Timmins Rock goalie Patrick Boivin lunges across his crease to be prepared to top a shot, but blue-liner Felix Cadieux-Fredette was able to tie up Ottawa Jr. Senators forward Anton Sorensen during this play in Wednesday afternoon’s 2023 Centennial Cup contest at Stride Place in Portage la Prairie, Man. The Rock went on to post a 2-1 shootout victory over the Jr. Senators, but it was not enough to earn them a berth into Friday’s quarterfinals. ERICA PERREAUX/HOCKEY CANADA IMAGES jpg, TD, apsmc
Photos: Erica Perreaux / Hockey Canada Images
Patrick Boivin stopped all three shots he faced in a shootout to backstop the Timmins Rock to a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Jr. Senators at Stride Place Wednesday afternoon.
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE — Patrick Boivin stopped all three shots he faced in a shootout to backstop the Timmins Rock to a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Jr. Senators at Stride Place Wednesday afternoon.
Unfortunately, the victory was not enough to secure the NOJHL-champion Rock (2-2-0) a spot in the 2023 Centennial Cup quarterfinals.
Since both of their victories came in either overtime or a shootout and both of their losses were in regulation, they were only able to accumulate four points.
The two-time defending-champion Brooks Bandits, representing the AJHL, finished atop Group A, with a perfect 4-0-0 record — including a 9-0 win over the Rock on Monday.
Wednesday’s shootout loss allowed the Jr. Senators, champions of the CCHL, to pick up a single point and finish with a record of 2-1-1, good for six points and one of the other two playoff berths in Group A.
While the Rock technically moved into a tie with the LHJQ-champion Cobras de Terrebonne (1-1-1) in the Group A standings, they would need the MHL-champion Yarmouth Mariners (0-2-1) to beat them in regulation in their final preliminary round contest to remain tied for the final playoff berth.
Even if that were to happen, however, it would create a three-way tie and the first tie breaker is number of wins in regulation and both the Cobras and Mariners would have one, while the Rock would have none.
That is why the Rock pulled Boivin in the final minute of regulation Wednesday afternoon, with the game deadlocked at 1-1.
While the Rock were able to generate some pressure, they were unable to secure the go-ahead goal they so desperately needed.
Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry admitted it was frustrating for his squad to play so well in three of their four preliminary round contests and still not be able to advance.
“We went 2-2-0 after coming to this tournament and getting no respect from anybody and we are going home,” he said.
“That (securing a regulation victory) is what we came here for, we didn’t just come here to take part. We came here to play and compete for a national championship.
“If we wanted to secure a spot in the playoff round, we had to win in regulation. So, we went all in on it (including pulling their goalie with the game tied).”
During the 2023 Centennial Cup, the Rock became the first NOJHL team to win a game since 2012 when the national championship tournament was called the RBC Cup.
The most recent NOJHL victory had come on May 10, 2012, when the Soo Thunderbids (2-2-0) defeated the Woodstock Slammers 7-4, before dropping a 3-0 semifinal decision to the eventual champs, the Penticton Vees, the next day.
In 2015 and 2022, the Thunderbirds again represented the NOJHL, but went 0-4-0.
A slow start to Wednesday afternoon’s contest saw the Jr. Senators outshoot the Rock 15-4 in the opening period, although the game remained scoreless heading to the first intermission.
The Jr. Senators finally managed to solve Boivin, if only briefly, when Emile Villiard took a cross-crease pass, as Vincent Velocci slid the puck past Rock defender Felix Cadieux-Fredette, and fired the puck into the wide open Timmins net.
With desperation starting to set in, the Rock ramped up the intensity in the third period.
It appeared to pay off with about 14-and-a-half minutes remaining in regulation as they finally got a puck past Ottawa goalie Rorke Applebee.
The referees waived off the apparent goal immediately, however, ruling Rock forward Justin Charette had kicked the puck into the net.
Then, with 7:13 remaining in regulation, Rock forward Brady Harroun cut down the left wing, with a Jr. Senators defender draped all over him, but somehow managed to get a shot on goal, with the rebound popping out to Lucas Piekarczyk who drilled a wrist shot past Applebee to tie things up at 1-1.
After failing the secure the go-ahead goal in regulation that would have prolonged their tournament, the Rock produced two or three excellent opportunities in overtime but the game remained deadlocked heading to the shootout.
Boivin foiled the first Jr. Senators shooter, Anton Sorensen, setting the tone for what was to come.
Harry Clark, who scored goals in each of the Rock’s first two Centennial Cup contests, then slid the puck under Applebee for what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
The Jr. Senators second shooter, Massimo Gentile, also failed to beat Boivin.
That meant the Rock could win the contest if captain Nicolas Pigeon, their second shooter, could convert, but after making a nifty move, he rang his shot off the goal post to Applebee’s left.
It wouldn’t matter, however, as Boivin stymied the Jr. Senators third shooter, Wil Murphy, to secure the victory.
The Rock coach was once again impressed by what he saw from his goalie Wednesday afternoon.
“Patty was so incredible all week and it was kind of fitting how it ended,” Perry said.
“We started our (pre-) season off in Collingwood (at the Cottage Cup), trying to find ourselves, establish our identity and ended up getting a 1-0 shootout win over Navan (Grads), which is a CCHL team and Harry Clark scores the winner and Patty stops all three (shootout attempts).
“Then, here we are again, the last game of the season and we get a shootout win against a CCHL team and Clarkie scores the winner and Patty stops all three.
“He (Boivin) was outstanding all week and I am just super proud of all our guys, even though we weren’t able to move on. If you had told me we were going to go to the Centennial Cup and go 2-2-0 I would have taken it.
“The thing that makes me most proud of this group is the character, how good of people they are. Hockey is one thing, but 10 or 15 years down the road these kids are going to be good husbands, good fathers. They are just really good people.
“My heart’s really full, it’s really full.”
The coach was happy to see Harroun (assist) and Piekarczyk (goal) get on the scoresheet, as well.
“It weighs heavily on guys like that when they are not producing and they are counted on to produce,” Perry said.
“It gets in their heads and they get frustrated, but regardless of how Brady Harroun is playing, any time he is on the ice, he is a threat.
“We saw that today, with a big, strong power move, no quit on it. Then Piesy (Piekarczyk) follows up and bangs in the rebound. It was a really great play.”
After suffering somewhat of a meltdown defensively against the Bandits on Monday, the Rock were a lot stronger in the defensive zone Wednesday afternoon.
“We were playing against really good competition and we had to weather the storm and keep them outside the dots, then capitalize on our chances, which is what we did in three of the four games,” Perry said.
“We had confidence in our goaltender in even any dangerous ones (shots) that were getting through, he was stopping them.
“It was just a great team effort, our whole time here. The boys battled so hard, played their hearts out, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Perhaps the Rock can take some solace from the fact not many teams win their last game of the season without being able to hoist a championship trophy in the process.
“It was weird, because after the game everybody is in the room crying, but we just won a game,” Perry said.
“It is what it is, we are a proud group and we thought we were good enough to advance but we just came up short.”
Boivin stopped 36 of the 37 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, as well as all three in the shootout, to earn the victory.
Applebee, who turned aside 19 of the 20 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
CENTENNIAL CUP NOTES — The player of the game for the Rock was forward Nolan Ring, while Velocci was the recipient for the Jr. Senators … Both the Rock and the Jr. Senators went 0-3 on the power play … The Rock’s 2022-23 accomplishments will be recognized during a parade and public celebration on Friday, May 26, from 6-8:30 p.m.
“Game Highlights” – NOJHL YouTube Channel