GM1: Rock draw first blood

Timmins Rock forward Tyler Gilberds beats Hearst Lumberjacks goalie Liam Oxner for his second goal of the playoffs 35 seconds into the third period of Game 1 of the NOJHL East Division final series at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night. Gilberds goal gave the Rock a 3-1 lead in a game they would go on to win 6-1. Game 2 in the series will be played at the McIntyre Arena on Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The Timmins Rock cruised to a 6-1 win over the Hearst Lumberjacks in Game 1 of their best-of-seven NOJHL East Division final series at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

A four-goal third period allowed the Rock to break open what had been to that point a close hockey game.

For the most part, Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was pleased with what he saw from his squad Tuesday night.

“I thought at the beginning of the game we had some trouble managing our emotions,” he said.

“That’s kind of what you get when you play that team, but I thought we did a really good job later on in the game.

“A couple of guys got challenged but we stepped up and got a big win.”

Nicholas Frederick’s second goal of the playoffs got the Rock on the scoreboard first Tuesday night, as he beat Lumberjacks goalie Liam Oxner at the 2:24 mark of the opening period.

The Lumberjacks got back on even terms just past the midway point in the frame, as blue-liner Jaden Raad netted a power-play marker, his third goal of the playoffs.

Blue-liner Cameron Dutkiewicz restored the Rock advantage 1:30 into the second period when he netted a power-play marker, his second goal of the playoffs.

That tally, like Dutkiewicz’s first of the playoffs, against the French River Rapids, would stand up to be the game-winning goal.

It took just 35 seconds of the third period for the Rock to add to their advantage, as Tyler Gilberds netted his second goal of the playoffs after breaking in all alone on Oxner.

Just over six minutes later, Christopher Engelbert netted his first career NOJHL playoff goal to increase the Rock lead to 4-1.

Less than a minute later, captain Tyler Schwindt connected for a power-play marker, his third tally of the playoffs to put the Rock in front by four goals.

That spelled the end of Oxner’s night in the Lumberjacks net, as Matteo Gennaro came on in relief.

It wouldn’t really matter, however, as Riley Brousseau added his second goal of the playoffs to close out the scoring and make the final 6-1 in favour of the Rock.

While he was pleased with the outcome of Game 1, Perry realizes the Rock haven’t won anything yet.

“It is not even close to being done, but it was a big win,” he said.

Once the Rock got up by a couple of goals, they did a good job of hanging onto the momentum.

“When we get going, we are a really good hockey team,” Perry said.

“If you keep giving us chances, sooner or later it is going to wind up in the back of the net.

“Hey, it wasn’t their night. We expect to face a lot better team Wednesday.

“They have a heck of a hockey team over there and we expect a war Wednesday night.”

The coach was happy to see Engelbert rewarded for his hard work Tuesday night.

“He is the best two-way player, the best 200-foot player in our league, by far,” Perry said.

“He is so good in every single aspect of the game. He is a next-level player and we are so fortunate to have him.

“It was nice to see him get rewarded because he definitely deserved it.”

Engelbert, who hails from Cobourg, Ont., was still smiling broadly following the contest.

“It was an incredible feeling, especially in this arena,” he said, describing his third-period tally.

“With all the fans, that (jumping into Wells’ arms) is just what came naturally.

“With all that excitement, I just let it all out.

“I kind of looked him off on the two-on-one, so I decided I would go give him some love.

“(Rock forward Nolan) Ring broke his stick. Wells came through on a hit, took him with him and broke his stick.

“So, I just hopped on the ice and we had a two-on-one. I looked him off on the pass and just slipped it far side, low blocker.”

Engelbert played on a line with Frederick and Henry Brock Tuesday night.

“Our passes were just clicking and our break-outs were smooth for the most part,” he said.

“We got it done, the little things, being hard on your stick, making those tape-to-tape passes.”

Gilberds, who had the game-winning goals in two of the Rock’s four regular season victories over the Lumberjacks, came up big again Tuesday night.

Perry said, “He is a difference maker for us, he really is.

“He is one of those guys who lets his emotions get the best of him sometimes. I had to have a talk with him, but he was fantastic after that.”

Frederick once again looked like the Energizer Bunny out on the ice Tuesday night, doing everything in his power to ensure the Rock got off to a good start in the contest.

“That’s my guy right there,” Perry said.

“He might be my favourite player that I have ever coached. He is something. He does not lose a puck race. He wins the race to every puck.

“You see the success we have on the power play with that unit. He keeps plays alive. He gets to rebounds.”

Three other Rock players earned a little extra praise Tuesday night, as well.

“(Goalie) Gavin (McCarthy) was absolutely solid and that’s what we need from him,” Perry said.

“He is a young kid and he has an extremely bright future and that’s why, right there.

“Ricky (Eric Moreau) doesn’t have easy nights. He draws the hardest matchups and plays against everybody’s best players.

“That’s the role he wants and he is an absolute beast.

“And Dutkier (Dutkiewicz), what can I say about him that hasn’t already been said this year.

“He is a gamer. There are not too many guys in our league, if any, who have the offensive skill set he has from the blue-line.

“He has got great instincts and a heavy, heavy shot, so it was nice to see him get one tonight.”

The Rock welcomed back blue-liner Tanner Hamilton, who missed the last part of the regular season with an upper-body injury, Tuesday night.

“It was nice to get him into the lineup,” Perry said.

“They told us he would be out four to six weeks and it has been four weeks.”

Lumberjacks assistant general manager Chris Gratton was happy with his squad’s effort in the first two periods of Game 1.

“We were competing, but in the third period we stopped winning battles,” he said.

“We have just got to get back to competing.”

To win the series, the Lumberjacks need just one win at the McIntyre Arena and a sweep of the games in Hearst, so it doesn’t matter if that win comes in Game 1, Game 2, Game 5 or Game 7.

“We have already forgotten this game and we are focusing on the next game,” Gratton said.

“This game is behind us now.”

McCarthy stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced to earn his fifth playoff victory for the Rock.

Oxner, who turned aside 20 of the 25 shots the Rock directed his way in his 47:29 of work, was tagged with the loss, while Gennaro blocked two of the three shots he faced in relief.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Engelbert (one goal, two assists), Gilberds (one goal, two assists) and Frederick (one goal, one assist) … The Rock went 2-5 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 1-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,018 … Tuesday’s other action saw the Thunderbirds top the Soo Eagles 3-1 in Game 1 of the West Division final series in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will entertain the Lumberjacks in Game 2 of the East Division final series on Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m.