Timmins Rock forwards Wayne Mathieu, right, and Jordan Picard celebrate linemate Riley Brousseau’s first period goal during Game 2 of the best-of-seven East Division semi-final series at the Powassan Sportsplex. After dropping Game 1 of the series Friday night, the Rock rebounded to defeat the Voodoos 5-2 Saturday night to earn a split of the first two games of the series and seize home-ice advantage away from their hosts. Game 3 in the series will be played Tuesday night at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is 7 p.m. DAVE DALE/POSTMEDIA NETWORK
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
POWASSAN – Three power-play goals helped the Timmins Rock defeat the Voodoos 5-2 in Game 2 of their NOJHL East Division semi-final series at the Sportsplex Saturday night.
One night after dropping a 5-2 decision to the Voodoos in Game 1 of the series, the Rock never trailed en route to the series-tying victory that allowed them to steal home-ice advantage away from the NOJHL’s top regular-season team.
“Our maturity and our discipline was the big difference tonight,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“They are a talented team and they like to play with a lot of aggression in their game. For our guys to be able to suck up some of the hits and battle through it without getting rattled was very key for us.”
The coach was pleased to see his team find some success on the power play Saturday night, as well.
“We were very opportunistic on the power play tonight,” Beer said.
“We got a big five-on-three goal early in the third period, which was huge for us.
“Special teams are a big factor in any playoff game, or series. For us to get the power play going tonight was huge.”
The Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead on affiliate player Riley Brousseau’s second goal in as many game, a power-play marker at the 12:01 mark of the first period.
Tyson Gilmour’s first goal of the playoffs, just over three minutes later, got the Voodoos back on even terms.
But Wayne Mathieu’s third goal of the playoffs, just 18 seconds later restored the Rock’s one goal lead heading into the first intermission.
The Rock added to their lead at the 6:12 mark of the middle frame when Derek Seguin scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal — the Rock’s second power-play marker.
Quinton Loon-Stewardson’s goal just over a minute later cut the Rock lead to 3-2, but former Voodoos forward Tyler Gilberds scored just shy of the midway point of the period to put the Rock back in front by a pair of goals, 4-2.
The Rock’s second power-play goal of the night, just 48 seconds into the third period, off the stick of defenceman Jun Yi (Frank) Zhong put the Rock in front by three goals and made the final score 5-2 in favour of the visitors.
The Rock coach did not hesitate to go with Tyler Masternak in net Saturday night even though he lifted him after two periods and five goals in Friday night’s loss.
“There was no question in our minds that he was going back in,” Beer said.
“He did a phenomenal job in our first-round series against Hearst and he was worthy of being back in there. Not all of those goals Friday were on him. They were on us as a team.
“We felt confident with him going back in there and he shut the door tonight.”
Even though the Rock blew a number of leads in games against the Voodoos during the regular season and they couldn’t hold a 1-0 advantage in Game 1 of the series, there was no doubt on the Rock bench Saturday night.
“There was no chatter about it at all,” Beer said.
“We knew what we had to do and how we wanted to execute our game plan. We did that very well and like I mentioned earlier I think our discipline and maturity came through tonight.
“I think our team really grew in that first series in terms of learning how to win on the road and tonight was another part of that evolution.”
Indeed, after struggling to win on the road during the regular season, the Rock have now won three of the four road games they have played since the start of the playoffs.
There was no shortage of other Rock players deserving of a little extra praise following Saturday night’s big win.
“Our guys on the penalty kill did a tremendous job,” Beer said.
“Evan Kentish-Stack was phenomenal. Linden Spencer was great and A.J. Campbell blocked numerous shots.
“Derek Seguin and Wayne Mathieu were great and you look at the guys on the back end. Will Caston and Frederic Leclair-Pouw were a couple of warriors. Shawn Sload, Jared Hester and Frank Zhong all blocked shots and were huge for us.
“We don’t get away with the type of penalty kill we want to have without those guys fronting pucks and sacrificing their bodies. They were all huge for us tonight.”
The coach was also impressed with the continuing emergence of Brousseau.
“He is a guy we identified that we wanted to bring up and get him as much experience as possible,” Beer said.
“He has a nice combination of speed and size. He has got great skill and a nose for the net. He knows how to play our system pretty well and he is doing a great job.”
Brousseau patrolled the left side Saturday night on a line with Mathieu in the middle and Jordan Picard on the right side.
“That line was great,” Beer said.
A subtle switch helped Seguin have some success on the Rock power play Saturday night.
“We got him off the wing and back in the middle of the ice,” Beer said.
“As you know, we don’t shy away from tweaking our lines, both on a daily basis and even during games.
“It was a good move to help get Derek going and I thought he was phenomenal Friday night, as well, maybe just a little unlucky.
“He is a hard-working player and he knows how to play down low. He plays a heavy game and he has fully bought into how to play 200-foot hockey. We expect him to continue on this trend.”
Seguin was just happy to be able to contribute to the Rock victory in any way he could.
“Our power play had been pretty good,” he said.
“Picard had the puck in the corner, he beat his guy and threw it on the net. (Stewart) Parnell tipped it and it went back door and I just blindly threw it at the net and it somehow managed to get in.
“I didn’t even see how it went in.”
Naturally, the Timmins native didn’t know at the time his goal would stand up to be the game-winner, but he knew it was important.
“Any time you can get a lead on a team like Powassan, it’s huge,” Seguin said.
“I think we did a much better job of staying composed in this game. We did have a lead in the last game, but we kind of took our foot off the gas pedal. Tonight, we did a much better job of sticking to the game plan. It was really nice to see all the guys really going tonight.”
Masternak turned aside 25 of the 27 shots he faced to pick up his third win over the playoffs.
Voodoos goalie Julian Galloway, who stopped 29 of the 34 shots the Rock fired his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Brousseau, Masternak and Galloway … The Rock did not dress defenceman Collin McGuire (undisclosed), forward Paul Spadafora (undisclosed), defenceman Eric Paquette (undisclosed) and forward C.J. Bradburn (upper-body injury) … The Rock went 3-11 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Powassan Sportsplex was 260 … Saturday night’s other action saw the Crunch double up the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 4-2 in Cochrane to take a 2-0 lead in the other East Division semi-final series and the Thunderbirds edge the Soo Eagles 4-3 in Game 1 of one of the West Division semi-final series … Game 3 of the East Division semi-final series between the Rock and the Voodoos will be played at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night, starting at 7 p.m.