By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock rolled over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and into a tie for second place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings Tuesday night at the McIntyre Arena.
The home side scored early and often en route to a 9-2 win over the Gold Miners for their fourth-straight victory.
With the win, the Rock (15-4-0-0) and the Cochrane Crunch (13-3-3-1) now each have 30 points and trail the East Division-leading Powassan Voodoos (16-3-1-0) by three points. The Rock have a game in hand on both the Crunch and the Voodoos.
Rock assistant coach James Daschuk was all smiles following his club’s latest one-sided victory.
“It seems like we have gotten better and better the last four games,” he said.
“Our first period tonight was by far our best first period of the season. We suffocated them in deep in their zone. It almost seemed like the whole period we were playing in their zone.
“They really didn’t have an answer for our forecheck tonight.
“I know it is starting to sound like a broken record, but once again our third line started the game for us and they got the puck rolling with a quick goal on the first shift. What more can you ask for?”
It took Alexandre Brisson just 23 seconds to get the Rock on the scoresheet, as he beat Gold Miners starting goalie Victor-Olivier Courchesne for his ninth goal of the season.
The Gold Miners managed to get back on even terms just under seven minutes into the first period when Matthew Brassard scored his seven goal of the season, a shorthanded marker.
The Rock regained the lead, however, before the power play expired, as Tyler Romain scored his 16th goal of the season 44 seconds later.
Jordan Rendle added his 15th goal of the season just over a minute later to put the Rock in front 3-1.
That’s the way the first period ended, but the Rock kept the puck rolling in the middle frame.
Bain Cunningham netted a pair of goals — his sixth and seventh of the season — in the first seven minutes of the period to increase the Rock advantage to 5-1.
The Gold Miners netted their second shorthanded goal of the night just past the midway point of the frame, as William Mizuik netted his eighth marker of the season.
The third period was all Rock, however, as the home side struck for four goals in the final seven minutes of the contest.
Cole Gilligan’s eighth goal of the season and third in as many games increased the lead to 6-2.
Cory Sprague added his 10th goal of the season 20 seconds later to increase the advantage to five goals.
It took Nicholas Hway just 28 seconds to add his second goal of the season.
That spelled the end of Couchesne’s night, as he was lifted in favour of Jeffrey Veitch with 5:58 remaining in the third period.
It did not make much difference, however, as Brisson netted his second goal of the night and 10th of the season, an unassisted shorthanded marker, with 35 seconds remaining in the contest to make the final 9-2.
Daschuk noted the Rock did not even skip a beat when the Gold Miners battled back to tie things up at 1-1 in the first period.
“We are playing with a lot of confidence right now and we have scored a lot of goals lately,” he said.
“So, when the game was tied early, we were fairly confident we were going to be able to pot a couple of goals. We didn’t let it get to us. It was no big deal.”
The assistant coach was happy to see the Rock continue to get scoring from all four lines again Tuesday night.
“Good teams have depth,” Daschuk said.
“Hway has got goals in two-straight games and Gilly (Gilligan) Stewie (Stewart Parnell) and Brisser (Brisson) on that third line have been scoring. That just helps with the confidence.
“Brisser is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. He just loves to lay the body and loves to hit. He plays his role very well. He kills penalties and he was all over the ice tonight. He was great on the forecheck and good things happen for guys who work hard. The guys inside our four walls know what he brings to our team.”
The only negative aspects to Tuesday night’s victory were the two shorthanded goals the Rock surrendered and a number of undisciplined penalties that gave the Gold Miners opportunities to get back into the hockey game.
“Giving up two shorthanded goals is definitely disappointing,” Daschuk said.
“One went off a stick and it was a bad bounce and the other one was on a two-on-one. Things like that happen.”
Defenceman Patrick Gazich, playing in his fifth game in a Rock uniform, picked up three assists in the contest to raise his point total to seven on the season.
“I think right now our D corps is probably playing better than anyone else in the league,” he said.
“We are all pitching in offensively and defensively, we are not allowing many goals or chances.
“We have been playing great as a D corps and we have to keep it up.
“There are going to be a big six points up for grabs on the road this weekend. We are just going to have to get comfortable in our surroundings and come out and play hard for the first five minutes of the games.
“Get in a few hits and a few goals maybe and get started on the right foot.”
Gazich feels the Rock will be able to build upon the success they have had during the past four games when they head out on the road this weekend.
“We are putting up eight or nine goals a game and everyone is pitching in,” he said.
“Everyone is doing their job and we are really clicking as a team. If we can play like this for the rest of the season and into the playoffs, I think we can do a lot of damage.”
Matthew Nixon stopped 36 of the 38 shots he faced to pick up the victory for the Rock.
Courchesne, who turned aside 27 of the 35 shots the Rock fired his way, was tagged with the loss for the Gold Miners. Veitch blocked two of the three shots directed his way.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Brisson, Cunningham and Gazich … Rock forward Jacob Shankar was ejected from the game after he received a five-minute major for slew footing late in the second period … Rock forward Tyler Planeta and Gold Miners forward Kelsey Katchuik were also tossed after receiving five-minute majors for fighting and game misconducts … The Rock went 1-7 on the power-play, while the Gold Miners were 0-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 786 … The Rock will return to action Friday night when they travel to Blind River for a game against the Beavers during a three-game road trip that will also see them makes stops in Sault, Mich., Saturday night for a game against the Eagles and Sault Ste. Marie for a game against the Thunderbirds Sunday afternoon.