VIDEO / GALLERY: Rock rally to edge Lumberjacks, increase lead atop East Division

Photos: Northern Lights Photography

Two unanswered third-period goals allowed the Timmins Rock to rally for a 4-3 win over the Lumberjacks in a penalty-filled battle for top spot in the NOJHL’s East Division standings Friday night at the Claude Larose Arena.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

HEARST — Two unanswered third-period goals allowed the Timmins Rock to rally for a 4-3 win over the Lumberjacks in a penalty-filled battle for top spot in the NOJHL’s East Division standings Friday night at the Claude Larose Arena.

The first action for either team since the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Jan. 10 trade deadline saw the Lumberjacks take a one-goal lead three times, only to have the Rock battle back and even things up.

As a result of Friday night’s victory, the Rock (27-6-3-2) now hold a three-point lead on the Lumberjacks (27-9-2-0), with both teams having played 38 games.

Noah Janicki opened the scoring for the Lumberjacks when he netted his fifth goal of the season 13:23 into the contest.

The Rock were able to tie things up before the first intermission, however, as Yan Bessette scored his 11th goal of the season and first since being re-acquired by the Rock prior to the Jan. 10 trade deadline.

Emile Pichette’s 18th goal of the season, 1:29 into the middle frame, then put the Lumberjacks up 2-1.

Once again, the Rock fought back to tie things up, with Liam Wells potting his 15th goal of the season just under five minute later.

The Lumberjacks were able to restore their one-goal advantage before the end of the frame, with Tyler Bortkiewicz finding the back of the Timmins net for his second marker of the season just past the midway point of the period.

It took the Rock just 21 seconds to once again tie things up after the puck dropped to start the third period, as affiliate player Ryan Armitage, up from the GNU18L’s Timmins Majors, scored his first NOJHL goal.

And the Lumberjacks would not take a fourth one-goal lead, as Rock forward Nolan Ring netted his 11th goal of the campaign just under eight minutes later to give the Rock their first advantage.

That 4-3 lead held up, as the Lumberjacks were unable to net an equalizer to get back on even terms.

A steady flow of players to the penalty box — especially during the second period — saw the Rock assessed six minor penalties and three misconducts, while the Lumberjacks were handed six minor penalties, a five-minute major, six misconducts and two game misconducts.

“It was a hard-fought game, with a lot of penalties,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.

“There wasn’t much hockey being played, but … yeah, it was one of those games.

“I am not sure what their game plan was, but I think cross checking (Rock Captain Nicolas) Pigeon over and over and over and over again didn’t work out tonight.”

The coach stopped short of describing Friday night’s contest as similar to what you would expect in a playoff game between two heated rivals.

“To be honest, I would have liked to have seen more hockey played,” Perry said.

“They have got a good, deep team, with some good skilled players and it is going to be tight against them if we end up meeting them in the playoffs.”

The coach was happy with what he saw from Bessette, who was playing his first game since being re-acquired by the Rock.

“He got us going, tying it up 1-1,” Perry said.

“He went to the net hard, got a rebound and buried it. He is a big, strong kid and he is not afraid to go to the dirty areas.

“It is always nice when new guys come in and contribute right away. I am sure that one felt good for him.”

With so many penalties in Friday night’s contest, the Rock’s line combinations were pretty much tossed into a blender.

“He (Bessette) was all over the place,” Perry said.

“He started the game with (Lucas) Lowe and (Evan) Grigor, on the third line, and he played a good game.”

The coach was also impressed with what he saw from Armitage, who was playing in his first NOJHL game Friday night.

“He played really well tonight,” Perry said.

“It is tough for those guys because they have got to create stuff off not many minutes. It is hard to sit there for long periods of time, especially when there are tons of penalties, then go out there and be productive.

“He did a fantastic job and he played so hard for us.

“Just kind of had a gut feeling, it is easy to say that now, obviously hindsight is 20-20, but I put him out there with Pigeon and (Lucas) Piekarczyk when Babs (Brady Harroun) was serving the 10-minutes (misconduct).

“He scored a really nice goal, picked up a rebound off the pads, quick hands, went to his backhand tucked it into the empty net.

“It was a beautiful goal and I am super happy for him.”

The coach was happy with what he saw from all of his Rock players Friday night.

“Up and down the lineup, it was pretty much a street fight, but we came out on top,” Perry said.

Perry was also pleased to see the Rock secure the victory in regulation, thus denying the Lumberjacks any points and avenging Sunday afternoon’s 2-0 home-ice set back against Hearst.

“We have let this team hang around, hang around, hang around,” he said.

“Beside the last one, where they beat us at home, the other two they had no business winning.

“That last game at home, we had a chance to go up five points on them and we just couldn’t get it done.”

Every point in the second half of the regular season might prove precious in a tight battle for top spot in the East Division standings.

“Last year, coming down to the wire, the (Soo) Eagles had to beat them in the last game for us to finish first and if I was a betting man I would say that might happen again this year,” Perry said.

Rock goalie Patrick Boivin stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced to earn his NOJHL-leading 18th win of the season.

Ethan Dinsdale, who turned aside 25 of the 29 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Boivin, Bortkiewicz and Pigeon (two assists) … The Rock went 1-4 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Claude Larose Arena was 629 … Friday night’s other action saw the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners dump the Crunch 4-1 in Cochrane, the Paper Kings outlast the French River Rapids 7-5 in Espanola, the Greater Sudbury Cubs double up the Red Wings 4-2 in Elliot Lake and the Soo Thunderbirds fly past the Eagles 6-4 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. … The Rock will return to action on Friday when they host the Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.

“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel