THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS Luka Bolduc, of the Timmins Rock, battles to gain control of a rebound in front of Cochrane Crunch goalie Bradley Dobson during the first period of Tuesday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. The Rock overcame a three-goal deficit to force overtime, but in was the Crunch who prevailed in the extra period, 5-4. The result leaves the two rivals tied for second place in the East Division standings, although the Rock have three games in hand.
After two-straight games in which they experienced sluggish first periods, the Timmins Rock went into full hibernation mode during the opening 12 minutes of Tuesday night’s NOJHL contest at the McIntyre Arena.
Given that it was Teddy Bear Toss night, perhaps that was to be expected but it took everything the Rock had to rally from a pair of three-goal deficits in a contest they would go on to lose 5-4 in overtime.
Rock assistant coach Marc Bisson admitted his squad was a “little bit distracted” waiting for the Teddy Bears to be unleashed.
“All I can say is they are 16, 17, 18 and 19 years old boys,” he said.
“They were all probably thinking about the Teddy Bear Toss all day. They all wanted to be the one to score that goal, so they forgot everything else we demand from them, in terms of slowing them down with our forecheck and in the neutral zone.
“Defensively, it was just awful. What a terrible start.”
Normally Rock steady goalie Tyler Masternak gave up four goals on six shots in the opening 12:11 of the contest before getting the hook in favour of Jean-Marc Brisson.
“Goaltenders are going to have those kinds of games, just like players are going to have bad games,” said Bisson, who coaches the Rock netminders.
“When a player is having a bad game, or a couple of bad shifts, it is not as glaring as when a goaltender is having that kind of game. When a goalie lets a puck in, the whole building knows.
“I wouldn’t put all of those goals on Masty. There were a couple of miscues and a couple of Grade A chances. When you give guys who can shoot the puck like they can those kind of chances, they are going to score.”
It didn’t take long for the Crunch onslaught to begin, as Zach Hayes struck for a power-play marker, his eighth goal of the season just 34 seconds into the opening period.
“We had talked about discipline before the game and it didn’t even take 30 seconds for (A.J.) Campbell to take that first penalty,” Bisson said.
“Then, a little miscue by one of our penalty killers and we were down 1-0. It definitely wasn’t the start we were looking for tonight.
“We had been preaching about the need for better starts and kind of hoped it would be better tonight.”
Just over two minutes later, Trent Grimshaw added his eighth goal of the season to make it a 2-0 hockey game.
Less than six minutes later, Crunch blue-liner Ethan Emanuel added his fourth goal of the season to push the visitors’ advantage to three goals.
The Rock finally got on the scoreboard 35 seconds later when Josh Dickson potted his 10th goal of the season to unleash the rain of Teddy Bears — and other stuff animals of all shapes and sizes.
With that out of the way, Rock fans were hoping the home side would settle down and take control of the contest.
Unfortunately, the Crunch had other ideas and Justin Bofshever netted his first of two goals on the night and 11th of the season just over two minutes later to chase Masternak from the Rock net.
The Rock were able to close the deficit to a pair of goals a minute and a half later when Matt Capisciolto scored his 10th goal of the season.
Masternak returned to the Rock crease to start the second period and he looked sharp in the contest’s final 42:05.
“Credit to him for bouncing back in the second and third periods when we asked him to go back in,” Bisson said.
“At that point, it was 4-2 and Brisson didn’t practice Monday because of an illness. He wasn’t feeling well and we wanted to go back to Masty and give ourselves a chance.”
While neither side was able to find the back of the net in the middle frame, the Rock were able to close the gap to a single goal when captain Derek Serguin potted his team-leading 20th goal of the season just shy of the midway point in the third period.
Then, with less than a minute and a half remaining in regulation Dickson was able to redirect Josh Anderson’s point shot, allowing Gage Tremblay to scoop up the rebound and deposit a shot behind Crunch goalie Bradley Dobson for his fourth goal of the season to complete the comeback and deadlock the contest at 4-4, forcing overtime.
Unfortunately for Rock fans, the home side had difficulty getting the puck out of their own zone and Bofshever beat Masternak for his second goal of the night and 12th on the season to make the final 5-4 in favour of the Crunch.
Even though the Rock came out on the losing end of the scoreboard Tuesday night, Bisson was impressed with the effort put forth by a number of his players.
“Since we put them together, the line of Tremblay, Dickson and Capy (Capisciolto) has been great for us,” he said.
“I think they have scored in every game we have played since we put them together.
“You have to give credit to our first two lines (including Keegan McMullin), Seguin and Riley Robitaille). They have out and they were definitely buzzing in the third period.
“They got a lot of ice time and they were getting chances. They boys definitely had to dig deep to get a single point tonight.”
Forward Benjamin Jossinet returned from an upper-body injury and played his first home game in a Rock uniform Tuesday night.
“I thought he played a pretty good game,” Bisson said.
“He has been out of the lineup for a couple of weeks and he had only played a period and a little bit before he was injured in Kirkland Lake.
“He is a great skater, he creates and I am pretty optimistic he will find his way into a Top 6 role.”
Although the Rock allowed a power-play goal Tuesday night, Bisson was impressed with his squad’s penalty kill.
“We had quite a few guys blocking shots today, including Haupter (Darcy Haupt) and (Linden) Spencer,” he said.
“Eric Moreau is always up for blocking shots, especially on the PK.”
Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard was happy to see his squad earn two big points in a tough building Tuesday night.
“I was happy with our first two periods, but every one of their goals tonight was very preventable,” he said.
“We had a game plan coming in to keep the pucks deep, but on the first goal they scored, we had a guy skate up to the red line and he was supposed to get the puck in but instead he lost the puck at the blue-line and they came down on an odd-man rush, boom, in the net.
“About four shifts later, the same thing. Defenceman had the puck and he did the same thing. Instead of getting it deep, he lost it in the neutral zone.
“When we stuck to the game plan and we worked hard down low, even in the second period when their coaching staff made a smart move and put Masternak back in the net, we were all over them and we could have buried three or four more.
“What happened though is Timmins fed off of the play of their goalie. Coming into the third period, he was standing on his head and they had a bit of confidence.
“They could afford to make a few mistakes and take some chances. They were throwing guys high and springing guys until we finally called a timeout.
“We changed up our systems to a one-three-one, but we made a bone-head play. We had the puck trapped along the wall and it was safe there, but one of our guys grabbed it with his glove and threw it out to the point.
“There was no need for that because the puck was safe, but we just gave them the tying goal.”
Leonard feels at the end of the day, the better team emerged victorious Tuesday night.
“We took two of the three periods in regulation, for sure,” he said.
“We really worked them hard down low and our speed and our maturity really showed.
“We probably made six or seven honest mistakes tonight and they capitalized on four of them.”
Tuesday’s loss leaves the Rock (21-11-2-0) in a two-day tie with the Crunch (21-14-0-2) for second place in the NOJHL East Division standings — one point behind the Kirkland Lake Gold Mienrs (22-10-1-0) and five points ahead of the fourth-place Powassan Voodoos (19-12-1-0).
The Rock do, however, have three games in hand on the Crunch.
Dobson, went the distance in net for the Crunch, turned aside 20 of the 24 shots he faced, while earning his fifth win over the season.
Masternak, who stopped 22 of the 27 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss. Brisson stopped both shots he faced during his 7:49 in the Rock crease.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Bofshever, Seguin and Grimshaw … The Rock did not dress defenceman Will Caston (illness), forward Tyler Hutchinson (illness) and forward Eamon Bollinger (upper-body injury) … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Crunch were 1-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 868 … The Rock will travel to Hearst on Friday for a game against the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Arena. The next home game will be on Sunday when they host the Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 2 p.m.