Timmins Rock forward Harry Clark attempts to get off a shot on Hearst goalie Matteo Gennaro during the first period of Game 5 of the NOJHL East Division final series at the McIntyre Arena Monday night. Lumberjacks blue-liner Owen Porter was able to force him to go wider than he wanted, however, allowing Gennaro time to slide across and make the save. On the other side of the puck, Porter scored a power-play goal during the first overtime period, to lift the Lumberjacks to a 3-2 victory and 3-2 series lead. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
Owen Porter’s power-play goal 4:17 into the first overtime period lifted the Hearst Lumberjacks to a 3-2 win over the Timmins Rock at the McIntyre Arena Monday night.
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
It also gave the Lumberjacks a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven NOJHL East Division final series, with action switching back to the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst for Game 6 on Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m.
Porter’s game-winning goal was made possible by a controversial five-minute major penalty for head contact and a game misconduct assessed to Rock captain Tyler Schwindt with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.
Schwindt caught Lumberjacks forward Ryan Glazer with what appeared to be a clean hit just inside the Rock blue-line.
The captain was dispatched to the penalty box, however, and after referees Darren Long and Anthony Fey and linesmen Cody Olivier and Zach Gagne conferred, Schwindt was sent instead to the Timmins dressing room.
That caused the vast majority of the 1,211 fans in attendance to begin chanting: “Bullsh*t, bullsh*t, bullsh*t!”
The fans’ opinion of the call hadn’t changed when the officials returned to the ice for the start of the overtime session, as they were greeted with a thunderous round of booing.
That only intensified when Porter drilled home the game-winning goal.
Compounding the woes for the Rock and their fans is the fact they will likely be missing Schwindt for Game 6 of the series in Hearst on Wednesday.
“You have got to imagine it will (result in a suspension),” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.
“A five-minute major at the end of the game is not good.”
On a positive note, the Rock did not blow any leads Monday night as they had in Game 2, Game 3 and Game 4 of the series — that is, of course, because they never led the in contest.
Perry was understandably disappointed with the outcome of Monday night’s contest.
“It’s frustrating,” he said.
“It just wasn’t our night. It was just a slow start and we couldn’t get it done.”
Both teams were playing their third game in three nights, but the coach didn’t think that was a factor in the outcome.
“All it is is will,” he said.
“They showed up and worked hard. It took us a while to figure it out, the kind of effort we need to bring in a game like this, but it was a little too late.”
The Lumberjacks jumped out to a 1-0 lead just past the midway point in the opening period when Andrew Potyk grabbed a rebound and stuffed the puck past Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy for his first goal of the playoffs.
It took the Rock just a minute and a half to get back on even terms, though, as Harry Clark scored his fourth goal of the playoffs to tie things up at 1-1.
Raphael Lajeunesse restored the Lumberjacks one-goal cushion late in the second period when he scored his eighth goal of the playoffs.
The Rock battled back to tie things up at 2-2 with 7:11 remaining in regulation, as Riley Brousseau netted a power-play marker, his third goal of the playoffs.
That set the stage for controversial ending of the contest.
The Rock can’t afford to dwell on the disappointing loss, as they will be facing a win or their season is over scenario when they step on the ice in Hearst Wednesday night.
“We don’t have a choice, we have to go win another one on the road,” Perry said.
To this point in the series, the results have not matched the effort from the coach’s perspective.
“We have been playing great, we have had leads over and over and we have been scoring, so we don’t want to change a thing (other than the outcomes),” Perry said.
“It was just effort tonight. That’s all it was.”
Lumberjacks coach Marc-Alain Begin was pleased to see his team earn its second victory in the series at the McIntyre Arena Monday night.
“Coming here, to this building, it is always hard to get a W, but our guys believe in themselves,” he said.
“We worked hard. It was a tough game Sunday, but at the same time we showed a lot of character.
“We played well with the lead, but they got us on the power play in the last seven minutes of the third period.
“Then, our boys battled back in overtime and we got the W.”
Begin admitted his Lumberjacks were a little tired, playing their third game in three nights.
“Especially today, with the travel,” he said.
“It is not always fun playing three games in three nights, but that’s why we do it quite often during the season. We have a lot of three-game road trips.”
Begin opted to give a little extra praise to a number of Lumberjacks following Monday’s victory.
“I can’t say enough about our goalie (Matteo Gennaro),” he said.
“Liam (Oxner) gave us a good four games, but I thought he needed a break.
“We have two goalies who can win every night.
“I thought Matteo was pretty solid for having not played in a month (other than a brief relief appearance in Game 1 of the series).
“Up front, Raph Lajeunesse was a beast once again. I cannot say enough about him. He works hard every night.
“On D there are a lot of guys I could probably name, but I will go with Owen Porter, who scored the game-winner.
“We got him in a trade in January and our team has been different since we acquired him.
“He is a big body presence back there and like you saw today he can put the puck in the net.”
After beating the Rock twice at the McIntyre Arena in the series, the Lumberjacks are hoping to avoid having to do it a third time so they will be looking to take care of business Wednesday night.
“We did it against Powassan (in the East Division semifinals), winning three times in the opponents building but coming here it’s always hard at the McIntyre Arena,” Begin said.
“The Claude Larose Arena will be packed on Wednesday, with our fans cheering for us to move on to the (NOJHL) finals.”
Gennaro blocked 31 of the 33 shots the Rock direct his way to earn his first victory of the playoffs in his first start.
McCarthy, who turned aside 26 of the 29 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Gennaro (31 saves), Porter (one goal, one assist) and McCarthy (26 saves) … The Rock went 1-5 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 1-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,211 … Game 6 will be played at the Claude Larose Arena on Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m. If necessary, Game 7 would be played at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7:30 p.m.