VIDEO / GALLERY: GAME 5 – Rock hang on to edge T-birds, take 3-2 lead

Timmins Rock blue-liner Brandon Rossetti embraces his teammates, from left, Harry Clark, Felix Cadieux-Fredette, Ethan Pool and Justin Charette, after scoring a power-play goal with 4.80 seconds remaining in the first period of Game 5 of the best-of-seven NOJHL final against the Soo Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena Wednesday night. Rossetti’s goal gave the Rock a 3-0 lead in a game they would go on to win 3-2 and take a 3-2 lead in the series, with Game 6 set for Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The Timmins Rock are one win away from an NOJHL championship after hanging on to edge the Soo Thunderbirds 3-2 in Game 5 of their best-of-seven final at the McIntyre Arena Wednesday night.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock are one win away from an NOJHL championship after hanging on to edge the Soo Thunderbirds 3-2 in Game 5 of their best-of-seven final at the McIntyre Arena Wednesday night.

That victory gave the Rock a 3-2 lead in the series, with the action shifting back to the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie for Game 6 on Sunday, at 7 p.m.

Wednesday night’s contest was a tale of two games, with the Rock coming out like world beaters to take a 3-0 lead in the first period and the Thunderbirds slowly clawing their way back in the middle frame and third period.

It took just 50 seconds for the Rock to get on the scoreboard in the opening frame, with Harry Clark finding the back of the net for his third goal of the playoffs.

Justin Charette added a power-play marker, his third goal of the playoffs, with 1:51 remaining in the period.

Blue-liner Brandon Rossetti then added another power-play marker, also his third goal of the playoffs, with 4.80 seconds remaining on the clock.

That goal would stand up to be the game-winning tally.

“I gave the puck to my D partner up top and he gave it right back to me,” he said.

“I knew there were a couple of seconds left on the clock, so I picked a spot, shot it and it went in.”

It was Rossetti’s first contest back at the McIntyre Arena since he crashed feet first into the boards during Game 2 of the series and had to be helped off the ice.

“I was worried, too, at the moment,” he said.

After missing Game 3 in Sault Ste. Marie, Rossetti was back on the ice for Game 4 and had a goal and an assist in the Rock’s 7-4 victory, as well.

“It is playoff time, so I just wanted to go out there and put everything on the line,” he said.

Rossetti was able to duplicate his offensive production from Game 4 on Wednesday night.

Playing mainly with Felix Cadieux-Fredette, he had a lot of success in all three zones.

“We were paying attention to details, playing our positions right, doing what the coaches told us to do and playing physical,” Rossetti said.

After being outshot 14-4 in the opening 20 minutes of play, the Thunderbirds enjoyed a territorial advantage in the middle frame while outshooting the Rock 8-4.

And the Thunderbirds were rewarded for their improved play, as Dharan Cap netted a power-play marker, his NOJHL-leading 10th goal of the playoffs, with 3:27 remaining in the frame.

The Thunderbirds continued to press in the third period, outshooting the Rock 9-5.

And captain Brock Santa Maria pulled the visitors back to within a goal of getting back on even terms when he crashed the net to cash in his fifth marker of the playoffs.

With momentum now firmly on their side, the Thunderbirds pulled goalie Landon Miller in favour of an extra attacker in hopes of netting the equalizer.

Rock goalie Patrick Boivin stood tall, however, and with a little help from his teammates shut the door on the 3-2 victory.

Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry admitted Wednesday night’s victory was a little too close for comfort.

“I thought we came out and had a really good first period, got them on their heels but they flipped the script on us in the second period,” he said.

“It was a little back and forth in the third period, but luckily we were able to get it done.”

While the Rock did surrender a power-play goal Wednesday night, they have killed off 11 of 13 shorthanded situations in the finals to this point in the series.

“Our penalty kill has been fantastic all year,” Perry said.

“We battle, we compete, we win face-offs, our wingers win battles on the wall, the net-front winger wins battles, everybody is setting picks, it is just a really good PK.

“They were great tonight, probably the difference.”

The coach again liked what he saw from Rossetti in Wednesday night’s contest.

“He is just unbelievable, he is just so good,” Perry said.

“He is an absolute warrior, so smart, he defends so well, he competes, he has got great offensive instincts.

“You can use him on the power play, he can kill (penalties), you can use him five-on-five, he can play shutdown, he is just an unbelievable player.”

While Rock goalie Patrick Boivin did not face a lot of shots Wednesday night, he was called upon to make some big saves — especially in the second and third periods.

“Like we always say, your goalie has to be your best penalty killer and he made some big ones (saves) through traffic, not giving out any rebounds,” Perry said.

“He was awesome.”

The coach opted not to single out any other Rock players, with the exception of one, but not because of poor play, but rather because they all contributed something to the victory.

“Up and down our lineup … Justin Charette is just blowing me away, the way he plays the game, the way he thinks, how good his stick is, how hard he competes,” Perry said.

“He is winning face-offs against 20 year olds out there, in big pressure moments, and he is snapping them back.

“He has been so good in this playoff run.”

Thunderbirds general manager and assistant coach Jamie Henderson was pleased with how his team finished the contest, but not so much how they started it.

“Our last couple of starts have obviously put us behind the eight ball,” he said.

“It is a tight series, a long series and we have been saying that right from the start.

“We got back to the game plan with the line of Samuel Lake, Ethan Novello and Anton Petrovskiy really getting us going. They brought a lot of energy and the guys kind of fed off of that.

“But ultimately the (lack of) discipline, and we have talked about that all year, we took a couple of bad penalties in the first period and that was the difference in the game.”

The Thunderbirds used their physicality and size to slow down the speedy Rock in the second and third periods.

“It’s tough because you have always got to walk the line,” Henderson said.

“You want to be physical and you are hoping, there’s not much being called at home, but here it’s a different story.

“When we were physical, we were able to hem them in a little bit but it works the other way, too, when a team goes up 3-0. They tend to sit back a little bit. The same thing happened the other day (Game 4) when it was 5-2.”

The assistant coach was once again impressed with the play of the Thunderbirds captain, Santa Maria.

“You can tell he cares out there,” Henderson said.

“He was battling out there, but it wasn’t easy because he was in a lot of the physical confrontations. He scored a goal for us there at the end.

“We need the same effort level from everybody. We had everybody in the second half of the game, but we need everybody from the start.”

A number of the younger Thunderbirds impressed the assistant coach, as well.

“We had two 2007s in the lineup tonight in (Declan) Gallivan and (Candon) O’Neill, and two 2006s (Callum McAuley), counting Miller, the goalie” Henderson said.

“I don’t know if there are many teams around the country playing Game 5 of the finals with two 2007-born defencemen.

“We lost Brodie McConnell-Barker (in Game 3) to a hit we didn’t like and he hasn’t been able to play (since) and that’s a big difference.”

Boivin’s 19-save effort earned him his sixth win of the playoffs, while Miller, who turned aside 20 of the 23 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Rossetti, Santa Maria and Boivin … The Rock went 2-3 on the power play, while the Thunderbirds were 1-4 with the man advantage … Rock forward Kaeden McArthur left the game in the second period with an apparent upper-body injury and did not return … Rock forward Nolan Ring and Thunderbirds blue-liner Ranon Joseph served the fourth games of the four-game suspensions they picked up for an incident in Game 1 of the series … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena Wednesday night was 1,640 … Game 6 in the series will be played at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday, at 7 p.m.

“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel