Timmins Rock forward Jace Soroko blasts a slap shot at Powassan goalie Julian Galloway as linemate Derek Seguin is tied up by Voodoos defender Eric Mondoux during the second period of Game 4 of the NOJHL East Division semi-final series at the McIntyre Arena Wednesday night. Seguin scored three goals — including the game-winner — as the Rock doubled up the Voodoos 6-3 to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series. Game 5 will be played at the Powassan Sportsplex Friday night. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock are one win away from advancing to the NOJHL’s East Division final following a 6-3 win over the Powassan Voodoos in Game 4 of their best-of-seven semi-final series at the McIntyre Arena Wednesday night.
With the Rock trailing 2-1 in the second period, the turning point in the contest came shortly after Rock forward Linden Spencer was assessed a five-minute match penalty for butt-ending.
Just 38 second later Rock forward Derek Seguin stole the puck, broke in all alone and beat Voodoos goalie Julian Galloway for a shorthanded goal, his first of three on the night and fifth of the playoffs to tie things up at 2-2.
“They tried to make a seam pass and we had a good bumper in the middle,” Seguin said.
“He just got a piece of it and it came out to me, I blew by the defenceman and beat the goalie low glove side.”
Seguin realized right away the impact his goal had on the momentum of the game.
“When you are down by one goal and you get assessed a five-minute penalty, it is draining for sure, emotionally,” he said.
“The goal gave the guys a big boost of energy to be back in the game. We carried on after that point, so that was definitely a momentum changer, for sure.”
Then, after Rock defenceman Jun Yi (Frank) Zhong was sent off for slashing, the home side killed off a three-on-five Voodoos power play to further take the wind out of visitors’ sails.
Adding insult to injury, Seguin’s linemate Riley Robitaille scored his third goal of the playoffs with just 9.34 seconds remaining in the frame to give the Rock a 3-2 lead heading to the dressing room for the second intermission.
The Voodoos actually got off to a solid start in Game 4, outshooting the Rock 16-9 in the opening 20 minutes and taking a 1-0 lead on Nicolas Case’s first goal of the playoffs.
It marked the first time the Voodoos had scored first in the series, but in the end it really wouldn’t matter.
Spencer scored his first goal of the playoffs to tie things up at 1-1 midway through the second period, although the Voodoos were able to regain their lead 22 seconds later on Tomas Yachmenev’s first goal of the playoffs.
After Seguin had tied things up and Robitaille put the Rock in front late in the second period, the home side expanded its lead to 4-2 at the 9:40 mark of the third period when the former picked up his second of the night and sixth of the playoffs.
That goal would prove to be Seguin’s third-straight game-winning goal.
The Voodoos were able to cut the lead to 4-3 shortly after Galloway turned aside a breakaway attempt by Rock affiliate player Austin Holmes, as defenceman Eric Mondoux beat Timmins goalie Tyler Masternak for his first goal of the playoffs.
Robitaille’s second of the night and fourth of the playoffs with 2:48 remaining in the third period provided the Rock with a little breathing room.
Then, Seguin added an empty-net goal 46 seconds later to complete his hat-trick and make the final score 6-3 in favour of the home side.
With the Rock’s top penalty killer, Evan Kentish-Stack sidelined by an upper-body injury Seguin saw a lot more time on the PK.
“The PK is hard,” he said.
“It is a lot more systematic. You have to be in the right place at the right time.
“When Kenty was coming down to the dressing room between periods I was asking him for tips.
“It hurts for sure when you lose your No. 1 penalty killer, it drains the rest of us. We just all kind of did our part.”
Seguin was teamed with Robitaille and Jace Soroko on one of the Rock’s more effective lines Wednesday night.
“Playoffs is completely different than the regular season,” Seguin said.
“Robitaille has been playing amazing. He normally doesn’t score much, but he has really stepped up his game. He is playing big and strong.”
Rock coach Corey Beer had a big smile on his face following the contest.
“Not have Evan Kentish-Stack in the lineup tonight, Derek Seguin had to take on a bigger role,” he said.
“Even on the PK, he was one of our primary guys. He is always a threat to score goals and on the penalty kill you are looking to keep the puck out of your net, but it is always a bonus when you can score.
“I thought our PK was real good tonight and Seguin was a huge part of it.”
Without the game-tying goal, the Rock would have fallen behind by a pair of goals had they surrendered a power-play marker.
“It was a big game changer, for sure,” Beer said.
“The Voodoos kept pushing the whole way tonight, but Riley Robitaille’s right before the end of the period was a pretty big goal, too.”
The coach was just as impressed with his team’s three-on-five penalty kill for a full two minutes, as well.
“It is such a thankless job to be on the penalty kill and taking hundred-mile-an-hour slap shots off any part of your body,” Beer said.
“We have a team that wants to sacrifice and block shots, do that little things that are necessary to contribute to wins.
“You want to avoid having a three-on-five penalty kill for a full two minutes, but it happens sometimes. Full marks to our guys, and to Masty in net, for keeping the puck out.”
Even though Masternak was beaten three times in the contest, he was clearly once again at the top of his game.
“On at least two of those goals, we didn’t give him any chance at all,” Beer said.
“Our back pressure was late on one of them and we didn’t pick up the trailer on another one of them.
“He has been great for us and he is a huge part of our team.”
Robitaille has one fewer goal in six playoff games than he had during 35 regular-season contests.
“It is really something he has been working on,” Beer said.
“He is such a big body and he can really crash and bang, but the way the game is now guys have to be able to make plays offensively and handle the puck.
“That’s Riley’s strongest suit, when he makes his mind up he is going to be a playmaker or scorer and he starts handling the puck. He turns himself into an offensive threat just because of his size and speed.
“It was great to see him get his game going tonight.”
Once again, the Rock showed a lot of calm after the Voodoos had cut their lead to 4-3 in the third period.
“I loved the chatter on the bench from a couple of our veteran guys,” Beer said.
“Grant McClellan, for one, was preaching that we shouldn’t get too high or too low. It was nothing we couldn’t handle. We were in that same situation the night before, up one goal late in the game.
“Our mindset didn’t change. We knew we had a job to do. Fortunately, we were able to get a couple of insurance goals to put it to bed.”
The Rock did a lot better job transitioning the puck Wednesday night than they had in Game 3 on Tuesday night.
“Any time you play a good team, like Powassan, they want to have the puck all night,” Beer said.
“Sometimes the best remedy, instead of chip and chase, is to hang onto it yourself. Transition is a key part of our game and defencemen certainly did a good job of getting the puck into the hands of our forwards at the right time and the right spot.”
Beer realizes the hard game for any team to win in any series is the one that eliminates its opponent and he expects the Voodoos to be a very desperate and dangerous hockey team during Game 5 in Powassan Friday night.
“I think we are just going to have to keep things simple,” he said.
“It may be a bit of a cliché, but you want to play that perfect road game and not try to impress anyone. For our guys, it will just be business as usual.
“We know Powassan is going to make adjustments and come at us with a hard push. They will be fighting for their lives.”
Voodoos coach Bruce Cazabon was disappointed his team could not maintain the momentum of its solid start Wednesday night.
“The shorthanded goal and the late goal at the end of the second period put us right back to where we have been the whole series,” he said.
“We just couldn’t seem to get the momentum back.
“If you look at the whole game, we had 46 shots. We had 16 in the first period. We had 14 in the second period and we had 16 in the third period, but when we had our chances, we just didn’t put the puck in the net.”
With their backs against the wall, there is no great secret as to what the Voodoos need to do Friday night to get back into the series.
“We just have to take things a shift at a time and a period at a time,” Cazabon said.
“It’s an old cliché, but we have no choice now. I just hope the boys are up for it. We were real resilient all year. I have a lot of confidence in our players.
“Hopefully, our game plan will work. If it does, we will be right back in the series.”
After what they accomplished during the regular season, it is clear the Voodoos have a room full of talented individuals, but even really good teams lose from time to time.
“It is my job to bring that talent to the forefront,” Cazabon said.
“It is my job to do it and up until now, I have failed. I have to prepare them better and hope they respond.”
Masternak turned aside 43 of the 46 shots he faced to earn his fifth win of the playoffs for the Rock.
Galloway, who stopped 26 of the 31 shots the Rock fired his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Seguin, Masternak and Robitaille … The Rock did not dress defenceman Collin McGuire (healthy scratch), Kentish-Stack (upper-body injury) and forward C.J. Bradburn (upper-body injury) … The Rock went 1-3 on the power play, while the Voodos were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,311 … Wednesday’s other action saw the Eagles blank the Soo Thunderbirds 3-0 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The Eagles lead that West Division semi-final series 2-1 … Game 5 between the Rock and the Voodoos will be played at the Powassan Sportsplex Friday night. If necessary, Game 6 would be played at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday, starting at 7 p.m.