One night after suffering just their eighth regulation loss of the season, the Timmins Rock rebounded to double up the Cochrane Crunch 4-2 at the McIntyre Arena on Saturday in the second half of their home-and-home series.
With the victory, the Rock (35-8-1-1) managed to remain within one point of the Powassan Voodoos (26-7-1-0) atop the NOJHL’s overall and East Division standings.
After suffering a 4-3 overtime loss to the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake Friday night, the Voodoos — who have a game in hand on the Rock — took care of business Saturday night at the Noelville Arena, handing the French River Rapids a 5-2 setback.
So, just what did the Crunch do to give the Rock fits during the home-and-home series?
“Their goalie is pretty good,” said Rock coach Corey Beer, with a chuckle.
“He was sensational Friday night and you look at the way the game played out tonight and it was arguably our best win of the year, because of the adversity coming into this game and our lack of compete Friday night.
“The challenge today was how could we build from that and I loved everything about tonight’s effort.
“I got in a lot of guys faces and challenged them to be better and we got great responses up and down the lineup. Some guys had bad starts, but they came back with great finishes.
“It was a fun hockey game to be part of and a great win for the Timmins Rock.”
Things did not start off well for the Rock at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night, as Owen Perala gave the Crunch a 1-0 lead when he netted an unassisted marker, his 17th goal of the season, at the 8:32 mark of the opening period.
It took just 51 seconds for the Rock to get back on even terms, however, as Stewart Parnell scored the first of his two goals on the night and 19th of the season.
The two teams skated into the first intermission deadlocked at 1-1.
The Crunch then regained the lead at the 1:43 mark of the middle frame, with Tyson Moore supplying his eighth goal of the season.
That would prove to be the only scoring play in the period and the Crunch carried their one-goal advantage into the second intermission.
Having outshot the Crunch 23-8 through two periods of play, it was looking like the Rock might suffer a fate similar to the one that saw them drop a 3-1 decision to the Crunch Friday night.
They persisted, however, and scored three unanswered third-period goals while outshooting the visitors 10-3 in the frame.
Parnell’s second goal of the night and 20th of the season, at the 7:37 mark, got the Rock back on even terms.
Then, with just 2:31 remaining in regulation, Cameron Kosurko took advantage of a strange bounce to deposit his ninth goal of the season into the Crunch net behind Zach Wickson.
That goal came just nine seconds after Matthew Minichiello, one of the Crunch’s leading scorers, was ejected from the game for disputing the call of an official.
Beer was once again impressed by the strong play of Kosurko, one of the youngest players in a Rock uniform Saturday night.
“His compete level is unwavering,” he said.
“He is always in the scrums and he always finds a way to contribute, whether it is offensively or defensively. He wins a lot of puck battles.
“We don’t care if a guy is 16 or 20. If he makes the right plays he is going to get the minutes.
“He keeps proving time and time again he is a reliable player on this team. Two minutes to go, game on the line, he is out there making plays.
“He is very similar to what Keegan McMullen (now a member of the OHL’s Peterborough Petes) was for us last year. They are very similar players.”
Parnell was another player who made a favourable impression on his coach Saturday night.
“He and his linemates (Tyler Schwindt and Gabinien Kioki) did a very good job on the net cycle tonight,” Beer said.
“Maybe early on they were trying to force a couple of plays and things weren’t working, but all of a sudden they just started being those power forwards they can be out there, grinding down low.
“They are big bodies who can really dominate a hockey game and that opens up the speed game up top.
“If we don’t play down low and play heavy at times we are too easy a team to play against.
“I found that last night. We were way too spread out and didn’t do the things that pulled them out of position tonight.”
Minichiello was joined on the sidelines by teammate Maxwell Tucker following Kosurko’s game-winning goal, again with the infraction being disputing the call of an official.
Then, with just two seconds remaining in regulation, Josh Dickson iced the game for the Rock when he deposited his 22nd goal into the empty Crunch net with Wickson on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
That prompted a third member of the Crunch, blue-liner Jordan Fielding, to get tossed for disputing the call of an official.
The ejections earned all three Crunch players two-game suspensions and $150 fines.
Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard was not happy about the situation and no, his anger was not directed at the officiating crew.
“Some of our players need to take responsibility,” he said.
“Our discipline in the last three minutes was not good. Prior to the game-winning goal, we lost our top forward because he is not mature enough to keep his mouth quiet.
“You can’t lose your top scorer in a big hockey game like this because we were in an intense hockey game.
“He has to stay on the ice and that right there got the bench all riled up.
“We have to mentally get tougher and learn to shut our mouths and play the hockey game the way it was meant to be played.
“The referees let both teams play tonight and they did an excellent job. We just had to do our job and we didn’t do our job. That’s what cost us this hockey game.”
Overall, Leonard was pleased with the effort the Crunch put forth in the two weekend games.
“We know how to play the Timmins Rock,” he said.
“Four games in a row now, we have played them tight. Two overtime losses, a win Friday night and today it was a 2-2 hockey game and probably the only shot that wasn’t a shot on net went in the net for the game-winner.
“It was just a bad bounce off the stanchion and the only scoring chance they didn’t have ended up producing the game-winning goal.”
Even though Wickson surrendered three goals Saturday night, he was once again solid between the pipes for the Crunch.
“Zach has been awesome and I have to give him a lot of credit,” Leonard said.
“He has not been giving up very many rebounds and at the same time I have to give our D and our F1 forwards a lot of credit, as well.
“We have been keeping the other teams from getting a lot of two-on-ones or three-on-ones.
“We have been limiting other teams to a lot of outside shots and he (Wickson) is seeing a lot of clean shots and we can give those up all night.”
The netminder was not the only Crunch player to impress his coach on the weekend.
“I thought Owen Perala had a great game tonight, for sure,” Leonard said.
“Fielding has been good for us the last two games on the back end, as well, but he is a young guy and he needs to be mentally disciplined.
Rock goalie Vance Meyer, who blocked nine of the 11 shots he faced in the contest, earned his 14th win of the season.
Wickson turned aside 29 of the 32 shots the Rock directed his way and he was tagged with the loss.
CRUNCH 3 ROCK 1
Hunter Buzzi’s shorthanded marker at the 6:38 mark of the third period snapped a 1-1 tie and propelled the Crunch to a 3-1 win over the Rock at the Tim Horton Event Centre Friday night.
The fourth-place Crunch were able to inch closer to clinching a playoff berth.
It was the Rock who found the back of the net first Friday night at the Tim Horton Event Centre, with blue-liner Zachary Fortin netting his first NOJHL goal at the 2:01 mark of the opening period.
That one-goal advantage held up until just past the midway point of the middle frame when the Crunch got a power-play marker off the stick of Billy Paschen, his seventh goal of the season.
Buzzi then gave the Crunch the lead when stole the puck just inside the Rock blue-line and after Rock goalie Tyler Masternak stopped his original shot deposited the rebound behind him for what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
It was the 17th goal of the season for the Ignace native.
The visitors, who outshot the Crunch 18-7 in the third period, continued to press for the equalizer in the dying minutes of the frame but any hopes they had of forcing overtime were dashed when Minichiello deposited his 23rd goal of the season into an empty Rock net with Masternak on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
Wickson, who turned aside 45 of the 46 shots the Rock directed his way, picked up his 10th win of the season.
Masternak, who stopped 14 of the 16 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Parnell, Perala and Kosurko, while Wickson, Paschen and Fortin were honoured Friday night in Cochrane … The Rock did not dress forwards Karter Renouf (lower-body injury) and Dave Laroche (lower-body injury), as well as blue-liners Quinn Schniedmiller (upper-body injury) and Owen Shier (upper-body injury). Affiliate blue-liner Christopher Innes, who played nine games with the Crunch at the start of the season, made his Rock debut Saturday night … The Rock went 0-2 on the power play Saturday night, while the Crunch were 0-1 with the man advantage. In Friday night’s contest, Timmins was 0-5 on the power play, while Cochrane went 1-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night was 1,089, while 382 fans attended Friday night’s contest at the Tim Horton Event Centre … Saturday night’s other action saw the Gold Miners edge the Hearst Lumberjacks 4-3 in Kirkland Lake, the Beavers double up the Soo Thunderbirds 6-3 in Blind River and the Espanola Express chug past the Wildcats 2-1 in overtime in Elliot Lake … The Rock will return to action on Tuesday night when they travel to Kirkland Lake for a game against the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex. They will then return home for a showdown against the Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena on Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.