Members of the Timmins Rock, from left, Derek Seguin, Jun Yi (Frank) Zhong and A.J. Campbell celebrate the NOJHL team’s East Division semi-final clinching 2-1 overtime win over the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena Sunday night. The victory gave the Rock a 4-2 win in the best-of-seven series and they will now move on to the East Division final against their arch rivals, the Cochrane Crunch. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS - For the second-straight year the Timmins Rock are going to the NOJHL’s East Division final, thanks to a 2-1 overtime victory over the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena Sunday night.
Former Voodoos forward Tyler Gilberds’ goal at the 15:32 mark of the first overtime period provided the margin of victory in Game 6 as the Rock wrapped up the best-of-seven series 4-2 — avoiding a trip back to Powassan for a potential Game 7.
It was the Georgetown native’s third goal of the playoffs and likely the most important he has ever scored.
“This is definitely the biggest goal of my junior hockey career, so far,” Gilberds said.
“Hopefully, there will be many more to come, but we just have to keep rolling.”
Both teams likely had been scoring opportunities prior to the game-winner going in.
“I was just busting it down the left boards and I saw two defencemen trying to come in on me and I just zipped it in between them and it went in,” said the right-hand shooting Gilberds.
The 6-2, 185-pound forward got the chance to deliver his game-winning goal because Rock goalie Tyler Masternak — also a former Voodoo — kept the home game in the contest early in OT.
“They actually came out with a lot of momentum,” Gilberds said.
“Their season was on the line and all that, so we had weather the storm for a little bit, but once we got past that, we just had to play our game and stick to the game plan. It worked out for us.”
While Gilberds is happy to be advancing with his Rock teammates to the East Division final, he does feel bad for his former teammates.
“What stays on the ice, stays on the ice,” he said.
“Obviously it is nice to send my former team home, but there are no hard feelings.”
The Rock finished 50 points behind the Voodoos in the regular season and back on Nov. 30 when his new team acquired him from his former squad Gilberds had no idea he would be in for something so special.
“Not at all, especially going into the three-game Hearst series,” he said.
“The boys had not done very well up there, but we ended up pulling it off and winning twice on the road. We just carried it on into this series.”
While Gilberds feels bad for his former teammates, the same can’t be said for Masternak, who was acquired in a Nov. 2 transaction.
“No, that’s hockey,” he said.
“They didn’t want me and it’s a Cinderella story for the series. I couldn’t be happier right now.”
Masternak didn’t really have a chance on the one shot the Voodoos were able to get past him Sunday night.
“It was just kind of a broken play,” he said.
“We had a nice shot block and the guy was falling and just swatted at it and it went right onto the guy’s stick back door and he just buried it.”
Masternak, a 17-year-old Oshawa native, is one of the hottest goaltenders in the NOJHL right now.
“There is no greater feeling than being able to beat your former team to eliminate them from the playoffs, especially in overtime,” he said.
“It is just an unbelievable feeling.”
With Sunday night’s victory, Masternak now has a record of 6-3-0 in the post season.
“We are all going right now,” he said.
“We have a lot of confidence in that room. The guys are executing our game plans well and we really believe we can do something special here.”
For the fourth time in the series, the Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead Sunday night as Riley Robitaille scored his fifth goal of the playoffs midway through the first period.
That goal stood up until the final five minutes of the third period as Masternak and the Voodoos Christian Cicigoi put on a goaltending clinic for the fans.
Aaron Dickson — who a short time earlier had to be attended by Voodoos trainer J.J. Johnson — finally managed to get the puck past Masternak.
Both teams had a chance to end the game in regulation, but both Masternak and Cicigoi continued to shine.
Following the intermission, the Voodoos came out flying to start the first overtime period — penning the Rock in their own end for an extended period of time, but Masternak kept them at bay.
As the period progressed, the Rock began to find their legs and the two teams again exchanged a number of excellent scoring chances before Gilberds was able to end it.
While Gilberds’ goal was his biggest ever and Masternak’s win was his most important, how does the game rank in terms of Corey Beer’s coaching career?
“This one is up there, that’s for sure,” he said.
“It is pretty special for that group in there. Like I said before, we have had a lot of ups and downs this season and to be bonding together and playing our best hockey at the right time is great.
“That’s a special team across the way that we knocked out. You have to give a lot of credit them. They did a great job and they have a heck of a hockey team. They had a phenomenal season and for our guys to knock them off, we had to play pretty close to perfect hockey tonight.”
The Rock clearly did not want to have to go back to Powassan for Game 7, even though they had been able to win one of the three games played there earlier in the series.
“That’s especially true given the way they play in front of their home fans,” Beer said.
“They ramp up that forecheck pretty good and it is pretty hard to play against.”
The coach was appreciative of the effort put forth by both of his former Voodoos Sunday night.
“It is kind of fitting that Tyler Gilberds got the game-winner for us tonight,” Beer said.
“I can’t say enough good things about Tyler Masternak. What a performance again tonight, against his old club. The fact he gives us a chance every night to win is pretty special. We are just trying to ride the wave right now.”
The coach was also impressed with the play of the line of Derek Seguin, Robitaille and Jace Soroko.
“They are a real hard line to play against, especially down low,” Beer said.
“They all complement each other really well with the cycle game and when Riley Robitaille wants to handle the puck he can be a dangerous player. He is not just a one-dimensional crash-and-bang guy.
“It is great to see him playing good hockey and Jace Soroko has played just about every position we could ask him to play and he is certainly playing good hockey right now.
“Derek Seguin has been on fire. It has been a great line for us.”
The Rock blue-line, as a group impressed their coach, as well.
“Getting (affiliate defenceman) Frederic Leclair-Pouw back into the lineup was huge for us tonight,” Beer said.
“He is a tremendous defender. A lot is made about his offensive skills and how he can transition the puck, but he is also a great one-on-one defender. He certainly does a good job down low.
“It was a priority tonight for us to box guys out to ensure they didn’t get easy entries into our zone, or net-front time. That was a huge part of our game plan, to have those guys on D back there and playing a good role.”
After giving up three power-play goals in Game 5 in Powassan, the Rock penalty kill was a lot sharper Sunday night — buoyed by the return of Evan Kentish-Stack to the lineup.
“Evan is a phenomenal shot blocker and it was great to get him back into the lineup,” Beer said.
“Stewart Parnell was strong tonight and Wayne Mathieu probably played his best game of the series, which we needed. Paul Spadafora is rounding into form, as well.
“You can go right down the list. A.J. Campbell blocked some big shots. I also thought (affiliate forwards) Austin Holmes and Riley Brousseau did a really good job tonight.
“Collin McGuire didn’t even get a shift this game, but he was cheering on the bench and keeping guys calm between shifts. That is a special teammate right there. For him to stay so upbeat and positive, that speaks to the type of character he has as a person. I am sure every guy in our room right now respects him for it.”
His Voodoos may have come out on the short end of the score and the series, but coach Bruce Cazabon is proud of the effort they put forth.
“I thought we dominated, but we ended up on the short end of the stick,” he said.
“You have to respect what Timmins did, too. They played very well. They deserved to win.
“Their trap has been effective the whole series, but I thought the last two games, maybe the last three games, we had it solved.
“We outshot them and zone wise, we played in their zone a whole lot longer than they played in ours. It was just great goaltending on their part and boy did they skate.”
That was especially true in the early part of the overtime period.
“We were all over them,” Cazabon said.
“They couldn’t even get out of their zone. Masternak made a couple of saves and it just seemed to carry them.”
Cazabon was equally impressed with the play of his young goalie, Cicigoi.
“He is only 16 years old and he played three games in the series,” he said.
“He lost two of them 2-1 and won the other one 6-1. You can’t fault our goalies. They played very well.
“For the most part, everybody played well.”
The Voodoos blue-line was again effective in minimizing the number of quality scoring opportunities the Rock got in Game 6.
“The five vets (Eric Allair, Cameron Moore, Eric Nagy, Payton Vescio, Eric Mondoux) we had when Nagy came back certainly played well,” Cazabon said.
“And our AP, (Dylan) Bond, when he was asked to play, played very well, too.”
Masternak stopped 42 of the 43 shots he faced in the contest to record his sixth playoff win in a Rock uniform.
Cicigoi, who turned aside 40 of the 42 shots the Rock fired his way was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Gilberds, Masternak and Cicigoi ... The Rock did not dress forward Linden Spencer (serving the second game of an indefinite suspension for a spitting incident in Game 4 of the series), forward C.J. Bradburn (upper-body injury) and forward Jordan Picard (undisclosed) ... The Rock went 0-5 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 0-6 with the man advantage ... Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena 1,568 ... Sunday’s other results saw the Crunch defeat the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 3-1 in Cochrane to clinch their East Division semi-final series 4-1 and the Rayside-Balfour Canadians dump the Beavers 4-1 in Blind River to win their West Division semi-final series 4-2 ... The Rock will now move on to meet the Crunch in the East Division final. Dates and times for that series had not been announced as of late Sunday night.