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GALLERY: GM1: Rock roll over Rapids

Timmins Rock forward Nicholas Frederick is mobbed by his teammates after scoring to give his squad a 1-0 lead during the first period of Game 1 of the NOJHL’s East Division semifinal series at the McIntyre Arena Thursday night. The Rock went on to defeat the Rapids 6-2 and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The two teams will return to the McIntyre Arena for Game 2 on Friday, at 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The Timmins Rock dumped the French River Rapids 6-2 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven East Division semifinal series at the McIntyre Arena Thursday night.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

After watching his team drop a 6-4 decision to the Rapids in French River in the final game of their regular-season schedule, Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was a lot happier with the effort he saw on the ice Thursday night.

“Our first shift, I thought they came out really hard but once we settled in I thought it was a really solid performance out of our group,” he said.

“That last game, not to make excuses for our guys, but was a long month for us and we were really tired.

“We kind of saw it a little bit tonight, too, we got up two or three and it was like okay what kind of game is it going to be and they got one back.

“The difference with that game was they kept coming back, kept coming back, kept coming back.

“This game we had the energy to keep pushing the pace, over and over again.”

Three unanswered first-period goals allowed the Rock to take command of the contest.

Nicholas Frederick got the puck rolling in the right direction for the Rock when he scored his first goal of the playoffs at the 9:03 mark of the opening frame.

Dylan McElhinny followed with his first goal of the playoffs 41 seconds later after bulling his way to the net and refusing to be denied.

Nicolas Pigeon then added a power-play marker, a tally that would stand up to be the game-winning goal, with five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the period.

“It was some great work by (Bode Dunford) Dunner, getting it to me, tried to make a little move and shot it on net,” he said.

“(Captain Tyler Schwindt) Schwinny, a big body in front of the net, got a shot and (Harry Clark) Clarkie got another shot and I got a lucky bounce.

“Right time, right moment.”

Pigeon realized how important it was for the Rock to get off to a good start during Thursday night’s contest.

“It was great teamwork tonight,” he said.

“When we played them last time, it wasn’t really a great team effort, but today we rallied and bounced back, got the first dub (win).

Pigeon admitted he had no idea when he scored his goal how important it would be to the outcome of the contest.

“We were just trying to get shots on net and if it goes in we were going to be happy,” he said.

“It was the team, we were just buzzing tonight, the forecheck, the backcheck, the defence, the goalie Gavin (McCarthy), it was just a team effort.

Rapids starting goalie Cole Sheffield was lifted following Pigeon’s goal, with Justin Dilauro coming off the bench in relief, although the former returned to the French River crease to start the second period.

The Rapids were finally able to get on the scoreboard just under seven minutes into the middle stanza when Spencer Borg netted his first goal of the playoffs.

Nolan Ring’s first goal of the playoffs, seven minutes later, allowed the Rock to restore their three-goal advantage heading into the third period.

Gabinien Kioki’s first goal of the playoffs expanded the Rock lead to 5-1 just 1:31 into the final frame.

Captain Tyler Schwindt added his first goal of the playoffs five minute later.

Dominik Godin scored his third goal of the playoffs at the 12:16 mark, but that would be as close as the Rapids would come to getting back on even terms, leaving the final score 6-2 in favour of the Rock.

Sheffield was once again forced to leave the Rapids net with his team celebrating Godin’s tally due to an equipment issue and Dilauro once again came on in relief.

There was no shortage of Rock players who impressed their coach Thursday night.

“It was just a really good playoff effort by a lot of guys,” Perry said.

“Tyler Gilberds was phenomenal on the PK (penalty kill) and I thought Kioki, Ring and (Liam) Wells was our best line.

“Liam has to play that way (physical) in the playoffs for us to have success, not just him. I think everybody has to play that way, not malicious, or dirty, or running around trying to take guys heads off.

“It is all those tiny little bumps. The longer the series goes, all those tiny little bumps are going to add up.

“Liam is one of the best at it. He hits clean and he hits hard and he was doing it tonight.

“I thought Dylan McElhinny had a fantastic game. He scored a really hard goal.

“I just liked our game, up and down the lineup.”

As happy as Perry was with Thursday night’s effort, he realizes his squad has a long way to go before winning the series.

“We are not even close,” he said.

“I think the message in the room is can we wake up tomorrow and do it all again, can we keep waking up and doing it all again?

“We will see tomorrow how hungry we are.”

Rapids coach and general manager Paul Frustaglio had a similar message for his troops, knowing they just need to win once at the McIntyre Arena and then hold serve at the Noelville Community Centre in order to advance to the East Division final.

“I just told the kids it was a long day, we were up at 8 a.m., got on a bus, the whole nine yards,” he said.

“This particular team is very young and they are going to learn from their mistakes.

“We didn’t work very hard this game, at all, and Timmins outclassed us. They were the better hockey team, from top to bottom, from the puck drop in the first period to the last whistle of the game, period.

“So, we just have to regroup, reformulate our game plan, have the boys have a nice rest here in Timmins, have a good meal here tonight and tomorrow and essentially come out to play the way we can play.

“This was not how the French River Rapids play. The people here in Timmins have seen us play and we have been very competitive.

“Going in, the goals for and against for both teams were 21-21. We won three, they won three.

“We are a much better team than this, but I give Timmins all the credit. They were prepared and they wanted this game more than we did. It is that simple.

“Tomorrow is a new day and it is a long series and we have to start again tomorrow.”

The list of Rapids players who caught their coach’s eye Thursday night was a short one.

“I think our goalie (Sheffield) was pretty good,” Frustaglio said.

“Unfortunately, Cole Sheffield did not get a lot of help on a bunch of those goals.

“There were scrambles in front and our D didn’t take the man. They were looking down at the puck. At times, our goalie made two and three saves and a goalie can only make so many saves.

“As far as I am concerned, I thought he had a pretty good game.

“Who else had a good game on our side? That’s it. How’s that?”

Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy stopped 19 of the 21 shots he faced to earn his first career playoff win.

Sheffield was tagged with the loss for the Rapids.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Pigeon (one goal, one assist), Schwindt (one goal, one assist) and Wells (two assists) … The Rock went 1-3 on the power-play, while the Rapids were 0-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 811 … Thursday’s other playoff action saw the Lumberjacks knock off the Powassan Voodoos 4-1 in Hearst and the Thunderbirds edge the Blind River Beavers 3-2 in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will entertain the Rapids in Game 2 of their best-of-seven East Division semifinal series at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7 p.m.