By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – John Marzec’s goal with 2:51 remaining in the third period lifted the Cochrane Crunch to a 4-3 win and a sweep of their home-and-home series with the Timmins Rock Saturday night at the McIntyre Arena.
Marzec, who had two goals and an assist as the Crunch thumped the Rock 10-7 during the first game of the home-and-home series Friday night in Cochrane, broke down the right wing before firing a shot past Rock goalie Matthew Nixon for his 16th goal of the season.
“I was just looking at guys in front of the net and there was nothing really there, so I just decided to throw it on net and it trickled through I want to say his arm pit,” Marzec said.
“I got real lucky.”
Marzec’s line, with John Stevenson and Jeremy McNeil, had another big game against the Rock Saturday night.
“McNeil and I are just muckers and grinders and so is Stevenson,” Marzec said.
“We just go out there and work our hardest and things are bouncing our way. We are getting pucks and things are looking good. We have a lot of chemistry and all there is is positivity. It is just great working with those two guys.”
Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard was a lot happier with Saturday night’s game than he had been the previous night’s — even though he squad won both games.
“We gave them a little bit more time in our zone tonight, but if you noticed, we had all of our forwards back and we blocked a lot of shots,” he said.
“We didn’t let them get a lot of quality shots from in close. They took a lot of shots from the side circles and from the side boards, trying to jam the net, but we had everybody there tonight. We had the defence and the forwards down low and when you do that, you are not as offensively minded in regards to getting 60 shots a night.
“We had to play a tight one here because we were on the road and playing the second of our three games in three nights. We had to make sure we conserved our energy a bit. I thought the guys did a good job of playing the defensive system we had set up for tonight.
“We are an opportunistic team and we have been playing good hockey and good hockey teams find ways to win.”
The coach was again impressed with the play of Marzec.
“I thought he played really well again tonight,” Leonard said.
“I also thought tonight Connor Lovie and Taylor Armbruster stood out tonight as defencemen. They were big and strong back there, blocking shots, battling and getting hurt and getting hit.
“Last night, they were on the ice for six out of the seven goals against. As veterans, they both really stepped up their games tonight and proved that it was just an off night for them last night.”
Following Friday night’s victory, Leonard suggested goalie Brett Young would need to be much better Saturday night and the veteran goalie was up to the challenge.
“Brett Young stood tall when he was called upon,” he said.
“I think this would have been a 4-0 or a 4-1 hockey game if it wasn’t for our undisciplined penalties.
“We took two lazy penalties in the second period when we were up 2-0. We had all kinds of pressure and then they come down the ice and we took a lazy tripping penalty behind the net and then our guy continued to go after the whistle blew and another guy slap shots it home. You can’t do that stuff and it’s a five-on-three.
“We put ourselves in that situation and we gave them some life. They got one and then we got another one and (Evan) Akkerman took a high stick at centre ice that the ref didn’t call. Not a big deal, but he retaliates and goes after the guy and hammers him and gets a penalty and they scored again, giving them some more life.
“Three undisciplined penalties tonight cost us a game that could have been a 4-1 hockey game.”
Despite suffering a second-straight loss, Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was a lot happier with his team’s Saturday night, as well.
“On the scoresheet, we lost the game, absolutely, and it’s unfortunate, but the way we played tonight was a lot better,” he said.
“It was a tight checking game and we didn’t make the same mistakes we did last night. It was tight and everybody competed on our team. Everybody was on cue and it was good hockey. It was excellent. If continue playing like that, you are going to see winning hockey around here.
“I am proud of our guys to have come back and played the way we did. We outshot them. We outplayed them. We won more faceoffs. I was happy with the way we played.”
Gagne was impressed with the play of the line of Ryan Theriault, Andrew Green and Cole Gilligan, especially Theriault who played perhaps his best all-around game of the season Saturday night.
“He got involved tonight and there were a few times when he made some solid backchecking plays,” he said.
“He is catching on and understands the game a little bit better. He made a couple of nice checks. He had a couple of good shots on net. He really played well.
“We weren’t afraid to put that line on the ice. They played with a lot of confidence and they played against their second line, they played against their third line.
The Crunch jumped out to a 1-0 first-period lead on Tyler Minoletti’s 15th goal of the season.
McNeil netted his 13th goal of the season 48 seconds into the second period to increase the visitors’ advantage to two goals.
The Rock finally got on the scoreboard at the 3:19 mark of the middle frame when Bain Cunningham scored his 21stgoal of the season with the home side enjoying a two-man advantage.
Seamus Maguire restored the Crunch’s two goal lead just over a minute later, however, as he potted his 22nd goal of the season, an unassisted effort.
The Rock struck for two quick goals midway through the period to tie things up at 3-3 heading into the second intermission.
Jordan Rendle scored his 26th goal of the season, a power-play marker, and then Tristan Salesse put home his 25th goal of the season less than a minute later.
That is the way the score remained until late in the third period, although both teams had some excellent scoring opportunities.
Crunch goalie Brett Young made 42 saves to earn the victory, while Nixon, who stopped 26 of the 30 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — Defenceman Kealey Cummings was forced to leave the game early after he broke a skate blade … Linesman Jeff Piercey suffered a hand injury but was able to finish the contest … Forward Wayne Mathieu (upper-body injury) and goalie Devon Debastos (healthy scratch) again sat out for the Rock … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 937 … The Rock went 2-5 on the power play, while the Crunch were 0-4 with the man advantage … Saturday night’s other NOJHL action saw the Rayside-Balfour Canadians dump the Iroquois Falls Eskis 7-2 in Sudbury, the Elliot Lake Wildcats thump the Beavers 7-2 in Blind River and the Soo Eagles edge the Soo Thunderbirds 2-1 in Sault, Mich. … The Rock will return to action Saturday night when they host the Canadians at the McIntyre Arena, while the Crunch will face off against the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake Sunday night.