By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
COCHRANE – The Crunch scored early and often en route to a convincing 12-2 win over the Timmins Rock in Game 2 of their best-of-seven NOJHL East Division semi-final series Saturday night at the Tim Horton Event Centre.
In fact, by the time the game was 5:09 old, the Crunch had built up a 5-0 lead and taken total control of the contest.
Goals by Dustin Cordeiro, his first of three on the night, John Stevenson, also his first of three on the night and Hunter Atchison, the game-winner, 1:17 apart in the first 2:40 of the contest — on just seven shots — chased Rock starting netminder Logan Ferrington from the net.
His replacement, Matthew Nixon, did not fair too much better, however, as the Crunch got two more goals —off the sticks of Stevenson and Atchison, on the power play — past him in a span of 1:59.
The Rock finally settled down and managed to keep the home side of the scoresheet in the final 14:51 of the opening period.
When Nicholas Hautanen netted a power-play goal 2:35 into the second period, the Rock fans who had made the trip from Timmins enjoyed a faint flicker of hope that maybe the visitors could pull off the comeback of the ages.
Crunch defenceman Joey Mavrin — who finished the night with six points — quickly dashed those hopes less than four minutes later, however, as he scored the first of his two-straight power-play goals.
“I believe that’s the most points I have ever had in one game,” Mavrin said, while waiting for the opportunity to sign autographs for a number of young minor hockey players who attended the game.
“Before the game was three minutes old tonight, we had three goals, so that was huge. I think it was a big indicator of how the night was going to go. We wanted to get off to a fast start after Thursday’s game because we had kind of a rough first shift in that game. We applied that to our game tonight and it definitely worked.”
With the Crunch enjoying a big lead, they were frustrating the Rock at every turn.
“They tried to play a more physical, dirty kind of game, but we didn’t really fall for it,” Mavrin said.
“I give them props for trying to stay in the game, but there is just a point where they can’t come back.”
The 20-year-old Lockport, Ill., native realizes that despite Game 2’s one-sided score, the Crunch still need two more victories to finish off the Rock.
“We are definitely going to need to get off to another fast start Tuesday night in their building,” Mavrin said.
“We are also going to have to be consistent and concentrate on playing defence first. If we can apply all of those things to our game, I think we will do fine.”
The home side was enjoying a five-on-three man advantage when Mavrin struck for his second power-play marker to increase the Crunch lead to 7-1.
Stevenson completed his hat-trick 36 seconds later when he added a third-straight power-play goal for the Crunch, making it an 8-1 hockey game.
For the second time on the night, the Rock were able to cut into the Crunch advantage when affiliate player Jace Soroko scored his second goal of the playoffs.
A Brandon Workun goal with 3:37 remaining in the second period sent the Crunch to the dressing room with a 9-2 lead.
With a steady parade of Rock players making their way to the penalty box in the third period, the Crunch added their fifth and sixth power-play markers of the night.
Tyler Minoletti got the puck rolling at the 11:16 mark when he found the back of the net to allow the home side to hit double figures and make the score 10-2.
Cordeiro followed that up less than three minutes later when he netted his second goal of the night.
Less than four minutes later, Cordeiro again beat Nixon to complete his hat-trick and make the final score 12-2 in favour of the Crunch.
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne, who was frustrated following his team’s 4-1 loss in Game 1 of the series, took responsibility for his team’s poor start Saturday night.
“I hate to say it, but we weren’t prepared and it’s our job to prepare them,” he said.
“I thought we had done our job, but we lacked a commitment and we lacked concentration, focus, especially during the first five minutes. There was no reason for it and you know from there on, it’s game over.”
Some fans were surprised that Gagne did not call a timeout following the second, third, fourth or fifth Crunch goal.
“A timeout is only for talking and talk is cheap,” he said.
“That’s all we have been doing, meeting after meeting, after meeting. It would have just been a 30-second meeting after having an hour meeting.”
Under normal circumstances, the Rock would have practised on Friday between Game 1 and Game 2 of the series, but there was no ice time available because of the 2016 Provincial ‘A’ Ringette Championships in Timmins, but Gagne was not about to use that as an excuse for his squad’s disappointing performance Saturday night.
“It was just one practice,” he said.
“It was not the end of the world. A lot of times at this time of year, you taper off in your practices, so I don’t think it was an issue.”
If the Rock can win Game 3 and Game 4 on home ice, they will still have a chance to steal a game in Cochrane — in either Game 5 or Game 7 — to pull out the series.
“Our kids have a lot of character and even if we had won these two games, we would still have to play Game 3,” Gagne said.
“It’s all between our ears right now. We have to come out and play with confidence, adhere to our program and play within ourselves.
“We are going to be ready for Game 3. I know we will.”
Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard was a happy camper following Game 2.
“We maintained our discipline and our composure really well tonight,” he said.
“The guys came out flying tonight and they were ready to play a Junior ‘A’ playoff hockey game and it showed.
“It looked like two different levels of hockey out there tonight. I was happy with the way our team played, but for the 650 fans tonight I am kind of disappointed with the way the game was played. Not on our behalf, but overall. These fans come out to watch and support the NOJHL and they should see a better quality of hockey game than that. Both teams have got to come and play in the playoffs.”
Leonard was pleased with the play of Mavrin, as well as a number of other Crunch players Saturday night.
“Joey played awesome tonight,” he said. “That was probably his best game in two years.
“Every single player was flying tonight. I can’t say any single player took the night off. If we had kept playing pedal to the medal in the second period, the score could have been worse. I didn’t even play Atchison or (Seamus) Maguire in the last 13 minutes. That line sat, but everybody just kept going. All of our lines scored tonight, first to the fourth line, and we had two goals from a defenceman tonight, so it was a great team effort.”
Crunch goalie Brett Young was again steady between the pipes as he made 34 saves and picked up the victory.
Ferrington, who stopped just four of the seven shots he faced, was tagged with the loss. Nixon blocked 34 of the 43 shots he faced in relief.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Mavrin, Stevenson and Cordeiro … Rock defenceman Brennan McGuire and Crunch forward Zak Stepaniuk were ejected from the game following a second-period fight that left the former nursing a sore hand and looking the worse for wear. They each received five-minute majors for fighting and game misconducts, with McGuire also getting a two-minute minor for interference and Stepaniuk being assess a two-minute minor for instigating … The Rock went 1-7 on the power play, while the Crunch were 6-14 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Tim Horton Event Centre was 650 … Saturday night’s other NOJHL action saw the Voodoos edge the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in overtime in Powassan to even the other East Division semi-final series at 1-1, the Elliot Lake Wildcats edge the Canadians 5-4 in overtime in Rayside-Balfour to take a 2-0 lead in one West Division semi-final series and the Thunderbirds triple the Soo Eagles 9-3 in Game 1 of the other West Division semi-final series in Sault Ste. Marie … Game 3 of the East Division semi-final series between the Rock and the Crunch will be played Tuesday night at the McIntyre Arena, with Game 4 to follow Thursday night.