By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
BLIND RIVER – The Beavers withstood a furious third-period rally by the visiting Timmins Rock to post their fifth-straight victory Friday night at the Blind River Community Centre.
Trailing by three goals with 12-and-a-half minutes remaining in the contest, the Rock scored three goals but came up one short in a 7-6 loss.
The opening 20 minutes was all Beavers, as the home side outshot the visitors 18-10 and established a 4-l lead.
Yianni Liarakos got the puck rolling when he beat Rock starting goalie Matthew Nixon for his 12th goal of the season at the 5:15 mark.
Zak Lambrecht added his 14th goal of the season, a power-play marker, 10 minutes later to increase the Beavers’s lead to 2-0.
Defenceman Grant McClellan got the Rock on the scoresheet when he beat Aidan Doak with less than two-and-a-half minutes to play in the opening frame.
Any momentum the Rock may have gained from that goal was quickly dissipated, however, as Mark Bastianello scored his fifth goal of the season just 13 seconds later to put the Beavers in front 3-1.
Then, Steven Khull potted his third goal of the season with exactly one minute remaining on the clock to close out the scoring in the opening 20 minutes.
Dylan McMahon’s fifth goal of the season, midway through the second period, extended the Beavers’ advantage to 5-1.
An unassisted shorthanded goal by Alexandre Brisson, his 11th of the season, five minutes later cut the home side’s advantage to three goals.
Trailing 5-2 heading into the third period, the Rock got a goal from Cole Gilligan, his ninth of the season and fourth in the past four games, 15 seconds into the frame to cut the Beaver lead to a pair of goals.
Blind River struck for a pair of goals 43 seconds apart to pull in front 7-3, however.
Max Khull netted his eight of the season at the 3:19 mark, which resulted in Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne lifting Nixon in favour of affiliate backup goalie Dante Garito.
Then Cole Peck greeted the new puck stopper with his third goal of the campaign.
That cued the Rock’s desperate attempt to get back on even terms, as they went on to outshoot the Beavers 27-12 in the final 20 minutes.
Captain Jordan Rendle scored his 16th goal of the season on the power-play to pull the Rock to within three goals of the home side.
Cory Sprague added his 11th goal of the season just past the midway point in the period, at which point Gagne opted to return Nixon to the crease and recall Garito to the bench.
Then Wayne Mathieu added his 11th of the campaign with just under six minutes remaining in the contest.
That would prove to be as close as the Rock would come to tying things up, however, as Doak stood tall to backstop the Beavers to the victory. He finished the night with 46 saves.
Nixon, who turned aside 34 of the 40 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss for the Rock. Garito stopped three of the four shots he faced during his 7:42 in the Timmins net.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the contest were Doak, Sprague and Max Khull … Rock goalie Caleb Barris has quit hockey and left the team … The Rock went 1-5 on the power play, while the Beavers were 2-7 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Blind River Community Centre was 316 … Friday night’s other NOJHL action saw the Powassan Voodoos beat the Eskis 4-3 in overtime in Iroquois Falls, the Eagles edge the Soo Thunderbirds 3-2 in Sault, Mich., and the Rayside-Balfour Canadians double the Express 4-2 in Espanola … The Rock will continue their three-game weekend road trip in Sault, Mich., for a game against the Eagles Saturday night, before taking on the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie Sunday afternoon.