By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
SUDBURY – A visit to the Chelmsford Arena Saturday night turned into a Halloween horror show for the Timmins Rock.
One night after a workmanlike 5-1 win over the Express in Espanola, the Rock were ambushed by the Rayside-Balfour Canadians and found themselves trailing 5-0 before the first period was 16 minutes old.
Otis Goldman, playing his first game in a Canadians uniform, provided plenty of treats for the sparse crowd of Rayside-Balfour fans by scoring the game’s first two goals and adding a pair of assists.
The Canadians acquired the 20-year-old North Vancouver native from the Whitby Fury, of the OJHL, on Thursday.
It took the 5-10, 172-pound forward just 33 seconds to make an impact for his new squad as his first goal put the home side up 1-0.
Goldman struck again just over three minutes later when he beat Rock goalie Matthew Nixon for his second goal of the season.
The two goals were the first of 2015-16 for Goldman who failed to find the back of the net with the Fury (5, 0-0-0, 0) or the Stouffville Spirit (7, 0-3-3, 2), of the OJHL, earlier this season.
Captain Ryan Erickson’s power-play goal midway through the first period increased the Canadians lead to 3-0.
And goals by Matthew Nault and Bradley Chenier, the eighth on the season for each, just over a minute apart later in the frame sent the home side into the first intermission enjoying a 5-0 advantage.
“The had some tricks up their sleeves, that’s for sure,” said Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“That was our worst period of the year, even counting the exhibition games. We just were just not ready on the ice. It was mistake after mistake and, obviously, goal after goal. Five mistakes in our defensive zone cost us five goals.”
The Rock were missing three of their Top 4 scorers — Tristan Salesse (14, 13-16-29, 4), Devin Panzeca (16, 11-9-20, 2) and Jordan Rendle (15, 10-9-19, 12) — Saturday night.
Salesse was serving the second game of the three-game suspension he picked up for arguing a call at the end of the Rock’s 5-4 last-second loss to the Powassan Voodoos on Oct. 24.
Rendle suffered a lower-body injury after scoring a goal in that contest and Panzeca suffered an upper-body injury in Friday night’s 5-1 win over the Express in Espanola.
“We had two-thirds of our second line (Rendle and Panzeca) not in the lineup and one-third of our first line,” Gagne said.
Timmins finally got on the scoreboard 1:40 into the second period when Bain Cunningham beat Canadians netminder MacKenzie Savard for his seven goal of the season.
The Canadians were able to get that one back less than two minutes later, however, as Kyle Fransen scored his eighth goal of the season to put the home side in front 6-1.
The Rock continued to battle back before the end of the second period, with Tyler Romain scoring his fourth goal of the season and Tyler Planetta his second goal of the campaign to cut the Canadians lead to 6-3 before the end of the second period.
Defenceman Joe Olson’s second goal in as many games, and on the season, pulled the Rock to within two goals less than two minutes into the third period.
That would be as close as the Rock would come to getting back on even terms though, as Brett Whitehead beat Nixon for his second goal of the season to close out the scoring and make the final 7-4 in favour of the Canadians.
Savard made 28 saves to earn the victory for the Canadians, while Nixon turned aside 46 of the 53 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss.
“We were able to come back and make it a 6-4 hockey game and you know a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey,” Gagne said.
“So, we thought we had a chance but obviously another mistake cost us the seventh goal and that was it. We are not pleased with that game, that’s for sure.”
Gagne was surprised to see the Rock get off to such a bad start against the Canadians Saturday night, given how well they had played against the Express Friday night.
“We had a good little routine going,” he said.
“When you are on the road like that, you have a nice little pregame meal, a nice little pregame nap, then we get to the rink and we have our meeting.
“But it seemed like we weren’t focused whatsoever Saturday night. I am not happy withe the way we played. You say that kids have to step up when other players are not in the lineup but during that first period Saturday night the players who were supposed to step up, didn’t.”
One player who did earn praise from the coach was veteran blue-liner Michael Rancourt, who moved up front to help fill the void created by the absence of three Rock forwards.
“He was one of our better players,” Gagne said.
“He was taking the body. He was forechecking. He was blocking shots. He was penalty killing. He did well and we were happy with the way he played.”
Friday night, the Timmins Rock capitalized on three power-play opportunities to stop the Express 5-1.
“It was the total opposite of Saturday night’s game,” Gagne said.
“We didn’t have any brain farts, even though we gave them quite a few shots in the first period from inside the house. We are not used to doing that and Nixon really held us in there in the first period.
“Then it was just a matter of time until we were able to get the puck in the net. We didn’t make any big mistakes Friday night.”
The Rock jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead and never looked back.
Zachary Kercz scored his 13th goal of the season, an unassisted marker, at the 3:08 mark of the opening frame to put the visitors in front.
Wayne Mathieu then netted his second goal of the season with just 58 seconds remaining in the period to send the Rock to the dressing room for the first intermission with a 2-0 advantage.
Devin Panzeca’s 11th goal of the season, scored on the power play, was the lone scoring play in the second period and the Rock headed into the final 20 minutes with a 3-0 lead.
Mitchal Payette’s first goal of the season, just 19 seconds into the third period, got the Express on the scoreboard and ruined Nixon’s bid for his first NOJHL shutout of the season.
Cole Gilligan’s first goal of the season, scored on the power play with just under five minutes to play in the game, restored the Rock’s three-goal advantage.
Olson’s first goal of the season, also scored on the power play, less than two minutes later made the final score 5-1 in favour of the Rock.
Gagne felt Friday night’s victory was a complete team effort.
“When you win like that everybody has a role and everybody does their job,” he said.
“Everyone was really in tune with the game. We didn’t take any stupid penalties. We were all totally focused.”
Nixon made 35 saves to record the win for the Rock, while Express goalie Aaron Callan turned aside 29 Timmins shots and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock went 1-7 on the power play Saturday night, while the Canadians were 1-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance was 111 … Saturday night’s other NOJHL games saw the Iroquois Falls Eskis beat the Beavers 6-1 in Blind River and the Soo Thunderbirds blank the visiting Elliot Lake Wildcats 6-0 … The Rock’s will travel to Kirkland Lake for a game with the Gold Miners Thursday night and then return home to host the Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.