By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Might it be time for the Timmins Rock to contact the NOJHL head office to have all Friday night games stricken from their 2015-16 season?
A few more results like Friday night’s 7-1 exhibition setback at the hands of the visiting Rayside-Balfour Canadians at the McIntyre Arena might have Rock president Scott Marshall and coach and general manager Paul Gagne giving the matter some serious consideration.
This week’s one-sided defeat follows an 8-2 loss to the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake seven days earlier.
Unlike that game, however, the Rock actual got off to a decent start against the Canadians, trailing just 2-1 after the first period of play, but the wheels fell off the bus in the second period.
“We got behind the eight ball right away and the compete level just wasn’t there,” Gagne said.
“We had too many individual mistakes and they wound up costing us the first three goals. The next thing you know, it’s hard to get back into it.”
Makenzie MacMillan got the ball rolling for the visitors when he scored just 1:21 into the hockey game.
The Rock responded just over 10 minutes later, as Jordan Rendle beat Canadians goalie Jessie Morin.
Any momentum the home side might have gotten from that goal quickly evaporated, however, as Dan Lepage scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal 39 seconds later.
“Going into the second period, the effort was there but it was all individual stuff,” Gagne said.
“We were not getting anywhere. You can’t blame the whole team because it was a couple of individual mistakes and they cost us. It’s a situation that happens but you don’t want it to happen.
“We tried to correct it in the third period, but it was no better. It was a dog day, seriously.”
Three-straight second-period Rayside-Balfour goals saw the visitors head to the dressing room with a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Owen Fransen beat Rock starting goalie Logan Ferrington at the 3:50 mark of the second period to extend the Canadians’ lead to 3-1 and that seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the home side.
Jackson Gunner netted a power-play goal less than five minutes later to extend the Rayside-Balfour advantage to 4-1 and New Liskeard native Cayse Ton scored the first of his two goals on the night 46 seconds later to totally shake the confidence of the Rock.
“They were just relentless,” Gagne said.
“They went hard at us, hard at us, hard at us and we didn’t respond at all. We had some great effort but not competing as a team, just working as individuals.
“Sluggish is another word you could use to describe our play tonight. In practice, I thought we had looked sharp and we were working hard but then you get into game situations and we looked sluggish.”
With his team trailing 5-1 heading into the third period, Gagne elected to rest Ferrington, who was not as sharpe as he had been during the team’s first two exhibition games against the Gold Miners.
Newcomer Jack Stockdale held the Canadians at bay until the 11:12 mark of the final frame, when Ton netted his second goal of the game.
Defenceman Yanic Hebert, a Hearst native, rounded out the scoring just over two minutes later when he netted a power-play goal.
Gagne had an opportunity to see of his players three — Stockdale, Zachary Kercz and Bain Cunningham — get into their first action of the exhibition schedule Friday night.
“Cunningham was limited because he was playing on the fourth line, so he didn’t get that much ice time, but I was impressed with him,” Gagne said.
“You could tell that Kercz is going to put lots on the table and another player I was impressed with tonight was (Tyler) Planetta. Every time he was on the ice, he was taking the body and he is only 17 years old. He did his assignments and he worked hard. They impressed us.
“We put him and Cunningham on the third line for the third period and they worked really hard.”
Far from the biggest player on the Rock, Wayne Mathieu tangled with one of the biggest players on the Canadians, defenceman Ned Simpson, in the third period.
“Wayne competes every game, every shift,” Gagne said.
“He is on the puck all the time. He gets in your face. He won’t back down. The guys look at that and it is a bit of a wake-up call for them, too, when they see him work so hard.”
Canadians coach Jason Young was, for the most part, happy with his team’s effort Friday night.
“We didn’t die at the end of the game and I was pretty sure we were going to have a let down going into the second and the third,” he said.
“This is our first game and we have been skating the guys pretty hard.
“Some of our young kids surprised me. MacMillan is a young kid. He is still midget age and I thought he played great out there today. He has lots of speed.
“Owen Fransen, that line with Danny Lepage, they really played well and I was happy with our D, besides the eight penalties they took out of the 12 we got.
“We were short staffed back there. Most of the time, we just had four (defencemen) because of the penalties.
“I thought Jessie Morin was fantastic in net. He made some big saves when the score was tight.”
The coach was also impressed with another New Liskeard product.
“Cayse Ton was fantastic,” Young said.
“He scored a couple of goals tonight and that is what he does. He has a knack for the net and that is why we got him. He is still young but he is going to be going to an OHL camp this week, so that is going to be a great experience for him.
“I liked a lot of guys tonight. A lot of guys showed me some stuff, like young Raymond (Mattawashish) and Conor Brown. I thought they played well for guys playing in their first junior game.”
As well as his team played, Young was not about to start planning any Dudley Hewitt Cup parades just yet, however.
“It was a 7-1 hockey game, but it was just exhibition,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean anything. It is just another game to get acclimatized for the start of the season.”
Morin went the distance in goal for the Canadians to register the victory, while Ferrington was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES — Defenceman Tyler Somers (upper body) and forward Cole Gilligan (lower body) missed Friday night’s game due to injury … Defenceman Darcy Robinson was a healthy scratch … Elsewhere in the NOJHL Friday night, the Gold Miners blanked the Iroquois Falls Eskimos 6-0 in Kirkland Lake.