Soo Eagles forward Nick Techel pulls away from Timmins Rock forward Evan Kentish-Stack as he carries the puck out of his zone during the first period of Saturday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. Techel, the Eagles’ leading scorer, netted his 17th goal of the season to help lead the visitors to a 3-1 victory. The Eagles wrapped up their three-game road swing through the North with a record of 3-0-0-0, not an easy task given the number of kilometres they had to travel during the three days. The Rock will return to action on Tuesday night when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock have taken four too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties in the past four games, but none more costly than the one they were assessed with 4:35 remaining in the second period Saturday night.
With Riley Robitaille in the sin bin serving that minor penalty, Soo Eagles defenceman Kellen Tharaldson ripped a point shot past a screen Rock goalie Tyler Masternak for what would prove to be the game-winning goal 54 seconds later.
The power-play marker was Tharaldson’s sixth goal and it gave the Eagles a 2-1 lead in a game they would go on to win 3-1 — completing a sweep of their three-game trip through the North.
“Man, it’s just mental errors,” said Rock assistant coach Marc Bisson, trying to describe the unusually high number of too-man-men-on-the-ice penalties his team has taken in the past four games.
“The guys are eager to get out there on the ice and we want them to get out there, but they are jumping a little bit too early. I think there is a bit of bad puck luck involved, as well.
“The puck comes right up the boards and hits one of our players on the skates as he is stepping off the ice.”
In at least three of the four of the most recent instances, the infractions were caused by Rock players making passes in the direction of their own bench while the team has been attempting to make a change.
“The guys should know, especially in our home rink, what side the bench is on and they definitely should be cognizant of when a change is taking place, but the game happens fast out there,” Bisson said.
“Mistakes are going to happen. Hockey is a game of mistakes. It is something we will probably address in practice on Monday.”
Following a scoreless opening 20 minutes that saw the Rock outplay the Eagles, the Soo got on the scoreboard first when Bobby Price scored his third goal of the season at the 3:07 mark of the middle frame.
The Rock were able to tie things up at 1-1 less than six minutes later when C.J. Bradburn netted a power-play marker, his sixth goal of the season.
After Tharaldson had put the Eagles in front, Nick Techel potted his 17th goal of the season with 1:35 remaining in the second period to provide the visitors with a little insurance after 40 minutes of play.
On both the game-winning goal and the insurance marker, Eagles forwards were left all alone in front of Masternak, something the team had not been doing very often in recent games.
“The second goal, on the power play, somebody definitely should have had that guy,” Bisson said.
“From my vantage point, it didn’t look like the puck touched anything in front of the net, but our forwards need to push out on that shooter, to challenge that shot and be willing to block a shot in that instance.
“Boxing out and sticking pins is something we talk about in the pregame meetings all the time and we talk about it during the game and between periods, as well. The message is there, but sometimes the game happens fast. Some people lose their man, or miss assignments.
“On the third goal, that guy has got to be on his bottom. We have to take him out. There is no excuse for it. We can’t give somebody three whacks at the puck like that and expect a good result.”
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the third period, leaving the final score 3-1 in favour of the Eagles.
“We came out with a good start in the first period,” Bisson said.
“Our starts have been getting better, but the second period has kind of been our Achilles heel. The last couple of weeks, we have been kind of struggling in the second period. I don’t know if it’s the long change for the D and the forwards, but we have been losing momentum in the second periods.
“When that happens against a team like this, a team that has that much speed, you give up a few goals. That makes it hard to come back.”
Tyler Gilberds, who was acquired from the Powassan Voodoos on Thursday, made his debut in a Rock uniform Saturday night, wearing No. 15.
“I thought he was very good tonight,” Bisson said.
“He has a very big body and he is still very young. He is just a 16-year-old kid. Playing in front of 700-plus fans, he probably had a few nerves. He just drove up here today, so he might have had a case of tired legs.”
If Gilberds’ legs were indeed tired, fans are really going to enjoy watching him play. He was clearly one of the most dangerous Rock forwards on the ice Saturday night.”
A number of other Rock players impressed their coaches with their effort, as well.
“C.J. Bradburn really impressed me and not just because of the power-play goal,” Bisson said.
“C.J. has really turned his game around. He is playing a solid 200-foot game. Maybe before coming to Timmins, he didn’t have a 200-foot game.
“Wayne Mathieu was also very good tonight and Masternak has had an opportunity, with E.J. (Eric Jackson) out and I thought he has been exceptional in all three games. He has given us a chance to win each game.”
Eagles coach Jim Capy was happy to see his squad complete a perfect swing through the North, following a 5-3 win over the Lumberjacks in Hearst Thursday night and 4-3 overtime win over the Crunch in Cochrane Friday night.
“We were a little bit flat in the first period tonight,” he said.
“I have been making this trip for 14 years and it’s a tough trip.”
Of course, that trip is even tougher since the Eskis relocated from Iroquois Falls to Hearst, to become the Lumberjacks.
“We weren’t expecting an easy game tonight and we didn’t get an easy game,” Capy said.
“But when you get a chance to sweep three games on a trip like this, it is really nice. The ride home tonight will obviously be a little nicer after this weekend.”
The adjustments the Eagles made during the first intermission clearly produced the desired results.
“In the first period, we didn’t put a lot of pressure on their defencemen,” Capy said.
“That gave them an opportunity to carry the puck up the ice. Basically, the difference in the game was the second period. I thought we forced their D a lot harder, created some turnovers and generated some offence.”
It was a team effort for the Eagles Saturday night, which took some of the pressure off of the team’s go-to guys.
“Not just tonight, but during the entire weekend, some of our younger guys really stepped up their games,” Capy said.
“When you are playing three games in three nights, if you don’t have to use your Top 6 guys to try and win those games, or your Top 4 D, you are going to have a better chance.
“For most of the weekend, our younger guys really brought up their level of play.”
That is clearly a reflection of the depth of the Eaglesֹ hockey club.
“We are a little bit young, obviously, because we only have two guys back from last year,” Capy said.
“We are at the point now, where you don’t have any rookies and I think one of our strengths is we do have pretty good depth. Our third and fourth lines can go out there and win some match-ups for us.”
With the win, the Eagles (17-10-0-0) moved to within two points of the third-place Rayside-Balfour Canadians in the NOJHL’s West Division standings.
The Rock (10-17-1-2), meanwhile, remain in fifth place in the East Division standings, two points behind the Hearst Lumberjacks, who have four games in hand.
Carter McPhail turned aside 25 of the 26 shots the Rock fired his way to earn his 12th victory for the Eagles.
Masternak blocked 39 of the 42 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES —The Daily Press three stars were Techel, Tharaldson and Gilberds … The Rock did not dress Jackson (lower-body injury), defenceman Shawn Sloan (upper-body injury) and forwards Derek Seguin (fractured jaw), Stewart Parnell (upper-body injury) and Jace Soroko (serving game three of a three-game suspension). Coach Corey Beer served the third game of his three-game suspension and he will be back behind the bench for the next Rock game … Affiliate forward Blane Boissonneault (Kapuskasing Flyers) played his third game in a Rock uniform … The Rock went 1-6 on the power play, while the Eagles were 1-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 729 … Saturday’s other action saw the Powassan Voodoos edge the Gold Miners 3-2 in overtime in Kirkland Lake and the Soo Thunderbirds beat the Beavers 3-1 in Blind River … The Rock will return to action Tuesday night when they host the Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)