GALLERY: GAME 4 – Pigeon nets pair as Rock top Rapids, lead series 3-1

Timmins Rock forward Nicolas Pigeon gets a shot off on French River Rapids goalie Brady Dyer during Game 4 of their NOJHL East Division semifinal series at the Noelville Arena Tuesday night. Pigeon scored a pair of goals to help lead the Rock to a 4-1 win over the Rapids in the contest and a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 will be played at the McIntyre Arena on Thursday, at 7 p.m. DAL PHOTOGRAPHY/FOR NOJHL NETWORK jpg, TD

Captain Nicolas Pigeon scored a pair of goals to help lead the Timmins Rock to a 4-1 win over the Rapids at the Noelville Arena Tuesday night.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

FRENCH RIVER — Captain Nicolas Pigeon scored a pair of goals to help lead the Timmins Rock to a 4-1 win over the Rapids at the Noelville Arena Tuesday night.

But the victory, which gave the Rock a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven NOJHL East Division semifinal series, may prove to be a costly one.

Already missing injured forwards Lucas Piekarczyk, Kaeden McArthur, Ethan Pool and Yan Bessette, as well as forward Harry Clark, who is currently attending university, the Rock saw three more players go down with lower-body injuries Tuesday night — none more significant that Pigeon.

“We will probably be without Pigeon for a while, which is not good,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.

“(Blue-liner Brandon) Rossetti is hurt, (blue-liner) Tenzin Nyman is hurt, all lower-body stuff.

“We will get them in and get treatment and hopefully we will have a couple of guys back for Thursday, but it is not looking good.”

The rash of injuries late in the regular season and early in the playoffs has forced the Rock to rely heavily on affiliate players and two were in the lineup Tuesday night, forward Thomas Beard and blue-liner Ayden Trottier (younger brother of blue-liner Kyle Trottier).

“Obviously, if we lose these guys for … I don’t even know where to go with this … we can’t lose Nic Pigeon,” Perry said.

“We wouldn’t survive it, but we do have guys in our affiliate system who have done a great job all season.”

Indeed, few teams — if any — would be able to survive losing the NOJHL’s most valuable player and regular-season scoring champion.

Pigeon’s second goal of the playoffs, at the 16:07 mark of the opening period, staked the Rock to a 1-0 lead.

Hayden Rynard doubled that advantage when he netted his first tally of the playoffs 3:40 into the middle frame, that marker would stand up to be the game-winning goal.

Connor Picard got the Rapids on the scoreboard just over two minutes later when he notched his second goal of the playoffs.

Pigeon’s second marker of the night and third of the playoffs a minute and a half later restored the Rock’s two-goal advantage and countered any momentum swing the Rapids might have otherwise enjoyed.

And Liam Wells’ first goal of the playoffs, with five minutes remaining in regulation, provided some icing on the cake and made the final 4-1 in favour of the Rock.

The Rock coach was pleased with his squad’s effort Tuesday night, even though they were still a little off.

“It’s not an effort thing with us, the guys are working hard and they are trying,” Perry said.

“We are short staffed up front, the guys are tired, they are taxed, they are beat up, they are everything.

“It’s just executing, systems wise, for some reason we are not as sharp as we have been this season.

“We were a little tired last night, (a 4-3 overtime loss to the Rapids in French River) and guys were getting a little selfish, trying to do things on their own and it bit us in the butt.

“Tonight, I thought it was a better effort all around and in terms of our systems I thought we played with a little more structure, cleaned things up a little bit, but it is still not where we want to be.”

Given that both teams were playing their fourth games in five nights, it is understandable that the Rock and the Rapids were a little tired Tuesday night.

“They (the Rapids) played hard Monday night and they played hard tonight, too,” Perry said.

“The wins are only going to get tougher in this series. That fourth one is always the hardest one to win for a reason.

“When teams have their backs against the wall, they have no choice but to throw it all out there.

“They definitely played hard the last two games and we weren’t clean enough.”

With Pigeon netting two of the Rock’s four goals Tuesday night, the team’s top offensive weapons continue to lead the way but they are also getting secondary scoring from other sources, as well.

“Guys have got to step up and provide some offence for us,” Perry said.

“We can’t rely so much on our top guys. They need help, as well, especially with the firepower we have out up front.

“Grigs (Evan Grigor) and Lowesy (Lucas Lowe) did it last night and Ryno (Rynard) had a good game tonight.

“They have been great and everybody is certainly playing a lot of minutes, especially our top guys. Pigeon was absolutely fantastic tonight.”

Wells, who missed the first two games of the series while finishing up the 10-game suspension he picked up on Feb. 20, provided a much-needed boost to the lineup during the two games in French River.

“It was super nice to have him back,” Perry said.

The coach was also pleased with what he saw from 16-year-old goalie Jacob Brown Tuesday night.

“He was solid between the pipes,” Perry said.

“I thought Chase Longhurst had a good game on the back end, as well.

“Lucas Lowe has been fantastic the last two games. He is just a physical pest out there, making plays and I thought Ryno (Rynard) was really good tonight.”

Brown stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced to earn his second victory of the playoffs.

Rapids netminder Brady Dyer, who turned aside 37 of the 41 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Pigeon, Picard and Rynard … The Rock went 1-5 on the power play, while the Rapids were 0-2 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Noelville Arena was 120 … Tuesday’s only other contest saw the Hearst Lumberjacks hang on to edge the Voodoos 3-2 in Powassan. The Voodoos continue to lead that series 2-1, however … The Rock will entertain the Rapids for Game 5 of their East Division semifinal series at the McIntyre Arena on Thursday, at 7 p.m.

Photos: Dal Photography