SAULT, MICH. – The Timmins Rock’s modest two-game winning streak came to an end Saturday night at Pullar Stadium.
In what was supposed to be the second game of a three-game weekend trip through the NOJHL’s West Division, the Rock dropped a 6-2 decision to the Eagles.
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
The first game of the trip was postponed when mechanical issues with the Rock bus, combined with the closure of Highway 17 due to a serious motor vehicle collision, resulted in the team not arriving in Sault Ste. Marie until almost 10:30 p.m. for Friday night’s meeting with the Thunderbirds.
As a result, the Rock and the Thunderbirds will now meet on Thursday, Jan. 11, in advance of a scheduled three-game road trip — meaning the team will play four games in four nights.
Saturday night, the Rock dug themselves a hole too deep to dig themselves out of at Pullar Stadium.
A pair of goals 20 seconds apart staked the home side to a 2-0 first-period lead.
“It was basically (Rock goalie) Eric Jackson fighting for his life in there,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“Our other five guys were just standing around the outside, hoping the puck would hit them, or trying to figure out how they could hide out there and get away with it.
“We didn’t help E.J. out at all early on.”
Nick Techel got the puck rolling for the Eagles when he scored a power-play marker, his ninth goal of the season.
Then, Jake Lamberty followed with his third goal of the season, providing the home side with its two-goal advantage heading into the first intermission.
Things went from bad to worse for the Rock in the second period, as Christian Bardarson scored his 11th goal of the season just 1:11 into the frame.
Just over 10 minutes later, Owen Kipke added his third goal of the season to extend the Eagles’ lead to 4-0.
Four seconds later, at the next stoppage of play, Beer opted to pull Jackson in hopes of providing a shift in momentum.
“We basically pulled him because we wanted to make sure Eric was good for tomorrow (Sunday’s game against the Beavers in Blind River),” Beer said.
“He was the only one working out there. We had the TV timeout (four seconds after the Eagles fourth goal) and we talked to Eric. We did not want to get to the point where our team was not competing in front of him and then have to pull him in front of a big crowd.”
Affiliate goalie Jordan Yaremchuk, who plays for the GNML’s Timmins Majors, came on in relief of Jackson and finished up the game.
Yaremchuk held the Eagles at bay until the Rock were finally able to get on the scoresheet at the 8:19 mark of the third period when affiliate player Austin Holmes, who also plays for the Majors, scored his second goal in as many games with the visitors.
Just under four minutes later Stewart Parnell netted a power-play marker for the Rock, his fifth goal of the season to cut the Eagles lead to 4-2 with 7:48 remaining in regulation.
“Our guys decided to play hockey again,” Beer said.
“We were holding onto the puck and maintaining possession. The physical side of the game still wasn’t there for us, but we started to follow the game plan.
“Prior to that point, we thought we could come in against a good team in an unfamiliar arena and get away with a point night. It was a lesson learned.”
The Eagles were able to get that goal back just over three minutes later, however, as Kellen Tharaldson scored the first of his two goals on the night with the home side on the power play.
“Our early response in the third period was good, as we got ourselves back into the game and cut the deficit to 4-2,” Beer said.
“Then, we took an undisciplined penalty that ended up costing us. We took a lot of lazy penalties tonight, hooking, slashing, tripping. We were constantly chasing the game tonight.”
Tharaldson’s second goal of the night and third of the season was a shorthanded empty-net marker to make the final 6-2.
“Our top players were not very good tonight,” Beer said.
“I thought Josh Anderson, Shawn Sloan, Will Caston and Grant McClellan were solid on the back end. They worked real hard.
“Our best forward tonight, hands down, was Tyler Planetta. He was battling the flu bug, but he blocked shots and played a physical game.
“I couldn’t tell you if the rest of our forwards were even in the game tonight.”
The coach was again impressed with the play of Holmes.
“Austin has been terrific for us both games he has come up,” Beer said.
“He has had limited minutes, because you don’t want to throw him into the fire too much but I thought he did a great job and worked hard. He moved the puck well and shot the puck well. He is a skilled player.
“You wonder what he could have done in the time some of these other guys have been here.
“A couple of the Majors guys we have brought up, like Riley Robitaille, Frederic Leclair-Pouw and Riley Brousseau, have done well.
“(Majors coach) Brandon Perry and his staff have done a great job.”
Beer was impressed with the Eagles Saturday night.
“They go out there and they move the puck crisply and they have good exits,” he said.
“We were caught chasing most of the game. We had a good film study in the conference room at the hotel and went through in detail how we wanted to go out and play, but we didn’t stick to our game plan.
“They certainly executed theirs at a high level. It will be back to the drawing board for us when we play these guys again (Saturday, Dec. 2 at the McIntyre Arena).”
It would be hard to imagine a stranger start to a road trip than the one the Rock experienced on Friday.
“Our bus made a stop at the Tim Hortons outside of Dowling and there were some transmission issues there,” Beer said.
“It wouldn’t back up. Then, from that point on, they had to bring in another bus after about an hour’s wait.
“We got ourselves going again and then there was a massive accident that closed the highway. It was pretty bad and we were sitting there for a while.
“In conversations with (Rock GM) Kevin (Peever), who was going back and forth with (NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca and co-ordinating with the Soo, we came to the understanding it wasn’t a good thing to push and try to get the game in yesterday.”
With the game being moved to Jan. 11, a day before the start of what was supposed to be a three-game swing through Espanola, Elliot Lake and Rayside-Balfour, the Rock will face a daunting task, to say the least.
“That will be a tough road trip,” Beer said, with a laugh.
Eagles goalie Shane Brancato turned aside 23 of the 25 shots the Rock fired his way to earn his second victory of the season.
Jackson, who stopped 23 of the 27 shots he faced before getting the hook, was tagged with the loss. Yaremchuk blocked six of the seven shots directed in his way in relief.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Tharaldson, Techel and Rock forward Derek Seguin (one assist) … Rock defenceman James Redmond suffered a lower-body injury in the contest and team officials are unsure of how long he may be out of the lineup … The Rock did not dress forwards Evan Kentish-Stack (upper-body injury) and Kevin Kutasi (upper-body injury) … The Rock went 1-5 on the power play, while the Eagles were 2-6 with the man advantage … Official attendance at Pullar Stadium was 617 … Saturday night’s other action saw the Gold Miners dump the Cochrane Crunch 5-3 in Kirkland Lake, the Hearst Lumberjacks hang on to edge the Thunderbirds 4-3 in Sault Ste. Marie, the Powassan Voodoos double the Rapids 6-3 in French River and the Beavers beat the Elliot Lake Wildcats 7-1 in Blind River … the next home game for the Rock will be on Saturday night when they host the Wildcats at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.