GALLERY: Victory in Hearst eludes Rock by .8 of a second

Photos: Northern Lights Photography

The Timmins Rock came within .8 of a second of earning a third-straight victory over the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Arena Thursday night.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

HEARST — The Timmins Rock came within .8 of a second of earning a third-straight victory over the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Arena Thursday night.

Instead, they had to settle for a single point and a 5-4 shootout loss to their NOJHL East Division rivals.

As a result, the Rock (15-5-2-2) and the Lumberjacks (16-6-2-0) find themselves deadlocked atop the standings, two points up on the Powassan Voodoos (16-6-0-0) who have two games in hand.

“It’s a tough way to lose,” conceded Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.

“We played a good first 40 minutes and then … we just didn’t want to play in the third period.”

Leading Thursday night’s contest 4-2 heading into the final minute of regulation, it appeared the Rock had the two points in the bag.

Unfortunately for Rock fans, the Lumberjacks had other ideas.

Ethan Kitsch scored his second tally of the season, with 7.6 seconds remaining on the clock, to pull the Lumberjacks to within a single goal.

And then, after winning the face-off at centre ice, the Lumberjacks stormed back into the Rock zone and Riley Klugerman netted his second goal of the game and 16th of the season with .8 seconds remaining on the clock to tie things up at 4-4 and force overtime.

“We were just making soft plays, that’s all it was,” said Perry, trying to explain what happened in the final minute of regulation.

“We iced a couple of pucks we shouldn’t have. We had time to make plays and we didn’t make them.

“We had the wrong personnel out there and they scored. There was a draw at centre ice with 7.6 seconds left and we win the draw and our defenceman couldn’t get the puck up the ice.

“That’s all we had to do.”

Neither overtime nor the shootouts have been kind to the Rock this season, as they are 0-2 in both forms of extra play following Thursday night’s result.

The five-minute, three-on-three, overtime period that followed regulation decided nothing, setting up the need for the shootout.

Klugerman, with two goals to his credit, was the session’s first shooter, but Rock goalie Jacob Brown denied his attempt.

Kaeden McArthur, the Rock’s first shooter, had no better luck on his attempt on Lumberjacks goalie Ethan Dinsdale.

The Lumberjacks second shooter, Zachary Demers, was also foiled by Brown.

Rock sniper Brady Harroun, whose 17 goals are tops in the NOJHL, could not solve Dinsdale.

Jett Mintenko beat Brown on the Lumberjacks’ third attempt, meaning Rock captain Nicolas Pigeon would have to beat Dinsdale if the shootout was going to continue.

That did not happen, however, and the Lumberjacks were able to cap their unbelievable comeback and emerge with the 5-4 shootout victory.

Looking for their second win at the Claude Larose Arena within a week, the Rock outshot the Lumberjacks 17-11 in the opening 20 minutes of action Thursday night, but trailed 1-0.

Klugerman’s first of his two goals on the night staked Hearst to that advantage.

Four unanswered second period goals, including two on the power play, allowed the Rock to erase that deficit and build a 4-1 lead heading into the second intermission.

Pigeon’s 10th goal of the season, with the Rock enjoying the man advantage, tied things up at 1-1 4:10 into the frame.

McArthur’s fifth goal of the season and second in a Rock uniform then put the visitors in front.

Justin Charette’s fifth tally of the season, a power-play marker, then extended the Rock lead to a pair of goals.

And Ethan Pool’s second goal of the season late in the period made it a 4-1 hockey game after two periods of play.

The Lumberjacks’ rally began just past the midway point in the third period when former Rock forward Tyler Patterson netted his 11th goal of the season to cut his squad’s deficit to a pair of goals.

That set the stage for game’s frantic final minute of regulation.

Perry isn’t really sure why the Rock have struggled in overtime and shootouts so far this season.

“I don’t know what it is, to be honest with you,” he said.

“We had the puck the whole overtime, but we just can’t get it to go in in overtime.

“It should never have gotten to that.

“We played good hockey, but we had some really bad moments in the third period.

“That’s what it is. We have a big test Friday and we have got to move forward.”

Dinsdale, who turned aside 38 of the 42 shots the Rock directed his way, earned his ninth victory of the season.

Brown, who blocked 31 of the 35 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Dinsdale, Kitsch and Pool … The Rock went 2-3 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 0-3 with the man advantage … Rock forward Nicholas Moore served the fifth game of his eight-game suspension … Official attendance at the Claude Larose Arena was 526 … Thursday’s only other contest saw the Cubs edge the Elliot Lake Red Wings 5-4 in a shootout in Greater Sudbury … The Rock will return to action when they host the Espanola Paper Kings at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7:30 p.m.