GALLERY: GAME 1 – Rock overcome early deficit to roll over Rapids

Timmins Rock affiliate player Ryan Armitage tucks the puck in behind French River Rapids goalie Brady Dyer for his first NOJHL playoff goal during the second period of Game 1 of the East Division semifinal at the McIntyre Arena Friday night. Armitage’s goal stood up to be the game-winner as the Rock battled back to dump the Rapids 8-2 and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The two teams will play Game 2 at the McIntyre Arena on Saturday, at 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The Timmins Rock overcame an early two-goal deficit and went on to defeat the French River Rapids 8-2 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven NOJHL East Division semifinal series at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock overcame an early two-goal deficit and went on to defeat the French River Rapids 8-2 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven NOJHL East Division semifinal series at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.

Despite the one-sided final score, Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was not happy with the way his squad started Friday night’s contest.

“These slow starts are starting to get on my nerves, to put it politely,” he said.

“We need to show up on time and stop overlooking opponents, otherwise we are not going to get very far.

“We did a good job of responding but I think we need to control our emotions way better.

“Our two leading scorers (captain Nicolas Pigeon and Brady Harroun) can’t be in the box for yapping at the refs. That’s just uncalled for.

“We have got to sacrifice to get what we want. The refs are going to miss calls, but we can’t let that bother us. We have got to focus on what we need to do.

“We need to be able to take crosschecks in the back and not get up and punch the guy in the head.

“Those are the things we have to do to be successful at the end of the day.

“To say I was disappointed with how we started this game would be an understatement.”

It took the Rapids just 49 seconds to get on the scoreboard Friday night, with Adam Boucher netting his first goal of the playoffs.

Four minutes later, Nolan Masson added an unassisted marker to double the French River advantage.

The Rock pulled back to within a goal before the end of the period, however, with Harroun finding the back of the net for the first of his two goals on the night and first of the playoffs.

Nolan Ring’s goal, 5:44 into the second period, got the Rock back on even terms and they never looked back.

Affiliate player Ryan Armitage then added what would prove to be the game-winning goal just over three minutes later.

Five unanswered special teams goals allowed the Rock to break things wide open in the third period.

Justin Charette got the puck rolling when he netted a power-play marker, his first goal of the playoffs three seconds shy of the midway point in the frame.

Then, 56 seconds later, Harroun added another power-play marker, his second goal of the night and the playoffs.

Blue-liner Kenyon Nyman then ripped a shot through traffic from the point for another power-play marker a minute and a half later.

Evan Grigor added the Rock’s fourth-straight power-play tally less than two minutes after that marker.

“Obviously, our power play is what it is and we did a good job in the third period,” Perry said.

Finally, to add insult to injury, Grigor stole the puck from Rapids goalie Brady Dyer behind the French River cage and outraced him to the front of the net to deposit a shorthanded marker, his second tally of the night and playoffs into the goal to wrap up the scoring.

The Rock got goals from six different skaters Friday night, providing a balanced attack once they finally got going.

“It was good to see Ryan “(Armitage) get a goal, he got it when we needed it most,” Perry said.

“He did it in Hearst (during the regular season) when he got called up, too. He has a knack for scoring big goals. He is big, he is strong and he has all the tools to be a successful player in this league and he was good tonight.”

The coach was especially happy to see Grigor play a strong second half Friday night.

“I hadn’t exactly been thrilled with Evan’s play lately and he knows it. We have had conversations about it,” Perry said.

“But he stepped up, he really did, and he is capable of playing hockey that way.

“Took him a little while to get going tonight but once he started making plays you saw the real Evan Grigor.

“That was a beautiful shot on the first one and on the second one his hard work put pressure on, made them turn the puck over and he put it in the back of the net.

“In the back half of the game he was fantastic and that is the 91 we need going forward.”

Ring, one of the most consistent Rock players during the regular season, once again made a solid impression his coach during Friday night’s contest.

“He is a workhorse and him and (Justin) Charette on the PK (penalty kill) really did a fantastic job on the three-on-five,” Perry said.

“Even on the four-on-fives, they always seem to go out together and they feed off each other really well.

“They are extremely smart players and they both did a great job tonight.”

Once again, the Rock did a solid job of blocking shots and keeping the puck from getting through to goalie Patrick Boivin for the most part in the contest.

“Our PK has been fantastic all season long,” Perry said.

“Dazzer (assistant coach James Daschuk) does a really good job with it and those guys know what he expects from them when they are on the ice.

“They are fearless, guys like Kyle Trottier and Christophe Petit, Chase Longhurst, Tenzin Nyman, all our guys on the back end, really.

“They are not afraid to block shots and do whatever it takes to help us win and they did that tonight.”

Grigor, who scored seven goals in 48 regular season contests, felt the only statistic that mattered Friday night was the victory.

“It feels great to get the goals, the most important thing is we got the win,” he said.

“In the room, before the game, Perrs (Perry) said stats don’t mean anything, it’s all about getting that W and that W feels really good right now.”

Grigor felt the key to the Rock comeback was relaxing and playing the team’s system, doing the little things that have made them successful all season.

“We have a great system here and when we play it effectively no team can stop us,” he said.

“We fell asleep a little in the first 10 minutes and then we realized what had made us successful and just carried it from there.”

A lot of players who find themselves in the position Grigor did on his second goal tend to panic as they try to outrace the goalie to front of the net, but he stayed calm on the play and it paid off.

“Usually, the goalies like to reverse it (the puck) but he put it on a tee and I just fired it, saw a wide open cage,” he said.

Boivin stopped 14 of the 16 shots he faced to earn his first victory of the playoffs.

Dyer, who blocked 42 of the 50 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Pigeon (four assists), Harroun (two goals) and Grigor (two goals) … The Rock went 4-11 on the power play and added a shorthanded marker, while the Rapids were 0-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 835 … Friday’s only other action saw the Cubs knock off the Espanola Paper Kings 5-3 in Greater Sudbury to take a 2-0 lead in their West Division semifinal series … The Rock will host the Rapids for Game 2 of their East Division semifinal at the McIntyre Arena on Saturday, at 7 p.m.