andre) Quevillion and (Shaun) General, as well. Evan (Jacob) Romano worked hard on defence. All of our defence, (Dakota) Woods and Loft, played very well. They were very strong. Our goaltending was strong.
Strong is confident the Rapids will be able to regroup following this weekend’s lost road trip.
“We are going to have to make some personnel changes to fit my game plan,” he said.
“When the guys stick to the plan, you see the results, but now that we have strayed away from it, it is time to put this team back in proper form.”
Bishop turned aside 20 of the 23 shots he faced to pick up his first win for the Rock.
Rapids goalie Spencer Eschyshcyn blocked 25 of the 30 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Brisson, Gaudreau and McClellan … The Rock did not dress forwards Wayne Mathieu (serving a one-game suspension) and C.J. Bradburn (lower-body injury), as well as defencemen Jared Hester (serving a one-game suspension), Will Caston (upper-body injury) and James Watier (personal) … Leclair-Pouw, picked up his first NOJHL point (an assist) in his second game in a Rock uniform … The Rock were 0-5 on the power play, while the Rapids were 2-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 919 … Saturday night’s other action saw the Cochrane Crunch defeat the Voodoos 5-2 in Powassan, the Soo Thunderbirds double the Soo Eagles 4-2 in Sault Ste. Marie and the Elliot Lake Wildcats edge the Beavers 5-4 in Blind River … The Rock will return to action on Wednesday night when they will travel to Hearst for a game against the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Arena. The next home game for the Rock will be on Friday night when they host the Rayside-Balfour Canadians at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.