GM5: Lumberjacks top Rock to stay alive

HEARST — It might have been appropriate for the Bee Gees song Stayin’ Alive to be resonating off the walls of the Lumberjacks’ dressing room following Game 5 of the NOJHL East Division semi-final series at the Claude Larose Arena Sunday night.

Thomas Perry
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After all, their 5-3 win over the Timmins Rock prolonged the series to at least Game 6 — Monday night at the McIntyre Arena.

And after suffering three-straight losses to the Rock, that in itself was an accomplishment for the undermanned Lumberjacks.

Rock coach Corey Beer knows asking his squad to record four-straight victories against the team that finished first in the East Division in the regular season might have been a bit much, but he also realizes you can’t give a team like the Lumberjacks too many chances to claw their way back into the series.

“It was a great hockey game, both ways,” he said.

“We had a great opening shift and Derek Seguin scored 34 seconds in and we were off to a great start.

“Then, unfortunately, a couple of our players took some undisciplined penalties. We had a couple of failed chances to clear the puck on the penalty kill and the puck ended up in the back of our net on a missed shot block.

“There were just too many turnovers tonight from us. Our checking line turned over the puck multiple times and they ended up minus three. That’s a bad recipe for success.

“Unfortunately, that line was really bad for us. They are going to need to be better. We are going to have to juggle some things around.”

On the brink of elimination, the Lumberjacks showed the same resilience that helped them take the Rock to overtime in two-straight games in Timmins.

It would have been easy for the Lumberjacks to fold their tents Sunday night, especially after Seguin netted his third goal of the playoffs just 34 seconds into the contest.

They battled back to deadlock things at 1-1 midway through the opening period, however, on J.J. Berdal’s power-play marker, his first goal of the playoffs.

The Lumberjacks got a pair of goals just over a minute and a half apart early in the middle frame to take a 3-1 lead.

Blue-liner Troy Daniels netted the first of those two markers, his first goal of the playoffs, and Dawson Waddell followed with his second goal of the playoffs.

The Rock cut into that lead with just 41 seconds remaining in the period, as 15-year-old Rhys Chiddenton scored his second goal of the playoffs.

Any hopes the Rock had of carrying that momentum in the third period were dashed, however, when Daniel Fisher beat Rock goalie Tyler Masternak with just one second remaining in the frame to restore the Lumberjacks’ two goal advantage.

A power-play marker off the stick of Keegan McMullen, his seventh goal of the playoffs, pulled the Rock back to within a goal of their hosts at the 8:16 mark of the third period.

The Rock pulled Masternak in favour of an extra attacker in the dying minutes, but Fisher deposited the puck in the empty Timmins net for his third goal of the playoffs to put the finishing touches on the 5-3 victory.

Beer knows his team came out short Sunday night and it will have to be better if it wants to move on to the next round of the playoffs.

“To close out a team that is that good, that desperate, with their backs against the wall, you can’t make as many mistakes as we made tonight,” he said.

“It just wasn’t a good road game for us.”

As bad as things were, the Rock were only trailing by a goal in the dying minutes of the contest.

“You look even further at it and Chiddenton scores in the second period to bring us to within 3-2 and then the checking line I was talking about earlier goes back out there and low and behold we have three forwards below the goal line with less than a minute to go,” Beer said.

“It is a mental error and they came right back and scored to make it 4-2. We were chasing the game the entire night.

“Later on, we scored to get back to within one. We had a good effort at the end, just an inability to score.

“Their goalie (Nicholas Tallarico) was sensational, again.”

Asked which players impressed him in Sunday night’s contest, the Rock coach replied, “Derek Seguin, Derek Seguin, Derek Seguin.

“What a player. He is absolutely incredible.

“We were hurting on defence tonight, missing a couple of guys (Eric Moreau and Luka Bolduc). We got big games from the likes of Will Caston, Owen Shier, Carson Burlington and Greg Arnburg.

“Cam Dutkiewicz got in the game tonight and played great for us.

“Those five were terrific and did a real good job back there. Unfortunately, too many of our forwards were passengers tonight. Too many of our depth guys just didn’t show up.”

Tallarico stopped 21 of the 24 shots the Rock directed his way to pick up his second victory of the playoffs.

Masternak blocked 23 of the 27 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Fisher, Tallarico and Daniels … The Rock went 1-7 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 1-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Claude Larose Arena was 1,022 … Sunday’s other action saw the Voodoos defeat the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 6-4 in Powassan to take the other East Division semi-final series 4-2, the Thunderbirds top the Blind River Beavers 3-1 in Sault Ste. Marie to take a 3-2 lead in on West Division semi-final and Soo Eagles edge the Canadians 3-2 in overtime in Rayside-Balfour to close the gap in the other West Division semi-final to 3-2 … Game 6 in the East Division semi-final between the Rock and the Lumberjacks will be played at the McIntyre Arena on Monday, at 7 p.m.