Powassan Voodoos forward Quintin Loon-Stewardson deflects a shot on Timmins goalie Eric Jackson while Rock defenceman Jarod Hester looks on during the second period of Sunday afternoon’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. The puck managed to sneak between Jackson and the post narrowly missing the net. It would not matter, however, as Loon-Stewardson was able to find the back of the net in the third period to help lead the Voodoos to a come-from-behind 6-5 overtime victory over the Rock. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – To say the Timmins Rock snatched defeat from the jaws of victory might be the largest understatement of the century.
In Toronto Maple Leafs-like fashion, the Rock blew 4-0 and 5-1 leads late Sunday afternoon at the McIntyre Arena before dropping a 6-5 overtime decision to the NOJHL-leading Powassan Voodoos.
“It is part of being a team on the fringes of the playoffs,” said a frustrated Rock coach Corey Beer.
“Sometimes, you build up leads and you can’t hold them. It is part of being a young, inexperienced team.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to withstand the pressure they applied at the end. A couple of undisciplined penalties put us in bad situations. It is unfortunate, but we will take the one point, I guess.”
The Rock employed an aggressive style to take the play to the Voodoos in the early part of the contest, but they were not able to maintain it when it when it mattered most.
“There was no change in our game plan, either,” Beer said.
“So, it was just a matter of our players getting scared and not wanting to play the kind of aggressive hockey we needed to play. We just talked about it in the room, if our guys want to back off and play tentative, this is what is going to happen.
“You have to play aggressive all the time. We will use this as a teaching point and hopefully get better.”
After coming close to knocking off the Voodoos the last two times Powassan visited the McIntyre Arena, it looked like Sunday would finally be the day.
It took Jordan Picard just 57 seconds to stake the Rock to a 1-0 lead when he scored his eighth goal of the season.
And the Rock kept the pressure on, as C.J. Bradburn scored the first of his two goals in the contest and 10th of the season eight-and-a-half minutes later.
Then, Paul Spadafora scored his second goal of the season two-and-a-half minutes later and the Rock took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.
Given that the Voodoos had dropped 7-5 decision to the Lumberjacks in Hearst Saturday night, it appeared the Rock were poised to hand the visitors their second upset in two days.
The Rock continued to roll early in the second period, when defenceman Jared Hester ripped a shot past Voodoos goalie Julian Galloway for his fifth goal of the season.
The Voodoos finally got on the scoreboard eight minutes later, however, when Aaron Dickson scored his 13th goal of the season to cut the home side’s lead to 4-1.
That marker had the 735 fans in the stands starting to feel a little nervous, but Bradburn’s second goal of the game and 11th on the season restored the Rock’s four-goal advantage.
Then, with 3:10 remaining in the second period, Cameron Moore beat Rock goalie Eric Jackson for this third goal of the season, a shorthanded marker.
Leading 5-2 after 40 minutes of play, the Rock still appeared to be in good shape heading into the third period.
Quintin Loon-Stewardson cut the Rock lead to just a pair of goals at the 6:21 mark of the third period when he scored his 14th goal of the season.
Less than two minutes later, Tyson Gilmour — son of former Maple Leafs great Doug Gilmour — scored his 18th goal of the season, a power-play marker, to reduce the Rock lead to a single goal.
Cade Herd completed the Voodoos’ unbelievable comeback with 5:03 remaining in the third period when he scored his 14th goal of the season to knot things up at 5-5.
At that point, the only question remaining was whether or not the Rock would be able to hang on and force overtime so they could at least salvage a single point from one of the greatest collapses in franchise history.
Thankfully for their fans, they were able to stave off the inevitable.
Harrison Israels put the Rock and their fans out of their misery at the 2:43 mark of the first overtime period when he scored his 28th goal of the season, with the two sides playing four-on-four hockey.
Beer realizes when you have a championship-calibre team like the Voodoos on the ropes, you can’t give them any momentum.
“You try to look for lines to give you spark and keep stuff going and it would be nice if our power play showed up this year,” he said.
“Going back to the (four-game) road trip, we can’t score on the power play. We take ill-advised shots. We don’t apply any pressure and nobody wants to work hard. Then, we give up a shorthanded goal and that’s a killer.
“Until our guys understand we are not a talented hockey team and that we have to work harder than anybody else, things are not going to change. If we think we can just sit back, we are fooling ourselves.”
Asked if there were any Rock players who stood out for him Sunday afternoon, Beer said: “I don’t know. I am sure there were a few, but I don’t want to make a positive point of anyone in a game like this.”
Beer knows the importance of not letting the outcome of Sunday’s tough loss become anything more than an overtime defeat.
“I think the big thing for us is going to be practise,” he said.
“We have to understand there are times to cheat on plays and times when you need to come back. On a couple of their goals today, our guys were late on the backcheck. That will show up on video. The one thing that is great about video is it never lies. It shows the guys who work hard and the guys who don’t.
“We will have a pretty good video session Monday and combine that with a hard practice. A lot of guys have to learn the hard way what happens when we lose games like this.”
Voodoos assistant coach Cameron Ladouceur was pleased to see his squad rally for the victory, their second in three games during a weekend road trip through the North.
“The guys came out a little slow this afternoon,” he said.
“I don’t think they were ready to go, but luckily we woke up in the third period and found a way to score a few goals, force overtime. From there, we were just rolling. We found a way to put the puck in the back of the net.”
The assistant coach figures the Voodoos were a little fatigued at the start of Sunday’s contest.
“It isn’t just the three games in three nights,” Ladouceur said.
“We were on the bus a lot, as well. It is a long road trip (Powassn to Cochrane, Hearst and Timmins), with lots of bus food.
“We just didn’t have our legs and it took us a little bit to get going.”
Ladouceur agrees the Voodoos’ second goal was a real turning point in the contest.
“It was shorthanded, too,” he said.
“We did the same thing Friday night, we were down by a couple of goals and got a shorthanded one. It just seemed to get our whole bench going. Everybody got their legs under them.”
The assistant coach had no shortage of Voodoos to chose from when it came time to single out a few guys for a little extra praise.
“I know our goalie had a rough start, but it takes a lot to stay in there and make a couple of big saves,” Ladouceur said.
“Israels had his legs and he was going. Loon-Stewardson, Case, Gilmour, Shane Beaulieu and Cade Herd were going, as well.
“We pretty well had everybody going. A couple of guys were passengers, but we are a team where pretty well any line can score.”
With the victory, the Voodoos — who sit atop both the East Division and NOJHL overall standings — improve to 33-6-1-2 on the season.
The Rock meanwhile, remain fifth place in the East Division standings, with a record of 15-22-2-2, two points behind the Hearst Lumberjacks, who have four games in hand.
Galloway turned aside 33 of the 38 shots the Rock fired his way to pick up his fourth victory on the season in a Voodoos uniform.
Jackson blocked 31 of the 37 shots he faced and he was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Israels, Bradburn and Loon-Stewardson … The Rock did not dress forwards Stewart Parnell (upper-body injury) and Riley Robitaille (serving the first game of a five-game suspension) … The Rock’s new mascot, now officially named Mac, made his debut at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday … The Rock went 0-7 on the power play and surrendered a shorthanded goal, while the Voodoos were 2-7 with the man advantage … The Rock have announced they will wear Timmins Golden Bears jerseys for their game against the Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena on Saturday, Feb. 3. The franchise started out as the Golden Bears, from 1991 until 1998, when it relocated to Iroquois Falls … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 735 … Sunday’s other action saw the Thunderbirds derail the Espanola Express 11-2 in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will return to action on Friday night when they travel to Cochrane for a game against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre. That contest, originally schedule for Jan. 4, will start at 7:30 p.m. The next home game for the Rock will be on Wednesday, Jan. 31, when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena. That contest is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.