IROQUOIS FALLS — Josh Dickson scored three goals to lead the Timmins Rock to 5-3 win over the Hearst Lumberjacks in NOJHL exhibition action at the Jus Jordan Arena Thursday night.
The victory evened the Rock’s preseason record at 1-1, while the Lumberjacks — who dropped a 7-4 decision to the Cochrane Crunch on home ice Wednesday night — fell to 0-2.
The Rock dominated the game’s first 40 minutes — outshooting the visitors 30-12 — and carried at 5-0 lead into the third period.
Rock coach Corey Beer was pleased with the way his squad played in first two periods, but he was not surprised to see the Lumberjacks battle back and make a game of it in the third period.
“We saw an expected push from them in the third period,” he said.
“They have a good team and (Lumberjacks coach and general manager) Marc (Lafleur) does a tremendous job with them and their forecheck.
“They came out flying in that third period and I think for our guys it was a little bit of a learning curve.
“Regardless of whether it is early in the preseason, you have to play every shift. You can’t sit on a good lead. You have to keep pushing and stick to the game plan.
“For us, as coaches, it is a good teaching moment. We can sit there and say we had a bad 10 minutes, let’s regroup and try and be better.
“Overall, I thought we played a very good game.”
First-period goals by Dickson and Stewart Parnell staked the Rock to a 2-0 advantage.
Parnell beat Lumberjacks goalie Tomi Gagnon with a wrist shot from in close as he was falling to the ice
The Rock kept applying the pressure in the second period and they were rewarded when Joshua Kego beat Gagnon with a wrist shot through the five hole.
Dickson then struck for his second and third goals of the night just over two minutes apart midway through the frame.
“Our transition game was really real sharp and we played with a lot of pace,” Beer said.
“Our guys were filling their lanes and they had a lot of speed on their entries. I loved the way our defence played during the first two periods. They were clean on their exits and everyone was hitting their guy with crisp passes and lots of pace.
“When we play like that, we are going to be a dangerous team.
“Our centre position is pretty deep with Derek Seguin, Stewart Parnell, Josh Dickson and Linden Spencer.
“When you are good down the middle, good on the back end and good in net, you are in good shape.
“We have some good building blocks.”
The Lumberjacks finally snapped out of their funk when Maxime Lacroix beat Rock affiliate goalie Dylan Dallaire — who had come on in relief of Nicholas Dicks at the start of the third period.
William Page added an unassisted goal just over two minutes later to pull the Lumberjacks to within three goals of their hosts.
A power-play goal off the stick of Davely Fortin with 9:36 remaining in the frame made it a 5-3 hockey game and Beer opted to pull Dallaire with Dicks returning to the net to finish up the game.
There was some concern when Dickson left the bench for the dressing room at the end of the contest nursing a lower-body injury, but it does not appear to be too serious.
“He has a little bit of a bruise,” Beer said.
“He banged himself into the wall. He will keep some ice on it and we will monitor him for a couple of days, but he should be good.”
A couple of other Rock players were a little worse for wear following the contest, as well.
“(Maxime) Piquette has a bit of an upper-body issue,” Beer said.
“He should be okay, but he got hit pretty hard. It was a Junior ‘A’ hit for sure. It has been a little bit of an adjustment for him, with the pace of the game.
“Joshua Kego is also nursing a little bit of an upper-body injury he sustained in practice. It was kind of bugging him a bit.”
The Rock and the Lumberjacks will play the second half of their home-and-home exhibition series at the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst Friday night.
They won Game 1 and Game 3 of their 2018 NOJHL East Division quarterfinal series in that building, but Beer knows it can be an unfriendly arena for visiting teams.
“I am excited to see how our guys handle playing in that arena because we have had some troubles there in the past,” he said.
“It is a great rink with a great atmosphere. The fans are right on top of you, so for our guys it is going to be a good test.
“In the preseason, we don’t really put much stock in wins or losses. They don’t really have much relevance, but it will be interesting to see how our guys respond to the crowd.”
Lafleur was unavailable to comment following Thursday’s loss, but assistant coach Marc-Alain Begin, a former Abitibi Eskimos star, was pleased with the way the Lumberjacks finished the contest.
“We played the Lumberjacks’ way,” he said.
“We started to get pucks deep, our puck management was much better and we started to win some of the one-on-one battles. That’s how we scored a couple of our goals.
“Even our power-play goal came off of a turnover.”
Begin felt it wasn’t so much what the Lumberjacks were doing wrong as much as it was what the Rock were doing right that allowed Timmins to build its 5-0 lead.
“Timmins played the right way,” he said.
“They put pucks behind our D and we made a lot of turnovers during the first two periods.
“We were able to clean that up in the third period.”
Even though the Lumberjacks came out on the losing end of the scoreboard, a number of players impressed Begin with their effort.
“Young Davely Fortin, on the back end, is a real smooth skater and he tends to make the right play,” he said.
“Up front, one of our veterans, Max Griffioen, had a good game, especially in the third period. He made a couple of nice plays and picked up a couple of points.”
More than 500 fans came out for the Lumberjacks first exhibition game Wednesday night and Begin feels the crowd might be even larger for Friday nightֹ’s contest against the Rock.
“The fans we have in Hearst are amazing,” he said.
“The support we get is unbelievable. The boys love playing front of them and we feed off of their energy, for sure.
Dicks, who turned aside all 16 shots he faced, earned the victory. Dallaire blocked 10 of the 13 shots fired his way during the 9:36 he played in the third period.
Gagnon was tagged with the loss and he stopped 17 of the 22 shots he faced. Nicholas Tallarico blocked all 18 shots fired his way in the contest.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of Thursday night’s contest were Dickson, Lacroix and Rock forward Darcy Haupt, who had three assists in the contest … The Rock did not dress goalie Tyler Masternak, defencemen Luka Bolduc, defenceman Owen Shier, defenceman Connor Mullins, defenceman James Redmond, forward Maxime Charbonneau and forward Keegan McMullin … Thursday’s other NOJHL exhibition action saw the French River Rapids edge the Express 4-2 in overtime in Espanola, the Soo Thunderbirds dump the Soo Eagles 3-1 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and the Abitibi Temiscaming Gaillards, of the RSEQ, beat the Gold Miners 3-2 in Kirkland Lake.
Photos courtesy of Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)