Soo Eagles forward Alex Freund deflects a point shot up and over the catching glove of Timmins Rock goalie Dryden Riley, but just wide of the post during the first period of Saturday night’s NOJHL contest at the McIntyre Arena. It would not matter, however, as the Eagles hung on to edge the Rock 2-1, snapping their nine-game winning streak. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
The Soo Eagles hung on to edge the Timmins Rock 2-1 at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
It snapped the NOJHL East Division-leading Rock’s nine-game winning streak and allowed the Eagles to return home from a two-game swing through the North with four points, following their 4-3 shootout win over the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake Friday night.
Meanwhile, the Rock (33-12-2-0) saw both the second-place Powassan Voodoos (27-16-0-2) and the third-place Hearst Lumberjacks (25-13-3-2) creep closer to them in the standings after each posted victories Saturday night — and both rivals have games in hand.
Neither the Rock nor the Eagles were able to find the back of the net during the opening 20 minutes of play Saturday night, with the visitors holding a slight edge, 9-8, in shots on goal.
The Eagles opened the scoring 9:34 into the middle frame, with Benjamin Pouliot netting a power-play marker, his 22nd goal of the season.
Three-and-a-half minutes later, Zach Sweitzer’s unassisted effort, his 12th tally of the campaign, increased the Eagles advantage to 2-0.
The Rock got that one back before the end of the frame, as Harry Clark netted a power-play marker, his team-leading 31st goal of the season.
The third period was scoreless, although the Rock pulled goalie Dryden Riley in favour of an extra attacker with just under two minutes remaining in regulation, but they were unable to tie things up.
Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was not a happy camper following Saturday night’s loss.
“The shots and the score were even, but we didn’t play well, at all,” he said.
“We just had way too many passengers tonight. We had guys who had an opportunity to prove themselves in the lineup, guys who complain all the time about not playing, they don’t get ice and we have eight guys sitting in the stands.
“This was their chance to prove they could play with those minutes, but they couldn’t, they just didn’t want to. They have no problem shaking their heads when their numbers aren’t called, kicking the boards, slamming their sticks. They just can’t believe, for the life of them, that they aren’t on the ice.
“You turn pucks over all game, you don’t back check, you don’t play good in the D Zone, what makes you think you deserve to play meaningful minutes?
“I can’t believe guys don’t see it with their own eyes.”
Given the physicality the Eagles brought to the party, the Rock could have used the services of forward Liam Wells — one of the team’s multitude of walking wounded.
“Not even just the physicality, it hurts not having him out there, period,” Perry said.
“He is a big part of our team.”
Indeed, Wells’ 27 goals on the season are the third most among Rock snipers.
Wells, of course, is just one of many Rock players on the injured list right now. They were also without the services of blue-liners Kyle Trottier, Chase Longhurst-McIntyre, Ayden Trottier and Sam Gallagher, as well as forward Kaeden McArthur.
None of those players are likely to return to the lineup anytime soon, according to Perry.
Even though the Great North U18 League’s Timmins U18 Majors were playing in North Bay Saturday, blue-liner Jakob Drobny, an affiliate player, was in the Rock lineup, as was newly signed blue-liner Sam Jossinet.
One of the bright spots from Saturday night’s setback was that there were no new names to add to the injury list following the contest.
“We have some guys who are playing injured,” Perry said.
While the coach wasn’t happy with the effort put forth by many of his Rock players Saturday night, that was not the case with his goaltender.
“He was really good tonight,” Perry said. “We weren’t good in our own end.”
Despite the loss, Riley wasn’t the only Rock player the coach singled out for a little extra praise.
“The usual guys, Harry Clark, Nolan Ring, Felix Cadieux-Fredette, Lucas Lowe, Hayden Rynard, Thomas Beard, that’s it,” Perry said.
Eagles goalie Anthony Zolezzi turned aside 29 of the 30 shots the Rock directed his way to pick up his 15th win of the season.
Riley, who stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Zolezzi, Riley and Sweitzer … Both the Rock and the Eagles went 1-3 on the power play … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,071 … Saturday’s other action saw the Voodoos double up the Iroquois Falls Storm 6-3 in Powassan, the Hearst Lumberjacks dump the Rapids 6-2 in French River and the Beavers edge the Soo Thunderbirds 3-2 in overtime in Blind River … The Rock will travel to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., on Friday to take on the Eagles. The next home game will see the Rock host the Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena on Family Day, at 2 p.m.