TIMMINS – Riley Brousseau’s goal off a scramble in front of the Lumberjacks’ net 1:13 into the first overtime period lifted the Timmins Rock to a 2-1 victory over Hearst at the McIntyre Arena Wednesday night.
Coincidentally, the victory also gave the Rock a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven NOJHL East Division semi-final series, with Game 4 set for the McIntyre Arena Friday night.
Rock coach Corey Beer admitted given the intensity of the first three periods, it was surprising either squad had much left in the tank for overtime Wednesday night.
“(In overtime) the plan for both teams was likely to play the reverse trap, keep the play in your own zone and hope for a breakaway, something like that,” he said.
“It was nice that we could end it that early. It was a phenomenal hockey game on the part of both sides. That’s playoff intensity and playoff hockey at its best.”
There certainly was no shortage of physicality, with both teams giving as good as they were getting.
“I think that has been the remedy all series, so far,” Beer said.
“Game 1 was a physical battle and Game 2 even more so. Tonight, things ramped up another notch.
“I am sure Game 4 is going to be no different.”
The low-scoring affair saw the Rock outshoot the Lumberjacks 15-11 in the opening period, but trail 1-0 thanks to Max Johnson’s second goal of the playoffs at the 18:00 mark.
Keegan McMullen’s NOJHL-leading sixth goal of the playoffs at the 7:59 mark of the middle frame got the Rock back on even terms.
Both sides generated a number of scoring chances in the third period, with the Lumberjacks outshooting the Rock 13-9, but neither side was able to find the back of the net.
In overtime, the Rock generated both shots, with Brousseau sliding the puck past Lumberjacks goalie Nicholas Tallarico for his second goal of the playoffs on the latter.
The Rock coach was once again impressed with the play of McMullen, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Tuesday.
“He does everything for us, power play, penalty kill, match-up shutdown guy if you want him to be,” Beer said.
“He is such a good player and he has exceeded all of our expectations this season and I think this is just the cusp of greatness for him.
“It was a heck of a goal. We were kind of fumbling a bit with the puck at that time couldn’t really get much going offensively. So, for a scorer like that to come in and put one under the bar is pretty special.”
Beer agreed the goaltenders at both ends of the rink were at the top of their games Wednesday night.
“Both goalies (Rock netminder Tyler Masternak and Tallarico) have been incredible all series,” he said.
“The 6-2 game (Sunday) and the 6-3 game (Friday) were not indicative of how they were played. Those were tight hockey games, with a couple of fluky goals here and there.
“Tonight was more of a true representation, the way both goaltenders battled. Fortunately for us, we came out on the strong end of it, but both goalies were outstanding.”
Asked which other Rock players impressed him Wednesday night, the coach opted not to single out any other individuals.
“I thought we were pretty good as a unit tonight,” Beer said.
“On special teams, I know we didn’t get rewarded, but I liked our power play tonight. We had some good execution and our penalty kill was really strong.
“It was a complete team effort tonight and I think it has to be from this point on. You can’t have two lines going and have two lines fall off the map. You need to have everybody going, so this was a good team win for us.”
With Wednesday night’s victory in the books, the Rock’s focus is now squarely on Game 4 of the series Friday night.
“We can’t get too caught up in what we have done already,” Beer said.
“We will draw from the positives, go back and look at the film, see what was working for us, what they did well and try to make some adjustments.
“If they get the win on Friday, this could very easily become a best-of-three series.
“We want to hold serve and try to do the things that make us successful. Keeping our emotion levels in check is going to be big for us.”
Lumberjacks coach and general manager Marc Lafleur admitted it was a great game for the fans to watch, but he obviously would have preferred to see his squad emerge victorious.
“It was definitely an exciting game,” he said.
“There was a lot of intensity and I think the fans got their money’s worth.”
There were, of course, parts of the Lumberjacks’ game that pleased their coach.
“We didn’t give up a lot of odd-man rushes,” Lafleur said.
“The game was close on both sides and obviously we had our chances. We just didn’t capitalize on a couple of big opportunities in the third period, for example.
“Our penalty kill was definitely on fire tonight, as well.”
The best part of any team’s penalty kill is usually its goaltending and Tallarico was in fine form.
“He was the (regular season) league MVP,” Lafleur said.
“He has worn an S (for Superman) on the front of his jersey all year and he did it again tonight.”
Even though the Lumberjacks trail the series 2-1, they know if they can win Friday night’s contest they will take back home-ice advantage.
“We don’t want to forget this game, but at the end of the day we have to move on,” Lafleur said.
“We will just get right back at it starting Thursday.”
Despite the overtime loss, there were a number of Lumberjacks who caught the eye of their coach Wednesday night.
“Troy Daniels, ever since we picked him up from Kirkland Lake, has been a lights-out, terrific D-man,” Lafleur said.
“He doesn’t make mistakes and he is a great skater. He had a very strong game.
“Guys like Daniel Fisher are the type of guys who are going to win you playoff hockey games.”
Masternak, who turned aside 36 of the 37 shots directed his way, to earn his NOJHL-leading fourth win of the playoffs.
Tallarico, who stopped 37 of the 39 shots the Rock fired at him, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Brousseau, Tallarico and Masternak … Rock forward Tyler Hutchinson served the second game of his two-game suspension picked up in Game 1 of the series … Lumberjacks forward Jake Desando was ejected from the contest just past the midway mark of the first period when he was assessed a five-minute major penalty for checking to the head/neck and a game misconduct … Lumberjacks forward George Young was then tossed from the contest at the end of the second period after receiving a game misconduct for being assessed two misconduct penalties in the same game … The Rock went 0-4 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 0-2 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,034 … Wednesday night’s only other action saw the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners edge the Voodoos 2-1 in Powassan. Despite the loss, the Voodoos lead that East Division semi-final series 2-1 … The Rock and the Lumberjacks will play Game 4 of their East Division semi-final series at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7 p.m.