Photo: Marc Johnson
Nolan Ring’s tally with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third period ignited a three-goal outburst as the Timmins Rock doubled up the Lumberjacks 6-3 at the Claude Larose Arena Sunday afternoon.
That outcome, combined with the Lumberjacks 6-5 overtime victory on home ice Saturday night, sends the NOJHL East Division final series back to Timmins for Game 5 Monday night deadlocked at 2-2.
For the third-straight game, the Rock had difficulty hanging on to leads but managed to overcome that handicap when it mattered most.
Like most Rock fans, coach and general manager Brandon Perry was emotionally draining following Sunday afternoon’s contest.
“I’m exhausted,” he said.
“It (surrendering so many leads) is infuriating but at the same time I am happy to go home with a split, get home ice back, with two of the next three games (if necessary) at the McIntyre Arena.
“To say I am a little frustrated with the leads we have been blowing in this series is an understatement, but we can’t dwell on that. We have to keep moving forward here.”
If you look on it from a glass-half-full perspective, of course, the Rock have proven they can take a lead, over and over, even after the Lumberjacks have fought back to tie things up.
“That’s the thing,” Perry said.
“Even Saturday night, I liked our game. We played a very good game Saturday night.
“It seemed like every mistake we made, and we probably made eight mistakes, ended up in the back of our net.”
Sunday afternoon, the Rock jumped in front 1-0 courtesy of captain Tyler Schwindt’s fourth goal of the playoffs midway through the opening period.
The Lumberjacks battled back to tie things up just over two minutes later, as former Rock forward Tyler Patterson netted a shorthanded marker, his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Nicolas Pigeon’s penalty shot tally, his fifth goal of the playoffs, with the Rock shorthanded once again put the Rock in front, 2-1, at the 7:56 mark of the second period.
Blue-liner Jaden Raad then tied things up with a power-play marker, his fifth goal of the playoffs, less than four minutes later.
The Rock were once again able to regain the lead, 3-2, as Landon Deforge scored his first NOJHL playoff goal less than a minute later.
After carrying that one-goal advantage into the second intermission, the Rock once again saw the Lumberjacks battle back to tie things up 8:22 into the third period on Zachary Demers’ sixth goal of the playoffs.
Four minutes later, Ring scored his second goal of the playoffs to put the Rock in front 4-3 — a lead they would not surrender.
Harry Clark added a power-play marker, his third goal of the playoffs, less than three minutes later.
And Nicholas Frederick closed out the scoring when he deposited his fourth goal of the playoffs into an empty Hearst net with goalie Liam Oxner on the bench in favour of an extra attacker and 3:26 remaining in regulation.
Heading into the two weekend games in Hearst, the Rock had one simple mission: Gain a split.
“It’s 2-2 and we are going back home where we are comfortable at the McIntyre Arena,” Perry said.
A number of Rock players impressed their coach in Sunday afternoon’s contest, but he chose to single out one in particular for a little extra praise.
“Nolan Ring was absolutely fantastic this afternoon,” Perry said.
“He was unbelievable and he probably stood out the most, but everybody was just solid.”
Base on Ring’s game-winning goal, the coach felt the hockey gods were finally on the Rock’s side Sunday afternoon.
“That fourth goal, to go ahead, was an effort from the blue-line that kind of dipped in there,” Perry said.
“Finally in this series a bounce went our way.”
“Then, it was huge to get some insurance the way we have been blowing leads.”
Lumberjacks coach Marc-Alain Begin would have liked to have seen his team win both games, but acknowledged the fans of both teams got their money’s worth on the weekend.
“It was two good games,” he said.
“Timmins came out pretty hot in the first game and we just kind of battled back all game.
“They were always up one goal and it was just a lot of battling on our part.
“We managed an overtime victory Saturday night, but today it was a very good game and then an unfortunate thing happened with 10 minutes left in the third period.
“They scored a fluky goal and I think that was the difference. Our guys couldn’t respond to that 4-3 goal, but we have a big game tomorrow.”
Begin was proud of the fact his squad was able to battle back so many times after falling behind the in two games.
“We have a no-quit attitude, but at the same time we have to get better to start games, start periods,” he said.
“We are a team that can come back from a couple of goals deficit, but at the same time we are a better team when we play with a lead, when we play our style of game.
“That will be our main focus Monday.”
A number of Lumberjacks caught their coach’s eye during the two weekend games.
“Raphael Lajeunesse was tremendous in both games, using his speed, using his shot, using his body,” Begin said.
“When he plays like that, he is really hard to stop.
“His linemate, Zachary Demers, you could see the skill and hockey IQ he has out there.
“Both of them really stepped up their games this weekend.
“Up front, too, you have Tyler Patterson who is playing his best hockey since he came from Timmins, lots of speed and lots of grit.
“He got a couple of goals this weekend, so that was good for him.
“On the back end, it’s always Jaden Raad. The way he plays the game is unbelievable. I cannot say enough about him.”
While both teams are dealing with plenty of bumps and bruises, the only injury of consequence from the weekend games appears to be Lumberjacks forward Maxandre Pelletier.
“We are just waiting for results from him,” Begin said.
Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy turned aside 35 of the 38 shots he faced to earn his sixth win of the playoffs.
Oxner, who stopped 22 of the 27 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
LUMBERJACKS 6 ROCK 5 OT
Ryan Glazer’s seventh goal of the playoffs 3:44 into overtime lifted the Lumberjacks to a 6-5 win over the Rock in Game 3 of the series at the Claude Larose Arena Saturday night.
The Rock’s inability to hold a lead proved to be their undoing in Game 3, as the Lumberjacks had to battle back from deficits four times in the contest.
Henry Brock’s power-play marker, his second goal of the playoffs, got the Rock on the scoreboard first Saturday night, at the 5:34 mark of the opening period.
Patterson got the Lumberjacks back on even terms when he scored his third goal of the playoffs with 2:11 remaining in the frame.
The Rock took their second lead of the night, 2-1, at the 19:23 mark of the period, courtesy of Schwindt’s third goal of the playoffs.
Frederick then added his third goal of the playoffs eight seconds past the midway point in the second period to up the Rock advantage to 3-1.
It didn’t last long, however, as the Lumberjacks stormed back with a pair of Lajeunesse goals, his sixth and seventh of the playoffs, a minute and a half apart to tie things up once again.
Former Lumberjacks blue-liner Carson Cox then gave the Rock their third lead of the contest, 4-3 when he scored a power-play marker, his third goal of the playoffs, with 20 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
Blue-liner Owen Porter’s first goal of the playoffs, at the 9:27 mark of the third period, got the Lumberjacks back on even terms for the third time in the game.
Tyler Gilberds, two had two game-winning goals against the Lumberjacks during the regular season, then put the Rock back in front for the fourth time 5-4, just over two minutes later.
The Lumberjacks once again tied things up, however, as Raphael Lajeunesse completed his hat-trick by netting his eighth goal of the playoffs with 5:09 remaining in regulation.
That set the stage for Glazer’s overtime heroics, as he gave the Lumberjacks their only lead of the contest.
Oxner, who stopped 36 of the 41 shot the Rock directed his way, earned his sixth win of the playoffs.
McCarthy, who turned aside 36 of the 42 shots he faced was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game Sunday afternoon were Clark (one goal, one assist), McCarthy (35 saves) and Demers (one goal, one assist), while Lajeunesse (three goals), Glazer (one goal) and Rock blue-liner Cameron Dutkiewicz (four assists) were selected Saturday night … The Rock went 1-8 on the power play Sunday afternoon and 2-10 Saturday night, while the Lumberjacks were 1-6 with the man advantage on Sunday afternoon and 1-5 Saturday night … Official attendance at the Claude Larose Arena Sunday afternoon was 811, while 897 fans attended Saturday night’s contest … Saturday’s other contest saw the Soo Thunderbirds dump the Eagles 5-2 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to complete a sweep of the best-of-seven West Division final series … The Rock will host the Lumberjacks for Game 5 of the series at the McIntyre Arena on Monday, at 7:30 p.m.