GALLERY: Clark nets winner, Rock top Crunch

Timmins Rock captain Derek Seguin, left, and blue-liner Evan Beaudry apply the brakes as the puck sails over the shoulder of Crunch goalie Michael Nickolau but over the crossbar, as well, during Wednesday night’s NOJHL game at the Tim Horton Event Centre in Cochrane. The Rock went on to defeat the Crunch 5-2 for their sixth victory in seven tries against the East Division rivals this season. The two sides will play their eighth game at the McIntyre Arena on Thursday, at 8:30 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

Harry Clark’s third-period goal, 1:20 after the Crunch had deadlocked the contest, help propel the Timmins Rock to a 5-2 victory at the Tim Horton Event Centre Wednesday night.

Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
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It was the sixth victory in seven tries for the Rock (15-4-0) in their 10-game set against their NOJHL East Division rival Crunch (4-12-2).

In the wake of three-straight one-side victories, the Rock looked sluggish at times and even though they outshot their hosts 22-7 in the opening frame they were only able to carve out a 2-1 advantage.

Rock assistant coach James Daschuk admitted his squad was nowhere near as sharp or efficient as it had been in those three previous contests.

“We didn’t have any jump tonight and we came out pretty flat,” he said.

“The last five minutes of the first period, we had a little bit of jump but for the most part we couldn’t seem to generate too much offence.

“There were a lot of rushes creating chances for those guys and that is really not our style of play.

“There were a lot of turnovers at both blue-lines and that is the worst place to turn the puck over.

“We kind of stopped chipping pucks in and were trying to make too many high-risk plays.”

The assistant coach agreed the Crunch did a solid job of clogging up the passing lanes and tightening up their gap control on defence.

“They kind of used I guess you could call it a trap,” Daschuk said.

“They have been playing it for most of the series but they seemed to wedge us to one side.

“We talked about how to counter that. We were supposed to go up the strong-side wall but we just kept throwing the puck cross ice.”

It was the Crunch who opened the scoring in the scoring in the contest, with Sebastien Ouimet beating Rock goalie Tyler Masternak just past the midway point in the frame for a power-play marker, his 10th goal of the season.

The Rock got back on even terms just under five minutes later courtesy of Riley Robitaille’s third goal of the season.

Blue-liner Felix Cadieux-Fredette then notched the first goal of his NOJHL career to put the Rock in front 2-1 heading into the first intermission.

A scoreless second period saw the Crunch outshoot the Rock 11-10, the first 20-minute advantage on the shot clock in the series for Cochrane.

Matteo Peca’s second goal of the season, 11 seconds past the midway point of the third period, deadlocked the score at 2-2.

That set the stage for Clark’s game-winning goal, his sixth tally of the campaign.

Zach Smith’s sixth goal of the season, less than two minutes later, doubled the Rock advantage to 4-2.

And Josh Dickson added a little icing on the cake when he deposited his 12th goal of the season into an empty Cochrane net with Michael Nickolau on the bench in favour of an extra attacker and 52 seconds remaining on the clock.

While the Rock did generate 50 shots on goal in the contest, Daschuk admitted many of them were not quality scoring opportunities.

“They were filling the shooting lanes and we weren’t really moving our feet on the back end,” he said.

“We were just shooting into them or shooting from the corners.”

The assistant coach was pleased with the way the Rock persevered in contest, finding a way to win when they were not playing their best hockey.

“They (the Crunch) had been working their butts off to tie it, so when we took the lead shortly after they tied it, it deflated them a little bit,” Daschuk said.

“We kind of sent the message we weren’t done yet. They might have tied it but we still had lots left in the tank.”

The assistant coach was once again impressed with the play of Clark, and not just because of his game-winning goal.

“You can’t say enough good things about Clarkie,” Daschuk said.

“He has been playing unbelievable and I think the key to his success is his consistency. He comes to play every night and he works hard.

“If you work hard every night, good things are going to happen. Even if your legs aren’t there that night, if you are still battling through it and you are able to generate a little bit, it will end up working out for you.

“I kind of gave him a hard time the last game. He missed an open net. So, it was good for him to get one tonight and it was the game-winner.”

Cadieux-Fredette also caught the assistant coach’s eye Wednesday night, for his effort in all three zones.

“He is another example of a guy you would take on your team any day,” Daschuk said.

“He doesn’t score many goals, but the intangibles he brings, like the shot blocking, things like that, he is just a great kid. He works hard all the time.

Nicolas Pigeon didn’t score any goals Wednesday night, but he did set up a pair of tallies.

“Pige is another character guy,” Daschuk said.

“Him and Freddie (Cadieux-Fredette) played on the same team last year. Peeves (general manager Kevin Peever) and Beersy (former coach Corey Beer) did a great job scouting those two guys, pretty much all on video (due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

“Pige was captain of his team last year, so we knew we were getting a leader and a character guy.

“He has got a little bit of a swagger to him and he is a hell of a player.”

One of Pigeon’s strengths is his ability to win face-offs, often against far more experienced players.

“He gets down there nice and low,” Daschuk said.

“His face-off stats are up there at the top of the league. We track our face-offs and I think last game at one point he was 15-4 (78.9 per cent) and that is a phenomenal statistic.

“That is unheard of. A good face-off guy wins 55 or 60 per cent and I would say he is well above that.

“He reminds me of a young (former Rock forward) Stewie Parnell.”

Masternak turned aside 22 of the 24 shots he faced to pick up his NOJHL-leading 11th win of the season.

Nickolau, who blocked 45 of the 49 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Pigeon, Cadieux-Fredette and Nickolau … The Crunch were without the services of forward Steven Klinck, who was serving the second game of a five-game suspension he picked up during Friday night’s contest … The Rock went 1-6 on the power play, while the Crunch were 1-7 with the man advantage … The Rock and the Crunch will play the eighth game of their 10-game set at the McIntyre Arena on Thursday, at 8:30 p.m.