Tyler Gilberds scored four goals to lead the Timmins Rock to a 9-1 win over the Red Wings at the Centennial Arena Sunday night.
ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. – The victory allowed the Rock (32-7-5-1) move into sole possession of top spot in the NOJHL’s East Division standings, two points ahead of the Lumberjacks (33-9-2-0), although Hearst has a game in hand.
Despite picking up three of a possible four points on the weekend, the Rock have dropped to No. 16, from No. 12, on this week’s Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 poll.
The Lumberjacks, meanwhile, have moved up to No. 12, from No. 16, while the West Division-leading Soo Thunderbirds inched up to No. 6, from No. 7, and the Powassan Voodoos, third in the East Division, received honourable mention.
Gilberds’ four-goal game helped him earn recognition as one of the Eastlink TV 3 Stars of the Week for the period ending March 20, along with former Rock forward Eric Barnard, of the Espanola Express, and Soo Eagles forward Carson Van Tighem.
Gilberds, in the final year of his Junior ‘A’ career noted it was the first time he has scored four goals at this level.
“It is something memorable, for sure,” he said.
“I don’t think I ever got four in minor hockey, either, definitely a couple of hat-tricks.
“So, this is definitely a first.”
Gilberds didn’t have any idea when he woke up Sunday morning that he was going to be in for a very special night on the ice.
“You kind of go into every game thinking it is just another battle, just kind of take care of business like we always do,” he said.
“It was just regular preparations, like any other day.”
Gilberds once again found himself playing on a line with Riley Brousseau and Dylan McElhinny Sunday night.
“We have been clicking a lot the last couple of games,” he said.
“We found each other really well tonight and had a lot of chances.”
Although the Rock outshot the Red Wings 16-9 in the opening 20 minutes, they led just 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
That advantage was gained on Justin Charette’s 11th goal of the season, at the 13:14 mark.
The flood gates opened up in the second period, as the Rock scored four-straight goals to pull in front 5-0.
Gilberds got the puck rolling when he scored the first of his four goals on the night and 13th of the season, a marker that would stand up to be the game-winner, just 17 seconds into the frame.
Six-and-a-half minutes later, he added a power-play marker, his second tally of the night and 14th goal of the season.
Harry Clark then added another power-play marker, his first of two goals on the night and sixth of the season.
Riley Brousseau then followed with his 18th goal of the season.
The Rock offensive outburst was temporarily interrupted when Alex Antoine netted a power-play marker for the Red Wings, his 15th goal of the season.
Gilberds then completed his hat-trick, netting his 15th goal of the season, to send the Rock to the dressing room for the second intermission holding a 6-1 lead.
Blue-liner Bode Dunford got in on the fun when he added a power-play marker, his ninth goal of the season, at the 7:16 mark of the third period.
Gilberds added his fourth goal of the night and 16th of the campaign just past the midway mark in the frame.
With half a period left, he admitted to having thoughts of maybe adding to his totals.
“When you have got two, you obviously have thoughts of a hat-trick in your mind, but you don’t do anything special to try and get that third goal,” Gilberds said.
“I was just playing loose after that third one and then found the net on the fourth one.
“Then, I had a couple of chances later in the third period, on the last couple of shifts.
“I probably could have gotten more, but obviously I am happy with what happened.”
Clark concluded the fireworks when he netted his second goal of the game and seventh of the season with just under three minutes remaining in the contest.
Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was, for the most part, pleased with what he saw from his squad Sunday night.
“It was a pretty solid effort, from start to finish, from the guys,” he said.
It was the first meeting of the season for the Rock and the West Division Red Wings.
“They are big and fast and physical,” Perry said.
“So, we just played our game, had good entries and played with a ton of speed and skill, got the puck moving north as much as possible to avoid letting them run us while we were setting up in our own zone.
“We played with a ton of pace and a ton of skill.”
As one might expect, given the final score, there were a number of Rock players who impressed their coach Sunday night.
“I thought our starting goalie (Gavin McCarthy) was really sharp,” Perry said.
“Tyler Gilberds ended the night with four goals, so it was nice to see him get going. It is a little easier to score goals when you are not in the penalty box.
“We had (affiliate player) Bradley Moore in from the Majors and he got an assist on the first goal, kind of got us rolling.
“Justin Charette got another goal. That’s back-to-back games for him.
“Our D corps was solid all night, moving the puck and it was just a good team effort, really clean and fast.”
The only negative for the Rock Sunday night was the upper-body injury suffered by veteran blue-liner Tanner Hamilton.
“We think we have lost him for the remainder of the year,” Perry said.
“We don’t know exactly how bad it is right now. He is at the hospital.
“It is absolutely heart-breaking, to be honest. He is in his last season and right before the playoffs …”
McCarthy stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced to earn his NOJHL-leading 22nd win of the season.
Red Wings starting goalie Colton Donaldson, who turned aside 30 of the 36 shots the Rock directed his way during the first two periods of play, was tagged with the loss.
Ryder Gregga, who came on in relief at the start of the third period, blocked 14 of the 17 shots he faced.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game Sunday night were Gilberds (four goals, one assist), Brousseau (one goal, two assists) and Clark (two goals), while Palfi, McCarthy and Ford were honoured Friday night … The Rock went 3-5 on the power play Sunday night, while the Red Wings were 1-2 with the man advantage. Friday night, the Rock went 0-4 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 0-3 with the man advantage … Sunday’s other action saw the Express double up the Greater Sudbury Cubs 8-4 in Espanola and the Soo Thunderbirds edge the Beavers 4-3 in overtime in Blind River … The Rock will return to action on Thursday when they host the Red Wings at the McIntyre Arena, at 7 p.m.
Photos: Northern Exposures