By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
COCHRANE – The Crunch turned in a workman-like effort to dominate a listless Timmins Rock squad 8-2 at the Tim Horton Event Centre Tuesday night.
The Rock had no answer for Cochrane’s No. 2 line of Dustin Cordeiro, Aviv Milner and Brenden Van Sweden that accounted for five of the home side’s eight goals.
“We just used our speed really well tonight,” Cordeiro said.
“We went wide a lot.”
The Crunch’s No. 2 line also adjusted its approach to the game Tuesday night.
“We are not usually a hitting line, but today we decided to forecheck, hit hard and it opened up a lot of space for us,” Cordeiro said.
“They really didn’t want to play with us today, so we just took advantage of it and finished out shots.”
The rivalry between the Rock and the Crunch, which dates back to last season when the Rock were known as the Abitibi Eskimos and maybe even one season further when the Crunch were known as the Elliot Lake Bobcats was a little one-sided Tuesday night.
“We started off a little slow, but Younger (goalie Brett Young) kept us in there for the first little bit, but after we just went in and we battled hard,” Cordeiro said.
Cordeiro, playing his fourth season in the NOJHL, is well versed in the rivalry between his squad and the visitors and knows the two teams could be headed for a playoff matchup again this year.
“I have played against them two times in the first round, so I know it is hugely important for us make sure they are going to be a little bit scared to come in and face us,” he said.
“We started off slow against them this year, but we have been getting better and better against them.”
The two teams will have one more regular-season meeting — Wednesday, Feb. 24, at the McIntyre Arena — before the playoffs begin.
The two sides exchanged goals 36 seconds apart midway through the first period, with Milner’s 13th goal of the season putting the home side up 1-0 and Tristan Salesse’s 28th goal of the season tying things up at 1-1 for the Rock.
The Crunch struck for a pair of goals late in the first period and the Rock never seemed to recover.
Hunter Atchison’s 46th goal of the season gave the home side a 2-1 lead with just 2:25 remaining in the first period and then Jon Marzec netted his 21st goal of the season 51 seconds later to give the Crunch a two-goal advantage heading into the first intermission.
Cordeiro’s 36th goal of the season, just 1:58 into the second period, kept the Rock reeling and made it a 4-1 hockey game.
Even when Rock defenceman Jared Hester scored his seventh goal of the season three minutes later, it didn’t provide the visitors with much momentum.
Cordeiro’s second goal of the game and 37th on the season increased the Crunch advantage to 5-2 prior to the end of the middle frame.
The Rock could not generate any offence at all in the third period and the Crunch turned the game into a laugher with three unanswered goals.
Milner got the puck rolling when he potted second goal of the night and 14th of the season midway through the final frame.
Cordeiro completed his hat-trick when he netted his 38thgoal of the season less than five minutes later and then John Stevenson added insult to injury when he barged his way to the front of the Rock net, bulled over Timmins goalie Logan Ferrington who then knocked the puck into his own net as he was falling backwards, with the determined Crunch forward getting credit for his 25th goal of the season.
Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard was pleased with the outcome of Tuesday night’s contest.
“I am happy,” he said.
“The guys did a great job. We kept a lot of their shots to the outside and there weren’t a lot of rebounds tonight. Timmins was shooting the puck from everywhere, blue-lines, top of the circles, but we didn’t give them a lot of odd-man rushes until there were about 10 minutes left in the third.
“We tried out a new system tonight and for the majority of the third period we clogged up the middle pretty good. We kept dumping pucks in and they ended up icing the puck 11 times in that period. With a 5-2 lead, we had a chance to work on some defensive systems.
“It was a good bounce back game after the game we had against Elliot Lake (a 6-3 loss). I am happy the guys had fun tonight. We were flying and our transition game was back to where it was last year.”
The Crunch, who have had one of the busiest schedules in January and early February, will now have an opportunity to catch their breath.
“We have played 13 games in the last three-and-a-half weeks,” Leonard said.
“That’s a lot of hockey, so we will let the boys rest and relax a bit.”
Rock assistant coach James Daschuk was at a loss to explain how his team gave up eight goals to the Crunch Tuesday night after dropping a 10-7 decision during their previous visit to the Tim Horton Event Centre.
“I don’t think we were ever in this game at any point,” he said.
“We were down, but I didn’t think we were out of it, but as weird as it might sound, I don’t think we were in it either. We never made it close enough. We never had that little jump.
“We were making way too many mistakes in our own zone. Defensively, we were just terrible tonight. We came in here against a high-scoring team like Cochrane and we just didn’t care about our defensive play whatsoever.
“They were all over us and it was just mistake after mistake.”
Could it be the Rock — after playing and winning three-straight games against big, physical teams — took the Crunch too lightly?
“If that is what happened, we went wrong somewhere,” Daschuk said.
“If we think for one minute it’s OK to let down against these guys just because we think they don’t hit as much as those other teams … if that’s the case, we have some real problems. In junior hockey, you should never take anybody for granted.
“Cochrane put up 10 goals the last time we were here. If we think we can let down on these guys, we are kidding ourselves. I don’t think we took anything for granted. I don’t think we thought they were softer. They certainly showed the last couple of games, they are not softer, that’s for sure.
“We looked 10 times softer than we have been playing. We were very soft. We didn’t finish checks.
“I am going to reiterate it again, our defensive coverage was terrible. We have played them nine times now and we have told the players every time the game plan is to shut down the middle, shut down the middle, shut down the middle.
“Tonight, they had two or three breakaways of guys going up the middle.
“The game plan was there and we knew what we had to do and we just refused to do it. We gave their best guys — Cordeiro and Atchison — breakaways. How do we not know where those guys are on the ice? That’s completely unacceptable.”
Daschuk knows the Rock will need to be much better if they eventually meet the Crunch in the playoffs.
“We have given up 18 goals in the last two games against these guys,” he said.
“I am not exactly sure where we are going wrong, but if there is a chance we might play these guys in the playoffs, we better pull our socks up. I don’t know if it is psychological or what, but we don’t seem to show up against them.”
Young turned aside 46 of the 48 shots he faced to earn the victory, while Ferrington made 32 saves and was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Cordeiro, who had a pair of assists to go along with his three goals, Atchison and Crunch defenceman Connor Lovie, who had three assists in the contest … Official attendance at the Tim Horton Event Centre was 358 … The Rock went 0-2 on the power play, while the Crunch were 2-3 with the man advantage … Rock forward Jordan Rendle and Crunch forward Seamus Maguire, two players better known for their offensive talents, were ejected from the game midway through the second period after receiving five-minute majors for fighting and game misconducts … The Rock will return to action on Saturday night when they host the Iroquois Falls Eskis at the McIntyre Arena in the first half of a home-and-home series that will see them take to the ice for the second half at the Jus Jordan Arena Monday night … The Crunch will be back on the ice Sunday night when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Tim Horton Event Centre. That game will now start at 7 p.m., not 6 p.m. as had been originally scheduled.