By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
COCHRANE – The Crunch used a three-goal second period to defeat the Timmins Rock 5-3 at the Tim Horton Event Centre Saturday night.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the visitors who were playing with a short bench.
The Rock were missing forward Zachary Kercz (serving a one-game suspension picked up during Thursday night’ win over Blind River), forward Tristan Salesse (serving the sixth game of a seven-game suspension he picked up during a game in Sault, Mich., on Dec. 18), forward Wayne Mathieu (upper-body injury), forward Devin Panzeca (traded to the Chatham Maroons, of the GOJHL), forward Mike Norris(traded to the English River Miners, of the SIJHL) and goalie Logan Ferrington (upper-body injury).
In addition, affiliate forward Jace Soroko, who picked up a point in his NOJHL debut against Blind River Thursday night, was in Sudbury with his Timmins Majors teammates taking on the Minor Midget Wolves (a 5-4 shootout loss for the visitors).
So, it wasn’t too surprising to see the Crunch jump out to a 2-0 lead Saturday night.
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne thought it was a game of “mistakes.”
“We make mistakes, the officials make mistakes, everybody makes mistakes,” he said.
“There were two mistakes that cost us two goals tonight. One was an icing call that shouldn’t have been an icing call. The other one was an icing and they (the Crunch) got to make a line change.
“They had five fresh guys go on the ice and bang, they scored a goal. There was no reason for it. We make mistakes and they score goals.”
Gagne wasn’t happy either with a second fight that broke out after a stoppage in play for another fight.
Rock defenceman Joe Olson and Crunch forward Tyler Minoletti will be facing suspensions after the duo were given game misconducts for getting involved in a second fight during the same stoppage of the play. The original fight saw Rock forward Kyle Levis and Crunch defenceman Brandon Workun each pick up five-minute majors and game misconducts
“The fight with Joe, I have never seen a referee by himself jump in like that,” Gagne said.
“Joe still had his gloves on and the guy (Minoletti) started going after him. He had no choice, it was like a two-on-one. That’s a game of mistakes again and now he (Olson) is suspended for two games because of it. There is no reason for it. That could have been avoided if they were just wrestling together … that’s it, but it didn’t happen unfortunately.”
Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard was happy to see his team pick up the win, but he was not totally pleased with how they did it.
“We got the two points, but I am not overly pleased with how we have been playing,” he said.
“We played Iroquois Falls and Blind River in the last two games and we picked up a lot of bad habits. You could see all night tonight, we were not as crisp as we used to be. Our passing was not as intense, our intensity was not as crisp. We got lazy and it almost bit us in the butt tonight.
“We were up 5-1 and then we got lazy again. I thought we played a pretty solid second period , then in the first period we came out and we weren’t hitting, we weren’t playing defensive hockey. We were just going through the motions, thinking we were playing Blind River and Iroquois Falls again.
“It is a good thing we had Brett Young out there. He made some big saves. I have to give the kid (Nixon) down at the other end credit, too. He faced 52 shots. We probably could have scored another three or four goals, but at the same time they could have scored another three or four goals, also.”
Leonard was pleased with the play of Brenden Van Sweden, who was playing in just his second game with the team.
“He is a big boy and last night he got two goals,” he said.
“Tonight he got another goal and an assist. He is playing well along the boards.
Jaren Knorr got the puck rolling for the home side when he scored the first of his two goals on the night and his 19th of the season, a power-play marker, at the nine minute mark.
Jon Marzec then beat Rock goalie Matthew Nixon for his 12th goal of the season less than three minutes later.
The Rock managed to get on the scoreboard before the end of the first period, as Cole Gilligan beat Crunch netminder Brett Young for his sixth goal of the season at the 13:45 mark.
The second period was pretty well all Crunch, as the home side swarmed Nixon and managed to put three shots past the visitors’ puck stopper.
Van Sweden netted his third goal of the season at the 2:56 mark.
Then fan favourite Jeremy McNeil potted his 11th goal of the season to put the Crunch in front 4-1.
Knorr, who had the first goal of the game for the Crunch, then got the final marker for the home side, his 20th of the season with just 1:56 remaining on the clock in the middle frame.
The Rock, who could easily have gone through the motions based upon the way things went in the second period, came out flying in the third to make the game interesting.
First Jordan Rendle scored his 25th goal of the season, a power-play marker, to cut the Crunch advantage to 5-2 55 seconds into the period.
Then he set up defenceman Kealey Cummings for his second goal of the season less than four minutes later.
The Rock continued to press as the period progressed, but Young came up big time after time to keep the visitors at bay.
Gagne was pleased with the way the Rock finished up the game, although there were certainly points of the contest when he was not happy with their play.
“Come the third period, we had a good third period,” he said.
“(Earlier) it was ugly and we were shorthanded but we did not play well. The way we played in the third period, that’s how we should have played all game, but we didn’t.
“We could have had seven goals tonight, but Young made some really big saves. We had our opportunities in the third period but we just didn’t capitalize on them. You could tell we weren’t sharp. Normally, those pucks would have been in the net.”
In addition to Rendle, Gagne was impressed with the play of Olson Saturday night … before his early exit.
“He was playing extremely well,” he said.
“He was one of our best defencemen tonight.”
Gilligan also made the most of the ice time he was given Saturday night.
“He just did his job and poked one in,” Gagne said.
“He gets the puck out. He dumps it in.”
Aaron Kerr, like Rendle, was a driving force in the third period, as well.
“He stood out in our books, too, as did Rendle, for sure,” Gagne said.
The manpower situation will not improve for the Rock Sunday afternoon when they host the Iroquois Falls Eskis at the McIntyre Arena.
Kercz will be back in the lineup, but Olson will be taking his spot dressed in a suit, holding a clipboard and tracking stats for the coaches.
Young made 30 saves to earn the victory for the Crunch, while Nixon turned aside 47 of the 52 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock went 1-2 on the power play, while the Crunch were 1-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Tim Horton Event Centre was 445 … Saturday night’s other NOJHL action saw the Eskis double the Blind River Beavers 4-2 in Iroquois Falls, the Gold Miners edge the Soo Thunderbirds 2-1 in Kirkland Lake, the Powassan Voodoos fly past the Canadians 6-1 in Rayside-Balfour and the Espanola Express chug past the Rapids 5-1 in French River … The Crunch will return to action Thursday night when they travel to Kirkland Lake for a game with the Gold Miners.