By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Powassan Voodoos doubled up the Timmins Rock 4-2 Sunday afternoon at the McIntyre Arena to extend their winning streak to 20 games.
Andy Baker’s second goal of the game NOJHL-leading 29th of the season with just over five minutes remaining in regulation snapped a 2-2 tie and provided the visitors with their margin of victory.
Both teams were playing their third game in two-and-a-half days, but it was the Voodoos — perhaps inspired by their streak — that appeared to have more jump Sunday afternoon.
“I thought it was a great hockey game,” said Voodoos coach Scott Wray.
“This has been one of the roughest stretches of our schedule, with back-to-back weekends where we played three games in two-and-a-half days. Really, we played six game in 10 days.
“I am just very happy with the results, obviously.”
The streak aside, any time any team can pick up six of a possible six points on the northern swing has to make any coach happy.
“We got six points in three tough buildings,” Wray said.
“The game in Kirkland Lake was a good hockey game, just like this afternoon’s. It could have gone either way and we found a way to win in the third period. You win a third and win a game, that’s our motto.
“We are finding ways to win and it’s not always the same guys. Sometimes it is, but we have guys picking up the slack. Today, we were missing Gary Mantz out of our lineup, but other guys got ice time and they played well.
“I am very happy with the way our kids played.”
Neither team could find the back of the net in the opening 20 minutes of play, as Rock goalie Albert Rogers and Voodoos keeper Nate McDonald shut the door.
Baker got the visitors on the scoreboard midway through the second period, when he netted his 28th goal of the season.
Jacob Shankar’s 10th goal of the season three-and-a-half minutes later tied things up at 1-1 for the Rock, however.
That’s the way the second period ended.
Bain Cunningham’s ninth goal of the season just 55 seconds into the third period gave the Rock their only lead of the contest, 3-2.
It took the Voodoos less than four-and-a-half minutes to deadlock the contest at 3-3, however, as Tyson Gilmour — son of former NHL star Doug Gilmour — scored his 18th goal of the season.
That set the stage for Baker’s game-winner and an empty-net goal from Ryan Bazzana, his fourth of the season, to ice things with 1:32 remaining in regulation.
Wray was happy with happy to see Baker and Gilmour pick up some of the slack from Mantz being out of the lineup.
“They have been doing it all year,” he said.
“Gilly (Gilmore) has pretty much been an unsung hero for us all year, sitting in the shadows behind Baker and Mantz. He is quite the hockey player. He makes something out of nothing every game. He is a real elusive player to play against.”
Wray was also impressed by the play of McDonald, not just in Sunday afternoon’s game but the entire weekend.
“He has been solid, but I didn’t expect him to play all three of the games this weekend. I didn’t want him to play three of three this weekend, but when your goaltender tells you he wants to play, you put him in the net.
“He has been unbelievable. What he is doing back there for a 1999 (birth year) is pretty impressive. We have been blessed here to have back-to-back years with two really good starters (Garrett Forest in 2015-16 and McDonald) and we have got to roll with it.”
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was frustrated after watching his team play well enough to lose Sunday afternoon’s contest.
“We were in this game until we never got the puck out in the third period,” he said.
“Our better players never got it out and they made a nonchalant play and then the Voodoos get the puck and there is a deflection goal. Why? Because they were lackadaisical.
“I don’t understand it. I really don’t. We are finding ways ways to lose. Every time we are playing really good hockey, then we have a couple of guys who just do their own thing. It’s unfortunate.
“It’s encouraging to see the kids work hard and all that, but it’s discouraging and embarrassing to see some players just do their thing.”
Gagne had been happy with his team’s play until the Voodoos took the lead in the third period.
“It was a hell of a game until they got that third goal,” he said.
“Both teams were playing it fairly safe. I think the shots to that point were 16-16. Both teams were playing good defence and good offence. We had our chances and they had their chances. Both teams were playing good hockey.”
With the same players making the same mistakes over and over again, some fans would like to see their butts firmly planted on the bench or maybe even in the press box, but the coaching staff’s hands are somewhat tied at this point.
“We only have 19 players right now, so it would be hard to do that,” Gagne said.
“I guess we could go with a few more affiliate players.”
The Rock used Timmins Majors captain Evan Kentish-Stack Sunday afternoon and he made a good first impression in his inaugural NOJHL contest.
“He had a few shifts in the first and second periods and he did well,” Gagne said.
“He took a cross check in the back and drew a penalty against the other team. We got a power play, so we were really happy he was able to help us out today.”
The coach was also pleased with the play of Rogers, who returned to the form he demonstrated during his first three starts in a Rock uniform.
“He played really well today, he did,” Gagne said.
“He made a couple of big saves. For a while there, the shots were 16-16 and we limited them to shots from the outside, which was nice.”
McDonald turned aside 22 of the 24 shots the Rock fired his way to earn the victory for the Voodoos.
Rogers blocked 18 of the 21 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — Forward Marcus Blackned has left the Rock to return home to Mistissini, QC, to attend school … The three stars of the contest were Baker, Voodoos forward Cade Herd and Shankar … The Rock were 0-3 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 0-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 820 … Sunday’s other NOJHL game saw the Beavers defeat the Rayside-Balfour Canadians X-X in Blind River … The Rock will return to action on Thursday night when they host the French River Rapids at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.