Phil Caron scored three goals and set up three others to help lead the Timmins Rock to a 9-4 win over the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon.
The offensive outburst came less than 24 hours after the Rock edged the Crunch 2-1 in overtime at the Tim Horton Event Centre in Cochrane Saturday night.
Sunday afternoon, the line of Caron — a converted blue-liner who has Major Junior experience in both the OHL and the QMJHL — Stewart Parnell and Karter Renouf was flying.
While Caron was known as an offensive defenceman during his time on the blue-line, his success up front is still a little bit surprising.
“I don’t think I have ever scored three goals in a game before,” he said.
“It is the first hat-trick for me, so it is pretty exciting. Maybe I did it back in my minor hockey days, but I don’t remember doing it.”
There are, of course, differences when it comes to playing forward as opposed to defence.
“I am taking it game by game,” he said.
“Skating is definitely the biggest difference, especially when you are on the rush. It is always intense skating, go, go, go. On defence, it is more calm, finesse plays where you are making good passes.
“Guys are coming at you when you are playing defence and you are angling them and stepping up.
“It’s lots of fun and it’s good to give the boys some energy. Our line was really clicking tonight. We work really hard for each other. We know where the other guys are out there on the ice, so it is really good to work with those guys.”
Rock assistant coach Marc Bisson, who coached Caron and his linemates when they were all with the NOBHL’s Timmins Eagles, views the experiment of moving the 2000-birth-year Timmins native up front as “an overwhelming success.”
“That would be a safe assumption,” he said.
“He has just bought in and he has all the tools. He is a great skater and great with the puck. He has a great shot.
“We kind of explored that option with him and he was totally open to it. He has been phenomenal playing on that line.”
Caron was not the only member of the line to be singled out by the assistant coach for a little extra praise.
“Stewie (Parnell) is so difficult to play against,” Bisson said.
“He is relentless on the forecheck, attacking the hands, attacking the stick, finishing checks.
“He does all of the little things you would expect and now he is mixing in some goals, which is great to see.”
The Caron, Parnell and Renouf line was front and centre as the Rock built up a 3-0 lead before the contest was more than seven-and-a-half minutes old.
Caron gave the home side an early lead when he netted his fourth goal of the season at the 1:49 mark.
Parnell then followed with an unassisted marker, his ninth goal of the campaign, five-and-a-half minutes later to double the advantage.
Then, just 12 seconds later, Tyler Schwindt added his eighth goal of the season to chase Lumberjacks starting goalie Liam Oxner from the Hearst net, with Noah Zeppa coming on for the visitors.
That move appeared to swing the momentum in favour of the visitors — at least temporarily — with Jake Desando scoring his 16th goal of the season three-and-a-half minutes later to cut the Lumberjacks deficit to 3-1 heading into the first intermission.
The second period saw the teams exchange goals twice, with blue-liner Josh Anderson potting his seventh goal of the season and Caron adding his second goal of the afternoon and fifth of the season for the Rock.
Spencer Silver, with his 10th goal of the campaign, and Jordyn Mughal, with his fourth goal of the season, replied for the Lumberjacks.
The Rock added a pair of goals in the first six minutes of the third period to increase their advantage to 7-3, with Caron completing his hat-trick by potting his sixth goal of the season and Parnell adding his second goal of the night and 10th of the campaign.
That outburst resulted in another goaltending switch for the Lumberjacks, with Oxner coming back into the Hearst net.
The Lumberjacks got one of those markers back just over a minute later, however, as David Gobeil struck for his ninth goal of the season.
That would be as close as the Lumberjacks would come to getting back on even terms, however, as the Rock added two more goals to put the contest away and make the final 9-4.
Captain Derek Seguin had the first of those two markers when he netted his 18th goal of the season and Schwindt followed with his second of the afternoon and ninth of the season.
Schwindt, better known for his tenacious checking, also caught the eye of the Rock assistant coach Sunday afternoon.
“Schwiny is one of our hardest workers,” Bisson said.
“One of the goals he scored today was directly a reflection of what he worked on in practice this week. We gave the guys a few extra minutes at the end of practice and he grabbed (Rock assistant coach) Sean (Lee) and asked him to pass him the puck where his position is, at the bumper on the power play.
“He worked on it, worked on it and shot probably 50 pucks and today when the opportunity came, he was ready for it.
“I am tremendously proud of Schwiny and his progression from August. The work he has put in has been great and it is nice to see him succeed. He is playing centre. He is playing the wing. He is playing the power play.”
Any coach would be happy to see his squad put up nine goals in a game, but as the assistant coach who focuses on the Rock goaltenders, he would have preferred to see a little more attention to detail in the defensive zone.
“I don’t think we allowed too many bad goals,” Bisson said.
“There were definitely some bad turnovers that created good opportunities for them and they are a skilled offensive team.
“The first goal, scored by Desando, you give him that opportunity and he goes post and in. Some of the best goalies in the world would not be able to stop those.
“We had some breakdowns in the defensive zone and turnovers. You give a team like Hearst that many chances and they are going to capitalize.
“Then, I think it was their third goal, the puck deflected in off a skate as it was being passed across the front of the net.”
The assistant coach realizes how key Sunday afternoon’s victory was the for the Rock given the struggles they have had against the Lumberjacks to this point in the season.
“The theme for us today was to find a way, find a way to get two points, especially at home,” Bisson said.
“We only have five regulation losses this season and four of them have come against the Lumberjacks. Hearst has been a bit of an Achilles Heal for us, if you will, and today the message was just let’s find a way, let’s block shots, let’s win face-offs, let’s win battles.”
Rock goalie Tyler Masternak stopped 23 of the 27 shots he faced to pick up his 14th win of the season.
Zeppa, who turned aside 10 of the 14 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss for the Lumberjacks, while Oxner made seven saves on 12 opportunities.
ROCK 2 CRUNCH 1 OT
Saturday night, Parnell’s eighth goal of the season with 26 seconds remaining in overtime proved to be the game-winner as the Rock got past the Crunch.
The Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead late in the first period of the contest, with Schwindt potting his seventh goal of the season.
Following a scoreless middle frame, the Crunch were able to get back on even terms and force overtime thanks to Tyson Moore’s fifth goal of the season midway through the third period.
Masternak blocked 28 of the 29 shots he faced to pick up his 13th win of the season, while Crunch goalie Zach Wickson — who stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced — was saddled with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of Sunday afternoon’s contest were Caron, Schwindt and Parnell, while Parnell, Masternak and Moore were honoured Saturday night … The Rock went 2-5 on the power play Sunday afternoon, while the Lumberjacks were 0-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon was 953 … Sunday’s other NOJHL action saw the Beavers double up the French River Rapids 4-2 in Blind River and the Canadians get past the Elliot Lake Wildcats 5-2 in Rayside-Balfour … The Rock will return to action on Friday night when they travel to Kirkland Lake for a game against the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex. The two sides will then play the second half of the home-and-home series Saturday night at the McIntyre Arena.