GALLERY: Lumberjacks edge Rock, tie series – GM2

Hearst Lumberjacks goalie Matt Kustra makes a save while teammate Alec Johnson ties up Timmins Rock forward Stewart Parnell during the first period of Game 2 of the NOJHL East Division best-of-three quarterfinal series at the McIntyre Arena Monday night. The Lumberjacks scored three unanswered second-period goals to edge the Rock 3-2 and tie the series at 1-1. Game 3 will be played at the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst Wednesday night. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 1:53:43 EDT AM

TIMMINS – The Hearst Lumberjacks hung on to edge the Timmins Rock 3-2 Monday night at the McIntyre Arena and even their best-of-three NOJHL East Division quarterfinal series at 1-1.

After spotting the Rock a 2-0 first-period advantage, the Lumberjacks stormed back to score three unanswered second-period markers.

The visitors then hung on as the Rock ramped things up in the third period to escape with the one-goal victory and force Game 3 back at the Claude Larose Arena on Wednesday night.

Leading the series 1-0 after a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory in Game 1 of the series in Hearst Saturday night, everything seemed to be going the Rock’s way in the first period Monday night.

Derek Seguin’s first goal of the playoffs gave the Rock a 1-0 lead at the 5:03 mark of the opening period.

Then, less than two minutes later, A.J. Campbell potted his first goal of the playoffs to increase the home side’s advantage to a pair of goals.

Things quickly fell apart for the Rock in the second period, however, as the Lumberjacks outshot the home side 15-4.

Spencer Silver got the visitors on the scoreboard at the 6:53 mark of the middle frame when he scored his first goal of the playoffs.

Then, Max Johnson netted a power-play marker, his second goal of the playoffs, to tie things up at 2-2 eight minutes later.

Less than a minute-and-a-half later, Lumberjacks sniper Max Griffioen got in behind a pair of Rock blue-liners, took a pass, broke in all alone and lifted a backhand shot over goalie Tyler Masternak for the game-winning goal.

The Rock threw everything they had at the Lumberjacks in the third period, outshooting the visitors 13-5, but they were unable to net the equalizer.

Rock coach Corey Beer agreed his team was not at its best during the second period Monday night.

“Our composure level was a little off tonight for our guys,” he said.

“They are a physical team and they like to get on the forecheck and cause some problems and we didn’t handle it very well. Some undisciplined stuff after the whistle certainly bit us. You can’t be in the penalty box all night.

“Whether we were trying too hard on our backcheck or whatever it was, some unnecessary penalties hurt us.”

The coach was at a loss to explain why the Rock have been outscored 5-0 in the second periods of Game 1 and Game 2, while they have outscored the Lumberjacks 5-0 in the other two periods and overtime.

“We are certainly going to go back and look at it,” Beer said.

“We had a great first period on the road and we were up 1-0 and today we were up 2-0 and maybe we thought it was going to be a free ride. A lot of our guys are playing in their first playoff series and they are showing their warts right now.

“You have to be able to weather the ebbs and flows and right now we are getting real high and real low. That’s going to have to change come Wednesday.”

The coach was much happier with the effort put forth by his squad in the third period even though they were not able to come up with the game-tying goal they needed.

“It certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying,” Beer said.

“I thought we had a pretty good push back in the third period. Our transition game got going a bit better. I think that was one of the things that was lacking in the second period. We didn’t control the play with any kind of possession.

“You have to give credit to their guys, though. They kept blocking shots and their goalie made some great saves late.

“We fully expected both games to be one-goal games and that’s what the fans have been treated to.”

Both the Rock and the Lumberjacks had difficulty winning on the road during the regular season, but in both Game 1 and Game 2 it has been the road team that has been victorious.

“We certainly hope that trend continues Wednesday night,” Beer said.

“I think what ends up happening in the playoffs is both teams end up playing a very strategic game. Then, you either get the bounces, or you don’t. Hopefully, we will be able to generate some good offence on Wednesday.

“We have had recent success in their building, so we will try to duplicate that Wednesday night.”

Despite the loss, Beer was pleased with the effort put forth by a number of Rock players Monday night.

“Tyler Masternak was great,” he said.

“He didn’t get much help on a couple of those goals. You need great goaltending in the playoffs. We will try to rally around him come Wednesday.

“For a lot of our other guys it will be a little bit of gut-check time.”

Given that one team’s season will come to an end Wednesday night, Beer hopes his Rock will play with the same level of desperation the Lumberjacks employed Monday night.

“Both teams are on the brink of elimination,” he said.

“I am sure the fans in Hearst are going to be treated to a good hockey game. We won’t have to worry about going out and trying to impress a home crowd. We will just try to get back to basics.”

Lumberjacks coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was pleased to see his squad tie the series and regain home-ice advantage.

“Timmins came out pretty strong and we had issues off the rush,” he said.

“They took advantage, just like they took advantage in Hearst, and after falling behind 2-0 we showed a lot of character and no-quit. Maybe earlier in the year, we would have folded our tent.”

Like Beer, Lafleur was at a loss to explain why the Lumberjacks have outscored the Rock 5-0 in the second periods of the two playoff games.

“You know what, I never really thought about that,” he said.

“A lot of times, you are playing well and the pucks aren’t going in. Although we have scored all of our goals in the two second periods, I think we have played six very solid periods up until now.

“If I knew the reason for our second-period success, all of our players would know it, as well.”

Lafleur agreed his goalie, Matt Kustra, was a difference maker — especially in the third period when the Rock started to push back.

“He ended up getting the game hat from our players,” he said.

“He stood his ground in the third period and he managed his rebounds quite well. There were some second opportunities there, but our forwards and our D-men did pretty well in terms of not giving them too many whacks at the puck.

“You have to give Matt credit, though. He earned us this win tonight, especially in the third period.”

The Johnson brothers — defenceman Alec and forward Max — both impressed their coach, as well.

“They are both workhorses for us,” Lafleur said.

“They are the types of players other teams are aware off when they are out there on the ice because of how hard they play.

“They are the types of guys you want in your lineup come playoff time.”

The coach was also impressed with the effort put forth by a number of other Lumberjacks Monday night, as well.

“Maxim Lacroix is so underrated and I think he is already a premier defenceman in our league, as an 18 year old,” Lafleur said.

“He played great tonight and the Zack Dorval, Bradley Golant and Max Griffioen line played pretty solid. So did the Dawson Waddell line. Waddell had his legs going tonight. He is another one of those guys who competes hurt and makes it tough on opponents come March.”

Lafleur doesn’t feel there is any big secret to what it will take for his team or the Rock to be victorious in Game 3 Wednesday night.

“I think the team that takes advantage of its opportunities will win,” he said.

“The capitalized on their chances in Hearst and tonight you take a look at the game-winning goal and Griffioen had somebody on his back but he still managed to put the puck on his backhand and put it over the goalie.

“Those are the type of big plays I think that will determine who is going to come out of this series.”

Kustra turned aside 30 of the 32 shots the Rock fired his way to earn his first win of the playoffs.

Masternak, who blocked 28 of the 31 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Lumberjacks Alec Johnson (two assists), Kustra and Rock forward Wayne Mathieu (one assist) … Rock forward C.J. Bradburn left the game early in the first period with an upper-body injury and he did not return … Rock forward Riley Robitaille was ejected from the game with less than four minutes remaining in the third period after he was assessed a two-minute minor for checking from behind and a game misconduct … The Rock went 0-7 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 1-6 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,168 … The Rock and the Lumberjacks will play Game 3 of the East Division quarterfinal on Wednesday, at 7 p.m.