VIDEO / GALLERY: GAME 4 – Red-hot Pool nets pair, Rock even NOJHL final

Timmins Rock blue-liner Brandon Rossetti and Soo Thunderbirds forward Justin Mauro race for a loose puck during Game 4 of the NOJHL best-of-seven final at the John Rhodes Community Centre Monday night. The Rock went on to defeat the Thunderbirds 7-4 and even the series at 2-2. Game 5 will be played at the McIntyre Arena on Wednesday, at 7 p.m. BOB DAVIES/FOR NOJHL NETWORK

Ethan Pool scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner, to help propel the Timmins Rock to a 7-4 win over the Thunderbirds at the John Rhodes Community Centre Monday night.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

SAULT STE. MARIE — Ethan Pool scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner, to help propel the Timmins Rock to a 7-4 win over the Thunderbirds at the John Rhodes Community Centre Monday night.

The victory deadlocked the NOJHL’s best-of-seven final at 2-2, with the teams heading back to the McIntyre Arena for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was pleased to see his squad “start (Game 4) on time” after a pair of lackluster efforts saw the Thunderbirds steal home ice away from the NOJHL’s regular-season champs.

“It was a big win for us,” he said.

“We got right to work tonight. It was nice, a different energy out of our group. We came out rolling.”

But even though the Rock outshot the Thunderbirds 13-4 in the opening period they were only up 1-0 heading into the first intermission.

That advantage was provided by captain Nicolas Pigeon’s fourth goal of the playoffs, at the 7:44 mark.

There was no lack of offence in the second period, with the teams combining for six goals.

Dharan Cap’s ninth goal of the playoffs tied things up for the Thunderbirds 5:18 into the middle frame.

It didn’t take the Rock long to pull back in front, however, as Pool’s first of two goals on the night and seventh of the season 36 seconds later gave the Rock a 2-1 lead.

Liam Wells added his second goal of the playoffs, trigger an explosion of goals in the period’s final four minutes.

Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria replied with his fourth goal of the playoffs cutting the home side’s deficit to 3-2.

Any momentum that tally might have provide was dissipated when the Rock struck for two goals in the period’s final minute.

Blue-liner Brandon Rossetti scored his second goal of the playoffs with 18 seconds remaining on the clock.

Pool then followed with his second goal of the night and eighth of the season, the eventual game-winner, 11 seconds later.

“For the first 40 minutes, our play was just … we were starting to look like the Rock again,” Perry said.

“We brought a ton of pressure and played with a ton of speed.”

Trailing the game 5-2 heading into the third period, the Thunderbirds pulled starting goalie Landon Miller, with Kolton Bourret coming on to take his place.

And the move seemed to provide the desire switch in momentum, as the Thunderbirds chipped away at the Rock advantage.

Affiliate player Callum McAuley netted his first goal of the playoffs at the 8:15 mark and blue-liner Tyler Boudreau followed with his third goal of the post season.

That would be as close as the Thunderbirds would come to getting back on even terms, however, as the Rock added two more goals with the Soo net empty and Bourret on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.

Brady Harroun’s eighth goal of the playoffs, with 52 seconds remaining in regulation provided the Rock with a little breathing room.

And Wells’ second goal of the game and third of the playoffs, with 28 seconds remaining on the clock closed out the scoring and iced the victory.

“The last 20 minutes, we kind of took our foot off the (gas) pedal a little bit, but there was no panic in our group tonight,” Perry said.

“The goals they got were just bad bounces that didn’t go our way. It wasn’t like we got outworked or made bad reads.

“You could just feel it, we were playing so well that goals like that didn’t bother us.

“The third period was a different story. I thought we took our foot off the gas (pedal), obviously, and it was getting a little scary there near the end.”

Perry wasn’t surprised to see the Thunderbirds continue to battle right to the end of Monday night’s contest.

“They are a great team and they are really, really well coached,” he said.

“They are structured, they are fast and they are tough, so we knew they were going to have a pushback at some point.

“It just happened to be in the third period and we were able to weather the storm.

“They are going to bring their best game on Wednesday. We need to get home, get rested and get prepared.”

The coach was once again pleased with what he saw from Pool, who has become a scoring machine in the playoffs, with eight goals in eight games after putting up just eight in 36 regular season games.

“It was a really nice tip on his fist one, a nice kick out on the entry, drove the middle of the ice and Slick (Nicholas Frederick) laid up a nice pass for him behind the D and he got a really nice tip on it, drove the net hard and there was a rebound sitting in the blue paint and he put it in,” Perry said.

“He has been playing so well and I am super happy for him.”

It was a breakout game of sorts for Wells, who had just one goal in 10 playoff contests heading into Monday night.

“It can weigh on players when they are not scoring but he has been playing great,” Perry said.

“Obviously, he is our most physical player. He brings a lot of energy that way, but he is also very skilled and very talented, so it was nice to see him get rewarded.”

The Rock welcomed Rossetti back to the lineup after he missed Game 3 due to a lower-body injury he suffered while crashing into the board feet first in Game 2 of the series.

“He was awesome, really, really good tonight,” Perry said.

“He is a game changer for us back there, an incredible defenceman who does so many things right.”

There was no shortage of players who impressed the Rock coach Monday night.

“We put (affiliate player) Thomas Beard into the lineup and he was great, gave us some really good minutes,” Perry said.

“Kaeden McArthur had a really good night, bumping bodies and competing.

“Justin Charette was solid, Ryno (Hayden Rynard) and all six of our D back there. Guys are battle through so much and they are banged up but they keep playing well.

“It was just a complete team effort.

“We put young Jacob Brown in (net) tonight and man, going into a game with that kind of pressure but he got the job done. That’s why he is such a highly touted prospect.

“Everybody who played tonight contributed and Nicolas Pigeon had a great game again. He plays well every night but he was able to find the back of the net.

“Up and down the lineup, you get the effort you get from Frederick every single night, but everybody chipped in tonight.”

Brown, making his first start in the finals, stopped 20 of the 24 shots he faced to earn his fifth win of the playoffs.

Miller, who turned aside 20 of the 25 shots the Rock directed his way in his 40 minutes between the pipes, was tagged with the loss.

Bourret stopped all six shots he faced in his 19 minutes of relief.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Pool, Wells and Pigeon … The Rock went 0-2 on the power play, while the Thunderbirds were 1-2 with the man advantage Rock forward Nolan Ring and Thunderbirds blue-liner Ranon Joseph served the third games of their four-game suspensions picked up for an incident in Game 1 of the series … Official attendance at the John Rhodes Community Centre was 322 … Game 5 of the series will be played at the McIntyre Arena on Wednesday, at 7 p.m.

“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel