GALLERY: GAME 2 – Miller posts 24-save shutout as T-birds blank Rock

Soo Thunderbirds goalie Landon Miller was able to get his pad down to block a shot from Timmins Rock captain Nicolas Pigeon on this play despite the crowd of players from both teams in the crease area during the first period of Game 2 of the best-of-seven NOJHL final at the McIntyre Arena Friday night. Miller stopped all 24 shots he faced to record his first shutout of the playoffs as the Thunderbirds blanked the Rock 4-0 and evened the series at 1-1. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

Landon Miller stopped all 24 shots he faced as the Soo Thunderbirds blanked the Timmins Rock 4-0 at the McIntyre Arena Friday night to even their best-of-seven NOJHL final at 1-1.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

TIMMINS – Landon Miller stopped all 24 shots he faced as the Soo Thunderbirds blanked the Timmins Rock 4-0 at the McIntyre Arena Friday night to even their best-of-seven NOJHL final at 1-1.

And if Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry didn’t like his team’s game too much during Thursday night’s series opening 4-0 win, he was clearly less thrilled with Friday night’s Game 2 loss.

“We didn’t play very well,” he said.

“I don’t know what’s going on. We are a mess. It is the worst time of year and we are doing things we haven’t done all year, giving pucks away, turnover after turnover.

“We are dumping pucks. We are a puck possession team, why are we getting rid of it? We have got all this skill, all this talent in our lineup.

“Make plays, but nobody wants the puck on their stick, just get rid of it.”

The coach conceded the Thunderbirds elevated their game Friday night, which certainly added to the woes of the Rock.

“But we weren’t good last night and we weren’t good tonight,” Perry said.

“It is just a trend. We are doing uncharacteristic things. Making a bad read in the D Zone led to their first goal.

“We didn’t generate any offence whatsoever. We are 0-13 (two-game total) on the power play and it’s atrocious.

“Guys refuse to change. Guys refuse to hit the things that are open. Why do we even do video, why do we do it? We show what we are supposed to do but we just keep forcing the same issue.

“Maybe it’s a personnel thing we need to change up, I don’t know, but we are not getting very far with a power play that can’t produce.”

After failing to hit the scoresheet in Game 1 of the series, it took the Thunderbirds just 2:58 to net their first goal of the finals, with blue-liner Tyler Boudreau netting his second marker of the playoffs.

The Thunderbirds protected that one-goal advantage until just shy of the midway mark in the third period when captain Brock Santa Maria found the back of the net for his third tally of the playoffs.

Trailing by a pair of goals late in the contest, the Rock pulled goalie Patrick Boivin in favour of an extra attacker while on the power play, to create a six-on-four advantage.

The move backfired, however, when Justin Mauro deposited his fourth goal of the playoffs into the empty Rock net.

Later, with Boivin again on the bench, Jackson Truchan added a second empty-net marker, his seventh goal of the playoffs to seal the deal.

Perry admitted to being frustrated after watching his team surrender home-ice advantage to the Thunderbirds after working so hard in the regular season to earn it.

“It just wasn’t a good game, that’s it, and we have another one (in Sault Ste. Marie) on Sunday and we have to get ready for it,” he said.

The coach didn’t see too many positive signs during Friday night’s setback.

“The penalty kill was really good again, that’s about it,” Perry said.

“Patty (Boivin) played well between the pipes, but we just weren’t good enough in front of him tonight.”

While the Rock have gone 0-13 on the power play in the first two games of the series, they have killed off all six shorthanded situations during that same time frame.

The Rock lost blue-liner Brandon Rossetti to a lower-body injury early in the third period after he got tangled up with a Thunderbirds defender and crashed feet-first into the boards behind the Soo net.

“We have to get him assessed but anytime a guy like him leaves a game, he is hurt,” Perry said.

Thunderbirds coach Cole Jarrett was pleased with the improved play he saw from his squad Friday night.

“After last night, we get the stats after every game and the numbers showed last night we lost a lot of the puck battles,” he said.

“That’s the difference. We talk about details and compete all the time and I thought from the drop of the puck we did a pretty good job of it tonight.”

In addition to ramping up their compete level, the Thunderbirds also stepped up the physicality — slowing down the speedy Rock, without making too many trips to the penalty box.

“They are a fast team and that’s going to be a key for us moving forward, trying to eliminate their time and space and getting up and killing rushes quickly, making life difficult for them,” Jarrett said.

After taking home-ice advantage away from the Rock, the Thunderbirds will now focus on trying to keep it as the series shifts to Sault Ste. Marie for the next two games.

“The playoffs have been a next-shift mentality and we just want to win that next shift,” Jarrett said.

“We will enjoy a nice, happy bus ride home, get some rest and be ready to go on Sunday.”

The coach agreed Miller was the best player on the ice for either team Friday night.

“He looked like a different goalie tonight, compared to yesterday,” Jarrett said.

“He hated the first two goals he gave up yesterday and as a competitor, we knew there was a good chance he was going to come back and give us an effort.

“We are lucky to have him. He is a special hockey player. He excels at his position for his age. He is tops in Ontario.

“To see him get rewarded with the shutout tonight was a good feeling for him.”

The coach appreciated the efforts of his captain, Santa Maria, at both ends of the ice, as well.

“He knew he had to have a better effort after last night,” Jarrett said.

“Him and I have a pretty good relationship, we talk all the time, and it was simple, saying we needed more out of him and he said, ‘Yah coach,’ and he delivered tonight.

“When he is going, we always have (Dharan) Cap’s line going, so when we get him going and get Mauro’s line going, we are a tough team to handle.”

A couple of the Thunderbirds affiliate players also impressed the coach Friday night.

“Declan Gallivan, who is up for the draft (OHL Priority Selection) right now, I don’t think he went on Day 1, but he will likely be picked early tomorrow, and Callum McAuley, a local boy, I believe he is from Timmins, has worked himself into the lineup, utilizes his speed and thinks the game so well,” Jarrett said.

“Playing for the U18s, with Jamie Henderson, he just took everything in and we play the same way, so he fits in seamlessly.”

Miller, whose shutout was the first of the playoffs, earned his ninth win of the post season.

Boivin, who stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss for the Rock.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Miller, Santa Maria and Boudreau … The Rock went 0-6 on the power play, while the Thunderbirds were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,510 … Game 3 of the series will be played at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday, at 6 p.m.